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Why Aren’t Rich People Happy With the Money They Have? (theatlantic.com)
316 points by gscott 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 342 comments



A while back I noticed that my HN karma was rising at a rate that would put me on the leaderboard, so I decided to make an effort to submit content and post quality comments just to see if I could crack the top 100. After a few months I did it, and kept rising up to a high of 85 (today I'm #88). Then I realized I was spending way too much time on HN, and how easy it was to fall into this trap of thinking I was doing something worthwhile just because people were upvoting me. There is something visceral about looking at a number that you have somehow convinced yourself is a measure of your value as a human being, and seeing that number get bigger, even if at the end of the day that number is utterly meaningless. And, of course, when it comes to money the number is not meaningless, which makes the effect that much more powerful.

BTW, money is not just good for buying material things. You can spend arbitrary amounts of money on philanthropy and political donations. Once you start to do that, a lot of people start to want to be your friend. That kind of attention and deference can also be a very powerful drug.


In terms of machine learning money is the opposite of regularization. The more money the less regularization the more over-fitting to your specific self-chosen environment. A not rich person will have to learn to cope with obstacles. A rich person can remove obstacles. But it is impossible to remove all obstacles which will lead to increased hostility towards those remaining annoyances - like for example with SUVs in traffic. Calling a nice comfy SUV your owns means you removed obstacles like hot and cold weather (thanks to elaborate climate control), people literally look up to you in your SUV (big ego gains - less obstacles in terms of having to deal with disrespect), both due to direct in indirect conditions you won't have to deal with car problems. But when you are in traffic you'll also feel aloof and drive accordingly - like you own the street. But you cannot enforce it. End every so often there will be a conflict with a guy driving a ridiculous, old, little Toyota who won't give you way or won't let you zip into his lane. Now you are heated because this puny peasant isn't acknowledging your ego. And that's just one example.


Money is an insanely toxic mental, political, and social poison, for exactly these kinds of reasons.

It's also a social reward function that privileges egotism and narcissism over empathy; exploitation, scamming, and rent-seeking over creativity, curiosity and invention; and short-term gain over long-term damage.

Like the hardest of hard addictive drugs, it's an almost irresistible modifier of behaviour and attitude.


Some 2000 years ago this was already the case.

1 Timothy 6:10: "...the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."


There's plenty of creativity in tax avoidance and financial engineering.

Now, I'm not saying that is the kind of creativity you want to promote, but it certainly is there. There are many people who have fun doing this kind of work.


Then again few rich people will engage in this creative task on their own - most will probably just hire an accountant.


Actually, for the wealthy I know, finding accounting and tax loop holes is better than the Superbowl for them. They treat the activity like a Sherlock Holmes adventure.


Indeed. Plenty of wealthy people love this.


Creativity of the kind that you do not want to display on stage in a theater. Just a very small group being interested in your services, often denoted as a fraction of a percent (when natural people) or a position in a Fortune(TM) list.


I wouldn't be surprised if it also happened precurrency as well. We aren't dogs but one thing known to make them potentially more aggressive is having larger "territory" it thinks it must defend.

That was useful behavior for guard animals but not universally For vast periods of time you want them to bark at intruders, cattle rustlers and predators but not mauling small children or innocents who may leave you liable.

Essentially it may be the power that does it technically.


Good comment, except I'd point out that plenty of creativity and invention gets employed in the service of rent-seeking: e.g. most of academic economics, and the way it gets used politically.

Check out Michael Hudson and Richard Werner for a dose of reality.

simonh 36 days ago [flagged]

It's hard to square that with the fact that the wealthiest societies are also the most free, the most liberal, that capitalism has lifted a billion people out of poverty over the last half century.

If money was a poison, the west should be dying. Instead living in rich societies has isolated us from the realities of life in the underdeveloped world, and from our own past of just a few generations, that 'first world problem' has become a persistent joke.

Money can be toxic. Look at the awful social and political problems so many petro-states suffer from. Productive work is the great cleanser though. My wife is Chinese and grew up in a hut with no running water heated by a stove. Since I started visiting her hometown in 2001 it's been transformed beyond recognition, and not by a poison.

antocv 36 days ago [flagged]

> the most liberal, that capitalism has lifted a billion people out of poverty over the last half century.

I often hear this about capitalism, but why do same people never attribute the genocide of American natives, enslavement of Africans and Indians, to capitalism? The earliest emergence of stock companies, lay waste and devastation to an entire sub-continent.

When the sixth mass extinction is underway, ecological disaster on a global scale, and yet "it be as it be", but this is not attributed to capitalism?

Capitalism: it sits to bask in every glory, and all its failures expelled, literally explained away


> Capitalism: it sits to bask in every glory, and all its failures expelled, literally explained away

True to its very mantra: socialize the losses, privatize the gains! At least you can't blame it for inconsistency.

Also, it isn't really capitalism that lifted people out of poverty, it was a very resource-intensive exploitation of fossil fuels on an unprecedented scale.

In the scope of just 1 century, we probably burned at least ~10 million years worth of accumulated energy in fossil fuels. It would be ridiculous if this didn't lift people out of poverty.

BTW, it's not like communism didn't lift people out of poverty. Compare the wealth and possessions of an average citizen of USSR in, say, 1925 and 1975, half a century later.


I think one need to understand that those kind of things have been said about western capitalism/society for a long long time, even under appalling injustice, segregation etc. Its purpose is to comfort the privileged, not necessarily to be true.

The underlying pattern has been there for even longer of course, e.g. Bertrand Russell wrote this in 1932:

In the past, there was a small leisure class and a larger working class. The leisure class enjoyed advantages for which there was no basis in social justice; this necessarily made it oppressive, limited its sympathies, and caused it to invent theories by which to justify its privileges.


Thanks for replying. I didn’t know where to start with a reply. I wasn’t sure he knew what he was talking about. Or if he lives on the same planet... And my alien is not very good.


> ...why do same people never attribute the genocide of American natives, enslavement of Africans and Indians, to capitalism?

Because:

- Slavery and genocide predate modern market economics. They are not unique to capitalism. It would need to be shown that they are more prevalent (tough, given Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc.).

- The slavery and genocide you are probably referencing comes from mercantilism and imperialism, not free market capitalism.

- Slavery, violence, and murder are not features of free markets. Property rights aren't exactly established if people and land can be taken by force without compensation or agreement, not that people are property anyway.

antocv 36 days ago [flagged]

> Slavery, violence, and murder are not features of free markets

I beg to differ. Slavery, violence and murder are inherent properties of an unjust relationships which follow from unequal distribution of wealth.

If you can show me a society which used property but did not have those effects, feel free to correct this point.

But on other hand, I can show you societies which did not have concepts of property, of trade, and did not have slavery and other forms of oppression.


If you could actually show examples at reasonable scale, I would be very impressed and maybe even go anti-capitalism.


The thing is that every system is multifaceted and may effectively have "phases" when it was beneficial and later winds up detrimental and surplanted when a better adapted solution occurs and displaces it. Take the ancient basics of kings - ruling and becoming rich on extortion essentially but a monopoly on force kept violence in check. Later warrior elites ended up losing power to merchant elites - especially with the industrial revolution. Merchants were once above only Burakumin in the Japanese caste system - they later won the right to wear one sword. I believe that writing off large debts for effective titles were involved.

Capitalism like everything else must adapt or die when circumstances change. As for attribuitable to capitalism a dirty secret is that the USSR was worse environmentally without the greed. It might excaberate some but it is fundamentally the wants and needs that drives consumption.

Haiti's poverty is why their border can be seen from space via deforestation. Humans hunted megafauna to extinction back in ancient times and they weren't exactly morbidly obese.

mrkstu 36 days ago [flagged]

Ecologically the Soviet Union was the largest human caused disaster in the planet's history. More humans killed in pogroms and unnecessary famines in Soviet Union/China/Cambodia than those caused in all modern warfare.

The mercantilist form of capitalism lead to great abuses and problems, but as always capitalism is the a horrible economic system- but its better than all the alternatives.


The Spanish conquistadors were feudalists, not capitalists. Spain actually had one of the most rigid and statist economies in all of Europe. The sort of tribalism (of the European colonists) that lead to the destruction of native societies in the Americas, both North and South is it's own thing and exists independently of the economic system of those practicing it.

In fact Capitalism says very little about politics though. All it takes for it to operate is a functioning legal system and respect for property rights, and that's about it. Capitalism is simply about the freedom to own and raise capital, make investments and earn profits. That's about it. People have been doing that for thousands of years, it's simply the degree to which it is taken that makes the difference. What makes a system non-capitalist is really the degree to which freedoms to invest and practice economic activity are restricted or reserved, and the degree to which property, profits and investment can be appropriated.

Capitalism has very few ideological requirements. A such you can layer over or under it almost any other political ideology. Just look at China with it's Communist political system, statist public sector but burgeoning capitalist economic sector. Is the persecution of the Uighurs down to capitalism?

One problem with capitalism is that it makes a society dramatically more efficient and wealthy, making it a lot more capable of prosecuting whatever other political, racial, cultural or religious agenda the society might have. Just look at the wealthiest nations on earth. They are either capitalist, or they are resource rich such as the petrostates, or in the case of China have re-branded capitalism as 'Chinese Characteristics' and used it to fund the statist side of their agenda. Russia is failing precisely because it has been unable to establish a functioning capitalist economy and relies on oil and gas money instead.

Look at the middle east. Israel is easily the most capitalist society in the region and, even though it faces up to some of the wealthiest nations on the planet, if there was a war between Israel and say Saudi Arabia even, there's no doubt who would get humiliated. That's how terrifyingly effective capitalsim can be. It's the reason Japan rose from being a miserable medieval backwater to dominating all of Asia, even though it retained it's feudal hierarchy. That's how flexible capitalism is because it's not really an ideology, it's just about basic economics.


The double standards, lack of historical context and nuance, the surgical separation of capitalism from the power concentration it creates and its consequences (inequality, skewed democracy etc), the euphemisms (usually using the word freedom), and the reflexive assumption that critics want Stalinism and so on, all these things are just too infuriating and requires too much effort to step by step reply too, hence my downvote.


Slavery and genocide didn't suddenly appear at the same time as capitalism as you and I would recognize.

Capitalism means free markets. Free markets means freedom to buy, sell and invest. Freedoms must be protected, and the freest markets have the strongest protections for person and property. Freedom and security go hand in hand.

If capitalism is responsible for slavery and genocide, then it's also responsible for eradicating slavery and genocide within its sphere.

Alternative economic systems don't magically promote human rights. Let's discuss the gap between rich and poor in China or Cuba. Or ethnic suppression and genocide in the USSR or China. Or endemic racism in Cuba. Or systematic impoverishment of millions of people in oligarchies across Africa and South America.

I'm still waiting for socialist systems to make a billion people freer and happier, instead of dead, impoverished or imprisoned.


> Capitalism means free markets.

No, it's a model of property rights. “Free markets” are a slogan, but not even a particularly coherent concept much less a concrete thing that is present in capitalism.


There has never existed a "free market" in the libertarian ideal sense; markets are only able to exist under the system of a government.


This response sounds like "there has never been communism under real communism ideal sense", lel.


yeah, it does sound a bit like that, but when you factor in the reasons why a free market has never (and in my opinion should never) exist there starts to be a difference. Things like regulatory capture, monopolies, and exploitation of any possible resource are all systemic effects of capitalism. When capital (power) begets more capital (power), it should be no surprise that tactics that are underhanded but ultimately grant more capital (power) are the ones chose and that the system tends towards a consolidation of power in those that have more of it already. It's not saying anybody with money or power will automatically do those things, just that the system is set up to encourage that, so somebody probably will at some point.

To me, it's similar to looking at a voting system like first past the post and identifying that the system tends towards two parties as a fundamental nature of the system. Underlying motives and strategies of individuals within the system will produce this effect.

I'm not commention on the validity of the "no real communism" statement here, just the comparison of it to the "no real free market"

andrepd 36 days ago [flagged]

Here's the problem with your reasoning, via an example. American prosperity is as much an outcome of capitalism as poverty, repression, and murders in Central America are.

You see, capitalism indeed works great for the people who "win", yet to keep a relatively high standard of living at home (I'm talking about America since it's the wealthiest country in the world), much suffering has been inflicted in other faraway places: labour is exploited, natural resources are pillaged, brutal control is effected, either directly or by more dissimulated means... This is what people don't talk about then they mention the "joys" of capitalism, they don't mention the repression and murders in Guatemala and dozens other countries, they don't mention slavery and the genocide of natives, they don't mention how multinationals exploit resource-rich countries and siphon that sorely-needed wealth back to the privileged West, etc.


Don't forget exploiting future generations at home and abroad. It'll be the ultimate irony if we become extinct due to our own greed.


> American prosperity is as much an outcome of capitalism as poverty, repression, and murders in Central America are.

ANY sort of inherent human greed capitalizes on suffering. It doesn't magically disappear with another system. There is always a pareto distribution of wealth. The differences are in which metrics are the primary leverage for accumulation and the scale of the differentials (wealth disparity) along the curve.


Was capitalism responsible for the wars waged in that region by the Aztecs? Was it responsible for the massive losses of life in the USSR and Mao's China? You can't just say that because X country is capitalist, everything that happens in it is because of capitalism. It's just an economic system, that's all. Projecting it's effects beyond the realm of economics requires some justification.

Capitalism didn't originate the concept of resources, or politics, or even money. How can you justify blaming Capitalism for things that happen just as much, if not many, many orders of magnitude more in non-capitalist societies?

Conversely I think it is justifiable to attribute the enormous economic gains of that billion people to capitalism directly. It's an economic system and we're measuring economic gains directly attributable to investment, often replacing decidedly un-capitalist systems.


I'm not sure you can call what is in Central America actual functioning capitalism. A random individual in that area can't easily raise capital and start a business. They are subject to extreme levels of crime and cronyism. A lot of Central America is more like a set of fiefdoms with a king rather than what would reasonably be called some kind of western capitalism.

Consider your favourite successful startup and move it to Central America. Now consider what additional factors it needs to take in to simply operate. Take security as an example: Private guards acting with high aggression (machine guns) are a basic requirement in some areas. Compare that to New York (Hand gun).

It's not a reasonable comparison.


>I'm not sure you can call what is in Central America actual functioning capitalism.

You're missing the point. The United State's functioning capitalism is a major cause of your hesitancy to call Central America's countries functioning capitalistic societies.


capitalism turns this motivation to accumulate more than others (greed) into a drive to produce goods and services. This has good and bad qualities, and focusing on one or the other doesn't paint a complete picture of its effects. This mechanism also breaks down in some ways when you can generate money without providing anything, which is becoming more prevalent nowadays.


'Trying to do the right thing' is a quirky human heuristic that works well in the small but scales terribly. It is evidenced in things like the legal system where 'intent to commit a crime' is often a consideration in the sentencing in addition to the actual outcomes of a criminal act.

With that in mind, it makes a lot of sense why money (and the economy generally) rubs people the wrong way. We have here a powerful system in which if you act rationally, selfishly and with intent to maximise your personal outcomes (but within the law), others will benefit. Intent is explicitly not part of the equation of who gets to be wealthy. But the whole thing hangs together because of the intuitive fact that a clever person acting with selfish intent can usually do more good than a clever selfless person acting with noble intent.

There is an irony that working to maximise your income looks, in real terms, a lot like dedicating your life to the betterment of others with personal perks. The people who get rich under capitalism do not spend their time sitting in idleness.


That sounds very much like the trickle-down argument, which has been proven false – if not directly harmful – many times over. Selfish behaviour run amok more often leads to rent-seeking and a stockpiling of resources at the top, with little benefit to the rest of society.


I would imagine the road rage comes more from insecurity. Feeling like a doofus for driving an SUV, and being triggered by someone that's clearly not as insecure.


This might sound odd, but there is some real health benefits in perceiving oneself as having high social status. A few of those are better immune system, successful aging, lower stress hormones, lower risk for illness and depression, faster recovery, and just general higher energy and confidence. It can have a very strong positive effect on ones social network. It is a very powerful and deeply biological aspect of life.

Looking at research and listening to experts in this fields, it is really fascinating how anything can be made into a value system for social status. Not only that but we can participate simultaneously in multiple social circles with completely different value systems, and as one researcher put it, we tend to channel most of our self worth based on the system where we are ranked highest.

Strangely, money seems like one of the hardest method but also one of the most effective method to achieve this.


My intuition tells me the internet social status doesn't provide the same health benefits than real world social status for people who have not much of it.


It would make for a interesting study, but the example that I heard in one lecture on multi social groups was a janitor (low rank work position) gaining health benefits from being the leader of a chess club. I view it as completely plausible that Internet social points to be very similar to that of chess club social points.

That said, perception can quickly change and it very possible that the distance that Internet has makes it more vulnerable to collapsing. In an other lecture on stress it was pointed out that few things cause more harm than when false hope is found to be misplaced, so it very possible that if a individual perceive themselves as high ranked only to be proven wrong, then that can cause major health related issues. It was something that stress studies found out the hard way.


The op was referring to perceived status for example I used to work at a former "proper" civil service telecoms company in the UK.

Because of the inherited status of M&P grades most of us where quite happy to take our toil - though this depended on your family's status as well.


No, GP was specifically talking about HN karma https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18643427.


I think it's generally assumed that more money equals better physical health, but the psychological aspects are very underrated.

Money equals certainty for a lot of people. It lets them count on certain things always being there. Having your own home, respect, clout totally builds your confidence and lets you face life with positivity. You can afford to be wrong more often, so you don't mind sticking your neck out - sometimes you lose, but often times you win big. In short, money removes a lot of anxieties.

A poor person simply doesn't have these luxuries, and the anxiety of poverty is a killer in its own right.

Our flavor of capitalism is also such that all the wealth ends up in a small number of hands. The winner takes all. I wished we could somehow enforce equality without negatively impacting innovation. Probably wishful thinking, but I wonder if society can be optimised so everyone can feel prosperous at the same time?!


I wouldn't be surprised if the levels of inequality are negatively impacting innovation. There has to be an optimum level but I don't think we are anywhere near it in the Anglo-sphere.


Oh, that's a given. Your instinct here is right.

Has to do with society functioning as a genetic algorithm: look into a-life like the work of Danny Hillis. You don't make gains when one 'solution' dominates over all others, that's called a plateau. Currently we're at a very low plateau where meddling with finance instruments or collecting rents of various kinds is the only effective way to wealth, and where most innovation will just get you broke and out of the game, because the risk of failing is far too severe.

In history we've had far better conditions for innovation (for instance, the dawn of personal computers) when people were generally more well-off but the disparity between extremes (Gini) was far smaller. This wasn't true for all populations, but I mean the populations that supported technological innovation.

You have to have whole thriving populations of individuals with bits of the eventual answer, including bits that aren't in themselves self-sufficient, in order for crossover and inter-pollination to give you new heights of innovation. Part of that is challenging (disrupting) existing 'best answers', something that's already in the DNA of silicon valley. Right now the best answer is just to get wealthy by any means necessary, preferably by collecting rents and bringing nothing to the table (to work or develop new things would be redirecting energy that can be used to just collect rent and extort money out of the system: it's disadvantageous to make anything new or better when you can engineer the existing system to your benefit)

There is no way Gini inequality helps innovation at all. Innovation has to do with populations of actors that are all reasonably capable of addressing a problem, not seeking a single optimal individual who will do all your innovating for you. Our incentives are literally backwards.


> There has to be an optimum level

I don't think there is any level where more equality does not lead to more innovation (any evidence to the contrary is welcome).

The thing with innovation and inequality is that some government programs that help (or claim to) the first can harm the second at the same time. But AFAIK, there is no absolute antagonism between them.



> A poor person simply doesn't have these luxuries, and the anxiety of poverty is a killer in its own right.

When I was younger the lyrics of "Common People" by Pulp [0] really resonated with me on this point - that day to day background worry of making ends meet plagues communities.

Obviously once you reach a certain level of comfort, you get diminishing returns (and even negative returns once the money owns you), but we still need to work on getting more people up to comfort.

[0] https://genius.com/Pulp-common-people-lyrics


Not related but William Shatner (yes, Kirk) does an amazing cover of that song. (Ben Folds produces)

I think it works because Shatner's spoken work technique really brings out the lyrics.


It's scary to think what that background stress is doing as the years roll on.

I imagine having that whole weight lifted... and then I read articles like this. Maybe we're all doomed. Call the Buddhists.


Returning to ho capitalism functioned during the years of 1930-1980, before the reduction in top marginal tax rates would go a long way towards leveling the playing field.


That's an interesting idea. I wonder what, fundamentally, caused the marginal tax rate to fall? Is it the perception (or reality) that governments waste the tax money? Or is it simply the corrupting influence of wealth in govt?

I don't see how any of these would not have been true earlier though.


> Looking at research and listening to experts in this fields, it is really fascinating how anything can be made into a value system for social status

Do you have any resources that you recommend?


I agree. We have been conditioned to use wealth - which is neatly expressed as a 1-dimensional value - as a proxy for merit.

If we are asked to do something that in abstract we would consider stupid or pointless, but is now accompanied by a large amount of money, we accept with the presumption that no one would offer so much money if it weren't very important.

Money provides a very simple, neat way of valuing every item or service on Earth. Deceptively simple.


> we accept with the presumption that no one would offer so much money if it weren't very important

That seems to be overthinking motivation.

If a sponsor was offering $500k for someone to stand on a streetcorner and sing Weird Al songs most people wouldn't consider that was an important job but they'd still do it for the money. Because the money provides opportunity to buy or do things that are worthwhile.

Money is a simple way of valuing objective time vs opportunity.


The example I thinking of is the common counterargument to "this job/industry/company is total BS": it can't be BS, because if it was no one rational would pay someone to do it. This presupposes that everything operates in a perfectly efficient market where pay corresponds directly to utility to someone, somewhere.

The 2008 financial crash, for instance, arguably demonstrated that a lot of practices in the finance industry weren't really creating value for anyone, just deceptively pushing up the value of something worthless in order to profit from it. But if you had approached someone making $500k at Bear Sterns in 2007 and said that, it would have touched off a whole string of rationalizations that basically amount to: "I'm being paid a lot of money, so this must be useful, otherwise I wouldn't be so rich" and potentially even "if you are so smart, why aren't you making $500k?"

And it's not just finance. I've had a version of that conversation often with Googlers when I criticize the company's bizarre and inexplicably messaging strategy were they seem to deliberately blow up any semblance of a good product. Their argument is ultimately, "we get paid $200k+ to do this and you work in a power plant, how could you possibly know any better than us?"

That's what I'm trying to get at with "money as merit".


Bear Stearns employee comp is solely about the value the employees provide to the firm. The ones making that kind of money would easily be bringing in a multiple of that in sales, etc.

Just because the company got wiped out by a black swan style event means nothing about whether their employees were providing a lot of value to the firm.


No, it clearly demonstrates that these employees where not creating that much value at the firm.

Progressive betting strategies for example can appear to work in the short term, but anyone executing them is destroying value.


Janitors were providing value whether or not Bear's long exposure to MBSs were too large.

The same applies to traders, etc.

My dentist fixing my toothache still provided value to me even if I die of a massive heart attack in two months.


If you sum up all work by everyone at Bear over the companies last year, they created negative value. Some lost far more money than others, but Traders as a group where not a net money maker.

Really, the company did not die in "100 hours." People just noticed it was already dead.


Not that this makes their messaging strategy any more coherent, but 200k is on the very low end of Google compensation; new grads have offers with total compensation north of that.

But they're just new grads, so obviously they can't know much, right?


I've noticed this on multiple occasions but why do people often create new accounts just to spread propaganda regarding compensation at Google? Is this a recruiting strategy executed by paid schills?


This comment breaks the site guidelines, which ask you not to insinuate astroturfing or shillage without evidence. If you'd review and follow https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html, we'd appreciate it.

Compensation is an intense topic for obvious reasons. There is a lot of variance in the data and it is anything but transparent. It's not surprising that people would create accounts to post sensitive information about it. I haven't seen examples of abuse in this area, but if you or anyone think you're seeing some, please email hn@ycombinator.com so we can investigate.


Posting the truth about Google compensation gets you automatic downvotes for some reason here. Google / Facebook / Netflix etc compensation helps the industry significantly by making sure that even software engineers in Pittsburgh make multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

But also, compensation is a sensitive topic. I don't know of the other posts you're speaking of, but people don't like having compensation history go with their comments.


Google doesn't want you to know that you can program websites in the middle of nowhere with very relaxed hours and have a content life that doesn't require you selling your soul to FAANG.

I haven't looked deep into it because I just don't care at this point, but 200k in Mountain View isn't the same 200k in other places.


Lots of people post exaggerations here about tech salaries that “other people they know” get. Last time I pointed this out (and shared links to salary.com and Glassdoor) I was personally attacked for it. There seems to be some strong undercurrent of motivation somewhere for maintaining this meme that entry-level engineers are making $400k and all have second homes in Monaco.


> We have been conditioned to use wealth ... as a proxy for merit.

I imagine this is especially true for people who have a high score on this metric. It appeals to ego and vanity.


> we accept with the presumption that no one would offer so much money if it weren't very important

oh boy I'd take a higher paying job to pay my mortgage or ease vacation with kids. No need to have a higher value than that.


> neat way of valuing every item or service on Earth

Isn't that the very concept of money? :)

Edit: newlines


Yes, the problem is that people associate what you have with what you are. Which are not the same thing. And therefor, make money the root of all evil today.

If we traded in goats, it'd be how many goats you have. It doesn't matter at all the medium, as long as the value is tenable.


To be pedantic it's pricing not valuing. Price and value (and cost) are related but different concepts.


I fell in to the karma trap on reddit years ago and I ended up trying to conform to trends to maximize my karma. Its a really boring way to use a website and I found myself not saying a lot of things because I know they will be downvoted and I will lose my internet points. These days I don't give a shit about karma and I say whatever I want. I feel better about sharing opinions and I say what I really think.


I went through the exact same arc with Reddit. Once you reach a point where you have say 100,000+ karma, no downvote can ever really touch you anymore and you can start being honest again. If in addition to that you don't care about being banned from certain subs, well, congratulations, you're once a again a free man!


My original account has been banned from hundreds of subs. The vast majority of them I had never even been on before and was bot banned because I commented on a competing sub or something. These days I just make up a random account every month.


some subs like offmychest ban anyone with a submission history to political subs like kotakuinaction as they perceive that someone with links to that subreddit cannot possibly contribute in a constructive manner. whether they are right or not is something only they as mods can perceive.

it is actually against reddit rules to auto ban users like that but it is part of the increasing number of rarely enforced rules on reddit


HN will shadowban your account if you dont conform to popular opinion enough

Aside from saying unpopular things, a net negative karma will also do it, which is a reflection of the same outcome

Always check your post history from an incognito browser to see if others can see it


90% of the stuff I post is upvoted but I don't care if one opinion I stand behind is downvoted. I also create a new account every month so that probably wont affect me.


That's against the rules, so please don't: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Plenty of explanations about why: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20identity%20community...


I'm afraid I do not see this part of the rule explained enough. Why is the identity important there? Wouldn't the content of the messages suffice? Often I do not even look at the name of the poster.


They're saying identity is important because only relating to an identity creates a community. But that's wrong of course, as many anonymous communities prove. I don't recognize 99% of the posters here either; it is indeed the content that makes the community.

I believe the real explanation of why identity is important to them is a bit of social psychology. The theory is that identifying with people makes them less mean to each other. So they probably want consistent identities so people will be more civil, which is one of their stated goals.


In the search link I posted above, there are lots of explanations of this, for example https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17996295. The point is that HN is a community and a community consists of people relating to one another. The fact that you can pick whatever name you want and it needn't be your real one doesn't change that.

It's also the way HN has always worked. A collection of nameless posts would be a very different kind of forum. Anyone is welcome to start one, but not to turn this one into that one.


So people can judge you by your previous posts.


the alternative to an automated one click action is a lengthy approval process...no one is going to follow this. it is trivial to create a new account. considering the userbase of this site it is even weirder to have shadowbans considering it is trivial to check and then change usernames/IPs.

also the semi-noob phrase is showing the age of that document


Isn't that against the rules, if not then I should do it, I just realised I was shadow banned 4 days ago and posted like an idiot


You can also email us to get unbanned if you want to use the site as intended. We're happy to unban people who give us reason to believe that they'll follow the rules in the future.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


How is one to email to get unbanned if one is not aware of the ban? That’s the whole POINT of the shadow ban that HN implemented. One little mistake (or two word post in OP’s case), and you’re shouting at the wall.

So with due respect, Kafkaesque suggestions to contact the mods don’t help. What would help is getting rid of juvenile practices that are arguably ineffective, i. e., shadow bans.


We usually tell people that we've banned them. There are exceptions, mostly for spammers and serial trolls.

https://hn.algolia.com/?query=we%27ve%20banned&sort=byDate&d...


> HN will shadowban your account if you dont conform to popular opinion enough

Bollocks.


Sometimes unaccepted observations can come across as wildly outlandish or insensitive depending on the topic, and initialize the fallible moderators as well

While other things conform to the prevalent opinion and masquarade as insightful high quality comments

there is a reason we can still see the now-laughable criticisms of dropbox


> the now-laughable criticisms of dropbox

But was it really?

It certainly wasn't a high-quality comment, it was too negative and arguably mean.

But the "failure" of the comment was merely a failure in correctly evaluating the business value. Something most of us have done many times in our "forum careers". Just think about all those comments that amount to not much more than "if you don't use the command line, you're not worthy of using a computer".

On a technical level it was fine. And remember, Dropbox in this very first stage was a very different beast from today's Dropbox.


I believe it's possible to achieve the same level of life satisfaction by translating your experience of the world through a lens of gratitude and purpose. I've had opportunities to meet and get to know people with high net worth (mostly successful entrepreneurs) and people that willingly chose to live below the poverty line (religious devotees, teachers in poor communities, public advocates in poorly-funded non-profits, etc). I can't say one is happier than the other. Both require you to sacrifice things you might otherwise want. For the rich, that sacrifice usually takes the form of unstable family life (if any family at all) and alienated relationships with children because they work too much. For the poor, that takes the form of more immediate, material sacrifices like worrying about food, healthcare, and housing. But something both share in common is that they can be happy if they are grateful for what they have. Gratitude is a powerful thing.

Curiously enough, the least happy people I've met are the ones that fall into neither category. Enough money to feel safe, fed, and warm, but no direction or meaning in their life. They aren't sure what to do with themselves. Should they try for more money? Should they choose a less vapid career path? They can't give up the middle-class salary or the middle-class experience. It's very sad.


Did not even realise there was a leaderboard for HN karma. I stopped tracking my own karma score a while back. I was getting upset by even a handful of downvotes, and as soon as I decided to just publish my thoughts without caring about down (or up) votes, my happiness went up quite a few notches.



It actually used to be one of the top tabs but was removed when PG realized that people trying to score points off each other hurt the quality of discussion. IIRC it was the same time that point totals for each comment were hidden from everyone but the author.


Maybe it would be a good idea to hide your own total karma too. It's always right there on the top right, and I can't help looking at it. And I feel happy and proud when that number has gone up, and upset when it has gone down.

Much more useful would be notifications of people responding to my comments, or maybe even people continuing discussions that I'm interested in. It's easy to lose track of those if I haven't posted in them.


tampermonkey script to do just that (would be nicer if HN could pop the karma into a span with an id :-) )

// ==UserScript==

// @name hide HN karma

// @namespace http://tampermonkey.net/

// @version 0.1

// @description hide HN karma

// @author You

// @match https://news.ycombinator.com/*

// @grant none

// ==/UserScript==

(function() {

    'use strict';  

    if(document.getElementById('me') !== null){   

      //hide karma 

        Array.from(document.getElementById('me').parentElement.childNodes)  

            .filter(x => x.nodeType == Node.TEXT_NODE)  

            .forEach(y => {y.textContent=' '})  


        //remove link to profile page

        let me = document.getElementById('me');  

        let newme = document.createElement('span');  

        newme.textContent = me.textContent;  

        me.parentElement.replaceChild(newme,me)  

        ;  

    }  
})();


Thanks, I was looking into that earlier today but postponed it exactly because there was no element with an id, so I'd had to look up stuff to write it.


Actually, hide karma part can be done clearer with just:

        //hide karma  

        let karma = document.getElementById("me").nextSibling;  

        karma.textContent = " | "



> Did not even realise there was a leaderboard for HN karma.

It's a well kept secret.

And I've been much happier since I stopped looking at it, but every now and then I fall off the wagon and sneak a peek.


Well, I implore you to do us all a favour and NOT publish the link to the leaderboard... :)


Wouldn't dream of it.


I spent years and years playing a MUD (Multi User Dungeon) trying to top the leaderboard. Once there, I couldn't stop. I kept going and going, until one day I overflowed the signed 32 bit int experience, and then promptly disappeared from the rankings.

That turned out to be a good thing. I lost most interest in advancing the counter...


When a bug can save a life :D


I'm not trying to be #1 but I do feel iike scores on various sites have a negative influence on me.

Added this to my `userContent.css` in firefox to hide my scores and votes

    @-moz-document domain(news.ycombinator.com) {
        .score { display: none; }
        body>center>table>tbody>tr:first-child>td>table>tbody>tr:first-child>td:nth-child(3) {
            visibility: hidden;
        }
        body>center>table>tbody>tr:first-child>td>table>tbody>tr:first-child>td:nth-child(3) a {
            visibility: visible;
        }
        html[op=user]>body>center>table>tbody>tr:nth-child(0n+3)>td:first-child form>table>tbody>tr:nth-child(3) {
            display: none;
        }
    }
which HN would just let me check a box "no score"


Interesting. I've noticed that the upvoting/downvoting system isn't very objective and tends to favor one side of an opinion over another. Meaning people will upvote you on HN if what you post resonates with them, and HN readership is skewed towards one end of the political/social spectrum. This means that the reward mechanism of HN (upvoting for karma), rewards those with content that conforms rather than challenges some of the assumptions and opinions that run prevalent here. It's very analogous to the real world and money. It's quite rare to be rewarded monetarily for challenging status quo or established trends/opinions. If I was to open a business to challenge an incumbent in an industry, the obstacles I'd face make the risk daunting. That's why the failure rate for start-ups is so high. I'd love to see a study of HN and Reddit and their voting system to see if we can find any strong correlations between that and the real world.


Social animals value status. But better to earn it achieving meaningful goals you'll be proud of years from now. HN will be forgotten soon enough.


> There is something visceral about looking at a number that you have somehow convinced yourself is a measure of your value as a human being

If only we could somehow get the rich to look at the CO2 ppm and be excited about that number getting smaller.


Something similar happens with school grades . You get labeled as an A kid, a B kid, you define yourself like that, and a good part of your life is spent fulfilling the spectations of that grade.


My accounting professor use to always say, "You get what you measure."

It didn't seem as so insightful then, but as I navigate this world, I get it.


Yes there's a similar quote I read somewhere which is now a part of my internal monologue: "You can't improve what you can't measure." So, I'm always trying to measure everything about my life and improving and optimizing things.


Money can’t purchase genuine human connection, and that’s pretty much the root of it.

Anything that can be purchased is that much more enjoyable when real human connection is involved, otherwise it honestly doesn’t matter how lavish the thing is, it just becomes kind of boring.

It’s possible to purchase fake connection, but again it’s pretty boring because it’s fake.

Even the money making process is more boring without genuine connections to others.


Assuming link karma counts, then it seems like you could spend a couple of hours writing a Selenium script that would check the XX most upvoted HN websites for new content every minute, and then copy the title field and URL for HN submission. I suspect running that for a few hours every day would see you climb to the top very fast, and it would require very little maintenance.


I've installed browser extensions to turn off karma/points on as many sites as I can find. For me this has worked well.

I still kid my wife about "internet points" when I take a photo for Google Maps and the like, and I totally empathise with you on the feeling of seeing that number, but for my own peace of mind I've had to restrict myself from it.


Not to be too cynical, but the people who start schmoozing after you become rich probably just want a bit of the gold...


I've downvoted you, but only because it's what you would have wanted


"Why Aren’t Hacker News Leaders Happy With the Karma They Have?"


There was a well written comment on Reddit a few years back about how your life changes at different levels of wealth:

https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/2s9u0s/what_do_i...

The main gist was that in the $10-30 million range you can live a comfortable life without having to worry about finances again. In the $30-100 million range you can start doing "rich people" things like have a private jet (though this might be a stretch at the low end), have multiple residences in expensive parts around the globe, have personal staff, etc. After that level of wealth, more money doesn't really get you material things anymore, so much as influence and access to other important people.


> in the $10-30 million range you can live a comfortable life without having to worry about finances again

This statement strikes me as very disconnected from the reality that the vast majority of people on this planet live in, and honestly, a little bit irritating. I'm well aware that many here on HN would be millionaires, but as somebody who grew up in poverty and is now a full-time uni student with no savings in the bank, and no safety net, I wouldn't describe my life as comfortable, but I'm not starving or sleeping on a park bench either. My largest expenses are rent, food and medical expenses. If somebody were to give me a hundred thousand dollars to invest, I am quite certain I could live comfortably for the rest of my life. I'd never own a Ferrari, but why would I need to?

In other words, I think your comment reflects the very problem that the posted article is discussing. To me, the idea of needing $10 million to be comfortable and not have to worry about finances seems absurd. Unless your idea of a comfortable life involves owning a luxury car, or renting a $2,000 a night suite. I live on what many here would consider to be an extremely low income, and the only thing I feel I'm really missing out on is desperately needed dental work, and even that would be measured in thousands of dollars, not millions.

I apologise if my comment sounds harsh or impolite. It is not intended to be. I'm just amazed that anybody would think they need $10 million to be comfortable.


I don't think you are fully grokking "not worrying about finances". Your scenario requires consistent outsized market returns to give you less money than the poverty level. You will be wiped out by inflation, a recession, a newborn child, or a myriad of other unexpected expenses that will quickly blow through your poverty-level allowance.

That's nowhere near "not worrying about finances". "Not worrying about finances" means you never have to work a job for income, you don't depend on the social safety nets of a single country, you never have to worry about affording a place to live, getting optional healthcare and so-on.

You're thinking that people who don't constantly have to worry about finances is what the poster is talking about, but that's worlds away from never worrying about finances again.

>I'm just amazed that anybody would think they need $10 million to be comfortable.

Seriously, read the thread again. This has nothing to do with comfort, it's about FU money.


> Seriously, read the thread again. This has nothing to do with comfort, it's about FU money.

I was responding to the HN comment, not the Reddit thread. If you're talking about having "FU money" and I'm talking about being "comfortable" then I think we are talking about different things.

> You're thinking that people who don't constantly have to worry about finances is what the poster is talking about, but that's worlds away from never worrying about finances again.

I agree, I think we have a different understanding of what it is to "worry" about finances. I am talking about the sort of worry that comes from not knowing where the next meal will come from, or not being able to pay rent. That, to me, is what worry is. I appreciate your explanation that others mean something different.


I get that you're responding to the comment, but I still think you're wrong - I think OP is absolutely correct that around the $10MM mark (or higher), you actually stop worrying about your future. Maybe you're fortunate enough to be optimistic enough not to worry, but I'm in a similar position to yours: grew up as one of four kids in a household that never took in more than $30K/year. I never went hungry, but I felt lucky when we had spaghetti with meatballs instead of just tomato sauce. Now I have enough in my 401(k) that I could probably manage to squeak out enough income to live around that level for the rest of my life, but I'm constantly worried about the future (rationally or irrationally). I still have two kids who have to go to college and I hope to be able to pay for it. I still have to have a car for the next 20 years (at least) that will get me back and forth to work. I might have medical expenses. Whether you think I'm right or wrong, I wouldn't really stop _worrying_ about the future until I had at least 7 figures in safe, liquid assets.


"At least 7 figures" is $1m, not $10m. I think that's exactly the kind of difference the GP is referring to.


> If somebody were to give me a hundred thousand dollars to invest, I am quite certain I could live comfortably for the rest of my life

This shows a pretty big disconnect. And is something no one in their 30s+ would say.

The common rule of thumb is you can live off of an investment at 4% indefinitely(assuming 6% return and 2% inflation). This gives you $4,000 a year. Crappy insurance: $4,200 a year. Crappy 300 sq ft efficiency in cheaper town: $5,400 a year. Cost of owning a car: $5,000 a year(you could skip this expense, but you'll be spending most of it in increased cost of living in area with great public transit. You could also bike but not everyone's knees last forever)

And this doesn't include food/entertainment/travel/internet/phone/medical bills etc.


> This shows a pretty big disconnect.

Yes it does. That was my point.

For starters, you're assuming I'd want to live off the investment, instead of continuing to work.

Regardless, I shouldn't have mentioned the arbitrary figure of $100K, which has made it so much easier for people to ignore my point, that many people are comfortable with much less than $10M.


You're presuming you can continue to work.

$10M means you don't have to work, even when you can't.


I agree, that is an assumption built into my belief, and possibly a foolish one.

I would still maintain that it is possible to live on much less than $10M, although some may not enjoy the change in lifestyle.


It is possible to live on $0 income/saving indefinitely, assuming you live in a developed country with a welfare system (I wouldn't personally want to).


Not really that's about the level where you don't have to think to much at say the £1,000,000 - yes I would not really have to work - but buying a house would easily take 50% - 70% of that.

And I could spend 10% of the 1 million on just maxing out my unused pension allowance for the last three years, and probably I should do the same for my sisters.


> For starters, you're assuming I'd want to live off the investment, instead of continuing to work.

Okay, fine. You mentioned that you're a student, so I'll assume that means you're 22: if you're a man, that means you have another 55 years. That $100,000 thus works out to an extra $1,818/year for the rest of your life, which is roughly a month's rent or a dozen or two really good meals a year. Is that a nice supplement to your wealth? Sure. Is it enough to make your life significantly better? No, not really.

Ah, but perhaps you're investing it, too. Let's say that you get 6% a year (optimistic), and withdraw 1/55th of the principal + interest each year. So this year you'll get $1,927, next year you'll get $2,006 &c. Is it nice to have that extra money? Sure! Is it going to be life-altering? No, not really.


This depends where in the world you're thinking of living. $4,000/year goes a lot further in the developing world.


Unsurprisingly, very few seem to want to go there (otherwise financial independance would be easily achievable for lots of people).


>...The common rule of thumb is you can live off of an investment at 4% indefinitely

Your general point is right, but the situation is even worse than you say since you are misinterpreting the 4% rule. It isn’t that you can live “ indefinitely” - it is that using historical returns, you could live about 30 years taking 4% (allowing for increases due to inflation) off an investment before it is zero. People seem to think that taking 4% means you won’t have to touch your capital - that isn’t the case.

>...What we now call the 4% rule comes out of research by financial planner William Bengen in the early 1990s. Essentially, Bengen tested a variety of withdrawal rates on several different allocations of stocks and bonds using inflation data and investment returns going back to 1926. After crunching the numbers, he concluded: "Assuming a minimum requirement of 30 years of portfolio longevity, a first-year withdrawal of 4%, followed by inflation-adjusted withdrawals in subsequent years, should be safe.”

https://money.cnn.com/2018/02/07/retirement/4-percent-rule/i...


This seems like a hidden assumption.

Why would you not work doing whatever it is you do as an avocation, or if you like, a hobby or dream job? If it's what you love and what fascinates you, why would that not lead to income across your whole life? Granted, it'd take years to get to the point where it's sustainable, but surely there is tangible value in this?

I do not understand a mindset of 'My only purpose is to amass a pile of wealth so large that I don't spend any of it or do anything else ever, merely use the mechanisms of finance to subsist unproductively off the leakage from my giant pile of wealth, literally forever'.

How is this plan in any way good, ethical or beneficial to either the person or the society they're in? You're going to die having made no use of the hoard you seized, despite having taken it from others who need wealth of their own to survive. Rethink these assumptions.


> I do not understand a mindset of 'My only purpose is to amass a pile of wealth so large that I don't spend any of it or do anything else ever, merely use the mechanisms of finance to subsist unproductively off the leakage from my giant pile of wealth, literally forever'.

> You're going to die having made no use of the hoard you seized, despite having taken it from others who need wealth of their own to survive. Rethink these assumptions.

I would encourage you to rethink your assumptions. What you wrote goes completely against how economics actually works.

You are not "seizing" a hoard, and definitely not taking it from others. Unless you are literally a thief, that's just not how things work - you are making it seem like the economy is zero-sum, whereas it absolutely is not.

Also, having a pile of wealth that you don't spend is something that no one actually does - almost everyone invests their money, which means it is put to good use, as an investment - the wealth that someone created out of thin air, is turned into the building blocks for new people to create their own wealth.

I highly recommend you read a little about economics, it's one of the most rewarding and eye-opening things I've ever studied (only as an amateur, I'm not a professional economist or anything.)


> I highly recommend you read a little about economics

Can you suggest some resources?


It depends how far into economics you want to get (and remember, I am not at all an economist, just an interested layperson).

A good book for getting started, IMO, is Charles Wheelan's "Naked Economics".

The first thing that I read was "Basic Economics" by Thomas Sowell, which I liked a lot and highly recommend - however, keep in mind that Thomas Sowell is very capitalist/right leaning, and the book is quite "biased".

A great textbook, if you really want to get further into economics, is Greg Mankiw's Principles of Economics (almost all undergrad economics textbooks are called "Principles of Economics", for some reason, so you have to search by author.) That's definitely the place to go if you want to have a more sophisticated understanding of economics than you'll just get by reading books.


Thanks! I'll start here.


Rationalization.


There's no need for a dichotomy between "meaningful poorly-paid work" and "unethical pointless well-paid work." It's perfectly possible to work at a nonprofit that is "beneficial to society" while simultaneously optimizing your own personal financial position.


Can't speak for the OP, but saying you are able to live without working is no the same as saying that you won't work. When discussing financial security and financial worries, being able to survive and fulfill all your obligations until your death without holding a job is the point where you are "free" from having to worry about finances. It doesn't mean you won't work, and many of us would continue to have a day job in such a case, it just means that we wouldn't have to worry about how to take care of our family if we got fired.


100k * 10% = 10k/year.

10% is about the best return you can count on (very optimistically) I don't know what country you live in, but 10k in the US, even for a single person, would put you far below the poverty line. No way you could afford that dental work after you pay rent on that. And let's not even talk about all of the other huge expenses that will come up later in your life.

$10m * 3% = $300k/year

That's a high end salary in the US. You could cut this number in half, and that would be ok too IMO. Less than some developers make. But you can buy a reasonable house, car, etc. Not a farrari though, unless you're irresponsible.

If you actually intend to live on this money forever, then the return you receive is really the maximum you can spend. And that's really not as much as you would think. Especially when you figure there will be some years where you won't earn anything (during recessions).

Again, if you live in an expensive country like the US. If you live in a poor country, maybe 10K is enough. But this article and these numbers, aren't really about that situation.


I feel disheartened that you read my entire comment and chose to focus on one number and the ineptitude of my hypothetical investment strategy instead of focusing on the overall point I was trying (and I guess failing) to make. I regret saying anything at all.

For the record, thousands of Australian university students live on less than US$10K per year. You seem to think we can't exist, but we do.

> No way you could afford that dental work after you pay rent on that.

And thanks, that is very helpful of you to remind me.


The number says "a comfortable life". University life is not the entirety of a persons life. And these numbers are for the US anyway, where university isn't free, and that alone would cost you more than $10k/year... in fact, far more than $10k/year.

I think you need to revisit this in 10 or 20 years. I think you'll have a different opinion on this number.

$10k is not comfortable. That is poverty. And the question wasn't what is possible to survive on.


Nowhere have I said that $10K per year is comfortable. I have a dentist appointment tomorrow that I don't yet know how I am going to pay for. I can't remember the last time I got a Christmas or birthday present, or the last time I went on a holiday. It sucks, but there are people worse off than me. And there are three orders of magnitude between $10K and $10M. If anyone thinks they need $10M to feel secure and comfortable, than I honestly feel sorry for them. I think that's the kind of insecurity that would be very difficult to escape. Probably even harder to escape than poverty.

Again, I apologise if my comment/s seem impolite. I am not having a great day, but I don't mean to come across as disrespectful. I understand that I live in a different world to many of the people here on HN. I also think we may be talking past each other a little bit, using different definitions of "comfortable". I think it's possible that I don't know what comfortable is supposed to feel like, at least not the way most people here seem to be using the word. To me, comfortable is just having a loaf of bread in the cupboard, a roof over my head and a healthy body. I feel like that is all I need, and that's the point I was originally trying to make.


Similar situation here. I live on 7000 GBP p/a and any other income I can find elsewhere which isn't guaranteed. There was a post on Reddit personal finance sub the other day asking for advice on whether they should leave their 320k USD p/a job for a 325k GBP p/a job as an entry level analyst for a hedge fund. Most people just have no idea what it actually is to live close to poverty and so 10 million is easy to come by as a figure for where you're comfortable. To be honest it makes sick. That said I'm the happiest I've ever been and enjoy being a PhD student. You learn s lot by the constraint of minimal income such as how to cook good food and enjoy life without materialism. Not that I was that way before I started my current programme.


FFS that $10m figure isn't about being comfortable. It's about never having to work again and never having to be concerned about paying for things in an upper middle class lifestyle.

You might be happy as a PhD student, but your housing and life is entirely dependent on the university. You are one academic violation away from that all being in jeopardy.

What happens if you get a spouse and child? Will your current housing and savings be enough to support them and yourself if you both decide you want to stay with the baby instead of working?

What if your government passes legislation that costs you your job, your housing, or your healthcare?

The $10m money is about not worrying about anything other than global economic collapse and/or massive wars.

"Not worrying about money again" means never again. Not just while you manage to hold down a job.


Y'know, that's what I like about the European social security systems (not all of them of course, but some). It's just that, security. You can be sure you will have healthcare, you will have housing and you will have food, and so will all your dependents. (Ah and of course you will have to fill out a lot of papers and they will bug you to find a job, and your level of living will be at university student level, but still.)

I really like the peace of mind that gives me and everyone, even if that means I have to pay more taxes.


>It's just that, security. You can be sure you will have healthcare, you will have housing and you will have food, and so will all your dependents.

That's certainly better security, but it's still nowhere near the level I'm talking about. You're still having to concern yourself with money for things like smartphones, entertainment, holidays, etc. and you're one government crisis away from austerity taking a big chunk of that away. Also, keep in mind that there are still people alive who witnessed WW2. You can't take the stability of your country as a given.

The $10m number puts you in the position to even diversify away risks to your home country.


Agreed. I think it's a very good to have a social security to back you. In place where I live very few percentage of people who go for govt. jobs are lucky to get pension directly from the govt., which is always adjusted for inflation so you can have a comfortable life. People outside of that social security are constantly worried and in pursuit of having a decent retirement income option. Wish a system like in Europe becomes a norm in other parts of the world too, though sometimes I feel it can make people lazy, but why are we working so hard for anyways!.


From statistics and research, most people on longer-term support really want to work and can't for some reason (can't find a job due to qualification mismatch, illness or taking care of dependents, ..).

From the data it does not seem to make people here lazy, and being long-term unemployed is still bad for mental health and being part of society. I am not sure how much of this is cultural since it is surely connected to attitudes towards work.


Normalizing this need to execute wealth-hoarding as a 'normal life' directly CREATES global economic collapse and massive wars.


> there are three orders of magnitude between $10K and $10M

Sure, but you're comparing apples and oranges. Almost 2 of those orders of magnitude disappear when you change $10M of assets into a few hundred thousand dollars of annual income.

A lot of the rest goes away when you notice that not worrying about finances "ever again" includes an awful lot of expensive things you don't pay for day-to-day or even year-to-year, such as the dental work you're putting off.


> You could cut this number in half, and that would be ok too IMO. Less than some developers make.

I think you might have a bias in your viewpoint here. At half would be 150k/year and is still significantly above what most developers make. And I am assuming only United states.


> Less than some

> above what most

I don't see the contradiction here?


That only makes sense if you imagine living an entirely different life. What most people need is $1 million in addition to their future normal income. That gives you the opportunities for safety, career advancement and quality of life that you need to have a good version of the life most people are living.

Of course if you don't expect to invest, work or advance everything is going to be have to paid for up front and you will need a lot of money. But that isn't realistic for most people. It is very expensive to be a poor millionaire, but relatively cheap to be modestly wealthy.


Am I weird? I spent a year living somewhat frugally (still enjoyed myself, still took a trip now and then) in San Diego and spent about 20,000. That was only my share tbf, my wife covered her half of expenses. We had a flat in a nice neighbourhood, shared an old but decent-condition car, took one trip to New England that year..

We had obamacare which helped a lot.

I see people on HN talking about needing massive amounts of money to live and I just wonder where it all goes? What's it for?


The massive amount of money basically sits in an investment account and generates dividends to live off of. That's what people are talking about. In order to have a salary they're used to they need like 20-30x the cash in the bank to generate it (preferably a bit extra to keep up with inflation too). Otherwise if you weren't using it to do that presumably you'd eventually run out of money and have to go back to work (except now you're old and 30 years out of date)


Oh I know, but it seems like I encounter a mindset here that you need six figures forever just to not be destitute. A few days ago a guy posted he had eight million post-tax from an exit and folks were calling it barely enough to retire. Even if you could only keep up with inflation that ought to last 150+ years. Particularly with a paid off house.


> In order to have a salary they're used to

Well there's the problem right there. Your salary should be higher than your cost of living because you're actively trying to save for retirement. Once you're actually retired you shouldn't need as much.


Yes. What has become clear to me in this discussion is that some people, when talking about being "comfortable", are talking about maintaining a much more lavish lifestyle, funded by passive income, than many people like myself, are used to or feel that they need. For many, comfort is simply feeling like they aren't at risk of starving or becoming homeless. That's the definition I'm working with, but it's clear to me that others are talking about something different, as you have articulated in your comment. Thank you.


I think one of the disconnections here is that you are talking about extra cash (over what you currently earn), whereas rgbrenner (and probably others) are talking about all income.

And I think they have a point: $100k is a lot of money, but what if you got sick and couldn't work anymore, ever? Wouldn't you be at the risk of starving or becoming homeless if you had to stretch that over 30 or 40 years?


> I think one of the disconnections here is that you are talking about extra cash (over what you currently earn), whereas rgbrenner (and probably others) are talking about all income.

Agreed.

> And I think they have a point: $100k is a lot of money, but what if you got sick and couldn't work anymore, ever?

That's a fair point. I don't really worry too much about getting sick and never being able to work again ever. I think some of this comes down to the level of risk that each individual is content to live with. If I had children or a family, perhaps I would be a lot more worried.


The massive amount of money is just to generate investment income so that you don't spend down the principal. People often use 4% as a safe withdrawal rate, but it's much safer to use 3.5% or 3%.

For example, if you wanted to spend $20k per year, then you would need $20,000 / 0.03 = $666,666 invested in index funds.

I'd be happy with something like $40k per year ($1,333,333 invested), or just a SaaS service that provides passive income. Running a business is far riskier, but it also gives you something to do.

And maybe I wouldn't mind having a nice house in an expensive city like New York, Melbourne, Vancouver, etc. $20,000 per year would be nice, but I think $200,000 would be pretty nice as well.


Retirement, buying a home in the bay area, saving for kids college funds.

You're right, spending 40k for a couple is plenty to live on. It's all of the above that sucks up the rest if you want to retire (let alone retire early).


Again, being able to live a life of leisure exclusively out of your fortune's interests reaches far higher than "living a comfortable line". You can live very comfortably with a part-time job, or even a full-time job that's not too demanding.


The question says "without thinking about finances again". It is true the number could be lower, but there does need to be some buffer here. Otherwise you're one mistake/accident/recession/layoff away from "thinking about finances again".


I don't know why everyone assumes such a low return. I think the term Invest has got everyone confused. Investing $100k doesn't have to be a long term investment like an IRA. You could invest in a startup, invest in the stock market, etc.

Give me $100k and I'll retire within the year. A few smart quick investments can really pan out. It can also fail, as we all should know.


Outline specifically what you would invest it in, otherwise we have no reason to believe you.


This is a fairly interesting comment for me. I was exactly in your situation.

I had no money in Uni. My parents were boat people with no money either.

Not long after Uni, I had 100K in my account. Comfy, no mansion, no car.

The first thing I spent more than a couple of grand on ever was dental work. Felt great to fix the crossbite.

But here's the thing. You could just be alone your whole life, no wife, no kids. I've got friend who do that, and indeed they can live on near minimum wage and be perfectly happy.

Once you decide you want a wife and kids, the budget changes. By a lot. You'll need a bigger place to live. You'll want to send the kids to private school. You'll need a bigger car.

This can easily add up to several million depending on exactly what you mean.

For the record I did go on to buy an expensive sports car. Not worth it, surprise surprise.


>You'll need a bigger place to live. You'll want to send the kids to private school. You'll need a bigger car.

Maybe it would be more correct to say You'll want a bigger place and a bigger car too, because there's no real need there.


Depends a lot on the particular place you're in. And that in turn may depend a lot on where your existing network is.


Yeah, because children die of cramping when they don't have individual rooms.


I grew up without my own room too. Slept in an entry hall for many years.

But if you're going to have kids there's at least one other person who will have an opinion about this.

You will definitely reduce your chances of having kids if you insist on finding someone who is totally fine with squishing the kids together.


Depends a classic 911 is arguably a good investment.


Just imagine if you lived in a society that had good public schools, health and dental care.


The weird thing is I come from a place that's said to have all those things.

Not my opinion, but a lot of Americans hold up Scandinavia as such.


And it doesn't?


I would be very surprised if you could live worry-free with the investment proceeds of $100,000. You would have to earn 18% a year on that on average just to hit the poverty line in the US, and a more likely result would be living on 1/3rd of that. At just 6k/yr you would have food covered if you ate practically, or perhaps rent covered if you lived very modestly, but not both.

Assuming that you meant something closer to $1M than $100k I would start to agree. At that rate an initial investment into a home becomes realistic and more advantageous investment options open up. You are still not living high on the hog (60k/yr, ish), but you will probably only have significant problems if you are struck by disaster, illness takes you, or you have children.

At a further 10x that (roughly what the OP describes) you must really screw up to ever be one of the poor again. Many inefficient ways of living (eating out regularly, nice homes, expensive hobbies) open up. These are what most people consider comforts, and so I generally agree with the sense that this is the band where permanent comfortable living becomes possible.


> I would be very surprised if you could live worry-free with the investment proceeds of $100,000.

I think you have made the assumption that I would stop working. That might be the goal of many people, but it's not mine, and it's not how I would define being comfortable.

Aside from that, yes, I was using a fairly arbitrary number to make a point. I hadn't done the math. Which, here on HN, was probably a mistake. But for somebody who has never had more than $3K to their name, $100K in the bank still seems like a very comfortable safety net.


$100k wouldn’t be a reliable safety net for long. A good network of people who trust you to execute reliably is worth way more than $100k — see: business owners who have repeatedly survived bankruptcy.

I understand how ridiculous this may sound. There’s a presupposition of access to capital / employment. A large chunk of the world doesn’t have access to that, to no fault of their own. But don’t discount yourself that quickly — a non-trivial amount of people have created and captured an insane amount of value. It doesn’t seem entirely fair, and to be honest, sometimes it isn’t.

Re: $100k, completely sane and reasonable expenses add up quickly. You’ll be surprised what costs rear their heads as you have more liquidity. You’re better off being broke while you’re in University and, once you’ve finished, learning the ropes and demanding compensation for your productive hours. You can calibrate your income against researched market rates / cohorts of friends if you’d like to optimize, and nobody will fault you for it — in fact, it’s expected.

You’ll figure this all out but for now it doesn’t matter: everybody here is giving you sound advice (based on pre-assumption of: University-educated individual), you just can’t see past the iron wall of academia yet. It’s a much bigger world than you can imagine, with a lot of opportunity to generate wealth if that’s what you’re interested in. (It doesn’t have to be, but some sort of optimization in this direction is helpful for general contentment given your pre-supposed opportunities: not everybody gets to attend college.)


I appreciate your comment. I know that having more than $100K in the bank would be a better safety net. Hell, having $5K would feel fantastic right about now. My point is merely that many people feel happy and comfortable with so much less than $10M, and it's absurd to believe otherwise. Most interlocutors here seem to have latched on to my pretty arbitrary figure of $100K and forgotten or ignored that original point.


$10M is a pretty standard “set for life” goal based on a 3% annualized rate of return.

It’s obscenely difficult to get there, but an entirely reasonable and well-defined goal for people who are willing to compete (and, with high likelihood, fail) in the market to get there.

It’s up to you to decide if you’d like to pursue that path. There are plenty of paths to stability without setting that goal; you’ll just find yourself arguing with a self-selected subset of people targeting it when you post on a place like HN.

You shouldn’t wish ill upon them, and they shouldn’t wish ill upon you. We’re all just figuring life out on our own, but if you’re in a professional career in your ~30s you’ll hear “$10M” (USD, or in North America) as a pretty standard target for a “dream amount.”


So the standard point of view is that you can't stop worrying about money until you have passive income of roughly USD $300,000 per year? Why would you need five times the average annual gross household income to be comfortable? That sound like the symptom of a serious problem.

Why not take your current annual spend, multiply it by 1.2 for a nice cushion, and then figure out what you need at 3% to gain that annual return? This should come out to be roughly an order of magnitude less than $10M.


That passive income does have to carry you through bad economic times as well. What if the rate of return is only 1% or the value of your portfolio drops drastically because of a full-blown economic depression?


The 3% is an average. Some years it'll be higher, and that extra income goes into your savings and offsets the bad years. Plus there's the cushion mentioned and that should also be accumulating a larger and larger safety net.


> you’ll just find yourself arguing with a self-selected subset of people targeting it when you post on a place like HN

Very true, and thanks for my first chuckle of the day.

I certainly don't wish ill on anyone. I've suffered a lot, in various ways, but that has made me more compassionate, and I think therefore there has been value in that suffering. I have learned how to make do with very little.

Again, I appreciate your comments.


No worries. Thanks for the appreciation.

Ten years ago I was a broke college student doing lab grunt work. I couldn’t really afford coffee in the morning. I know what it’s like. He might not like me sharing this, but I watched my father who didn’t have a whole lot to begin with lose everything to his name just as I was preparing to enter the working world. That wasn’t even the worst of it for me personally, shit just happens.

I am very fortunate now to be able to work alongside some absolutely mind-blowingly talented people. Hit me up in ten years and see if I’m in a a cohort of people who have reached their dream amounts, but I’m not sure how much absolute numbers matter anymore. I’m happy. There’s a really big world out there. Don’t discount yourself and don’t sweat being broke in college. It’s part of the experience, humbles you, and grows something special that will allow you to relate to others more freely in the future.

I bring this up because: keep it up, keep asking questions, and when people tell you “$100k isn’t much,” work on figuring out what they know that you don’t yet. If you know it’s possible there’s a chance you’ll get there sooner than they did. Stay humble, but be hungry. Good luck in the future.


Have you considered that you think 100k is comfortable because you don’t have it?


Part of being worry-free is knowing that even if you became unable to work you would not go hungry. 100k would do that for a while (unless you had medical expenses) but not forever. As a result, at some point you would need to worry.

My point in saying all of this isn't to depress you or wave money in your face or anything-- just to be clear, I don't have that kind of cash. It's just that the math says somewhere in the $1M to $10M range is what you need to be legitimately isolated from personal financial stress.


Which metro area, and do you intend to have a family?

The rule of thumb is that you can you can withdraw about 4% of your savings per year if you want them to last forever. $100k in savings gives an annual income of about $4000/year. There are places on earth where you can live on much less than that - my wife spent less than that for 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Peru. There are very few in the U.S. Even in small towns, rent on a 1BR will run $400/month. That's already over budget. Here in the Bay Area, minimum rent is about $1000/month with roommates. Anything less and you're living in an RV. If you're really frugal you can live as a single person on about $20K/year.

Kids add a whole new wrinkle. An uncomplicated hospital birth is $20K if insurance doesn't cover it. A NICU stay is about $10K/day. Just the equipment to bring a kid home safely from the hospital and keep them safe (car seat, crib, high chair, diapers, babyproofing) can run a grand or two. Living in a 1BR is not really practical with a family (yeah, that's how my mom grew up, but her one non-negotiable as an adult was a house with a yard). Day care in the Bay Area is about $20K/year for a decent program.

I'm generally someone who thinks people overestimate what they need to spend to be comfortable by a lot - I saved 80% of my income, consistently, for a decade. Still, expenses go up a lot when you have kids, and oftentimes they go up a lot even without having kids, simply because inflation. I'm really glad that my top-line was quite high for the first decade of my career, because I have a number of friends from college who thought "Oh, I don't need a lot of money to be happy" and therefore took career paths that didn't generate a lot of money, then got to 35 and found out that their career path does not support having a family.


I think yours is the comment disconnected from reality. But I will say that westerners tend to over-estimate what is required to live "comfortably", but $100k in savings won't get you very far, even below the poverty level.

$1 million will provide you with enough money to live comfortably. You'd still need to be somewhat frugal and be mindful of the hedonic treadmill. But that's not "never worrying about finances again". $10M will get you there. $100k when you're young is a good start to retirement savings, a hefty real estate down payment, or temporary living money while you spend several years chasing a dream. But that's about it.


I think most of the people replying to you are equating "not worrying about finances" with "not working another day in my life". Which is probably which strikes you as disconnected.

I see where you are coming from, and agree with you. I am happy to say I'm at a point in my life where I feel I will never have to worry about finances, and I'm nowhere near $10MM. I'm 30 years old, live alone in an apartment that could be big enough for my wife and a kid if I decided to marry and have a kid. I save/invests around 60% of my income. I'm not at $100k on savings/investments yet, but can easily calculate when that will be and it's not too far in the future. I work full time, and I'm looking to reduce hours/days worked before I turn 40, but maybe I won't. If I will, financial implications will not be the major factor of that decision.

So yeah, considering I'm comfortable with two or three less orders of magnitude less than 10 million... I'm as amazed as you are.


> I am happy to say I'm at a point in my life where I feel I will never have to worry about finances,

if you weren't worrying about finances at some level why are you going to work today instead of going on holidays in a nice spot ? could you handle, say, your house burning overnight with all your belongings ?

Never means never, not "comfortable enough to turn a blind eye to the potential problems that may come sometime in the next 60 years".


>if you weren't worrying about finances at some level why are you going to work today instead of going on holidays in a nice spot ?

I care about my finances. But I don't worry about them. I have a high degree of certainty that, barring getting a disease that prevents me from working for multiple years, I won't have major financial problems for the rest of my life. The fact that I live in a country with good public healthcare (Spain) is a factor here.

>? could you handle, say, your house burning overnight with all your belongings ?

100% yes. My belongings are worth less than $10k. It would be annoying, but completely manageable.


> I care about my finances. But I don't worry about them.

I think that is the key to understanding much of the disagreement here. Some people seem to concentrate on the possibility that something catastrophic could happen, which admittedly, is true. But I think it's possible to be comfortable in life, with that risk. Most people don't have a choice but to bear that risk, and many would still, I believe, describe themselves as happy and comfortable.

I think by "comfortable", some people mean "immune to any possible threat", in which case, I begin to understand their point of view.


> I care about my finances. But I don't worry about them.

I don't see any distinction between "caring" and "worrying" in this context: "worrying" means "thinking about it". When people say "without having to worry about finances again" it must be understood as "don't even want to think about their account balance ever in their whole life".


I'm not a native speaker, but the first entry in the dictionary for worry is "to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret", while "care" when used as a verb is defined as "to be concerned or solicitous; have thought or regard"

I have thoughts and regards about my financial situation, and will for the rest of my life. I think everyone has such concerns, so saying that someone cares about their financial situation is kind of meaningless. If that's your definition of worrying, even the richest person in the planet worries about their finances.

I certainly don't torment myself thinking about my financial situation, nor do I think I will ever need to again.

EDIT: Actually, there are people who don't care. I've seen them. But these people generally have never learnt to care: they are either children, who havne't had to handle money yet, or people spoiled people who essentially behave as children. In my experience, not caring about money is not related to how much money you have.


Thank you. I was beginning to feel like an extraterrestrial here.


> If somebody were to give me a hundred thousand dollars to invest, I am quite certain I could live comfortably for the rest of my life.

I'm really curious how you forsee this working out. Even if you can live comfortably on the federal minimum wage (about $15k/year) you're going to have to be able to consistently bring in something like 25% returns on your investments to stay afloat.


It is a bit outlandish. There's plenty of people on HN who aren't millionaires (at least not yet, and when they are, maybe they'll stop working). But maybe they're smart enough to avoid this thread.

Improving your life in the least bit is the whole point of life itself. Being that as you grew up in poverty, came from nothing monetary wise, and are already in school you're already doing better than you were imagined to.

You'll go far; it takes a long time.

Knowledge of investments will take you far in life. Ferraris are (fast)depreciating assets that take a lot of time and extra expense, they're simply not good investments unless you're a race car driver. Not when a Toyota will do the same for you.

Whenever you can, take care of your teeth. Eventually, they can hurt more than just your mouth.

I wouldn't apologize. You're just being real.


My comment sort of blew up and I didn't word it as carefully as I should have. I want to be clear that I was just summarizing the Redditor's comment, not presenting my own opinions (since I haven't really had any interactions with anyone who's all that wealthy).

The point I was trying to get across was not that you need $10 million in order to live comfortably. I was just saying that having that level of wealth won't really provide you with any additional material goods. The only thing you gain at that level is more financial security. At that level of wealth you could go through a divorce and have a major medical emergency all at the same time, and still come out of it with enough to be able to live in a nice home, have a vacation home, travel in first class, etc.


You may be misinterpreting the sums a bit here. $10m being "comfortable" simply means you can invest that conservatively, earn (say) 3% interest, and spend $300k/year without drawing down your nest egg. And while $300k is obviously wealthy, it's nowhere near private jet territory.


I feel you are having this thought process because you are still a student where you can afford to live frugally. Once you get a job, your social status get raised and you would need 100k a year to live comfortably. So even $1MN is not going to take you far if you stop working, i would even suggest $10MN is also a risky bet, unless you invest it wisely as inflation can easily wipe out a large chunk of that value in few years.


>your social status get raised and you would need 100k a year to live comfortably

Haha come on. You know that is not true. I live a pretty good life where I get to move country every few months (in Europe), have expensive hobbies, ski 100+ days a year and after currency conversion make closer to 50k.

For what it's worth, I only work 2 days/week, if I "needed" 100k USD I could go to a full time position but I don't see why I would ever "need" that. Especially if I was choosing to live in 1 location and spend less time on hobbies.


It also depends on the culture and country. I am in a country where there is no social security, and therefore I have to support both my parents, my spouse and my kids with my income. The society expects me to pay for my kids tuition fees, their future marriage expenses, my family medical expenses, other loans I have taken etc.

Also part of the 100k goes towards a retirement fund (investments in bank savings, real estates etc) and saving for any unforeseen circumstances. I can't imagine living in united states with less than 100k per year and paying for tuition fees for your kids, house loan/rent and have a decent savings. If the medical is free, and i have an option for retirement and not that much strings attached, 50k would suffice..


Medical isn't free, but ~1.5K/year/person (NL, DE etc)


Can you explain your costs please ? Like taxes & rent ?


> i would even suggest $10MN is also a risky bet

If you had to guess, what percentage of people outside HN, outside Silicon Valley, do you think would consider having $10M to be a risky bet? I'm sorry, but I believe that is very, very disconnected from the reality that most people live in.


I was talking from the silicon valley perspective. You need to adjust it based on the country you live in.

I understand you, I have been a student and believe me I lived for few dollars a day (that too in a comfy way) including accommodation and food. When I started a job in 2004, making 200k USD was my dream retirement amount. Now I don't call it would be comfortable with even $10 mn and never having to work again. I would definitely keep working as long as I can even with $10 mn in my bank. It's not that I am greedy and have to constantly go for vacations or stay in 5* places. When you have a partner and kids, you really need to spend that much money to live in the social status that you ends up in your society. Home mortgage, kids school fees, dress, food, family outings and it could easily add up. You are talking about in the range of 10k-200k per year depending on the country/city you live in. In expensive cities where you need 100-200k to live comfortably, $1mn will last you only a few years even with good return on investments adjusted against inflation. It's very unfortunate but it's true. You too shall see that day when you grow up.

btw i just noticed and in case you need any emergency assistance, feel free to ping me, it's not that I am rich, but can help you out in anyway i can - murukesh @ <google's email service.com >


> I was talking from the silicon valley perspective. You need to adjust it based on the country you live in.

Yes, I can appreciate that.

And I appreciate your offer. It's honestly pretty nice just to know that somebody here understands, and cares. We have all struggled, and will continue to struggle, in our own ways. Kindness is everything.


> I'd never own a Ferrari, but why would I need to?

Because you were raised poor, you still are poor, so your views on life do not revolve around one of the finest and most exclusive automobiles money can buy. You've never been in a position to be even remotely close to owning a Ferrari, so your brain has ignored the value they offer.

Yes. Driving a high speed status symbol can be rewarding. It can start conversations. It can get you access to groups of people who would never have looked at you before. Is it easy to write them all off on the premise of "if they wouldn't talk to me when I had a Honda, then they are vain and I don't want to talk to them?" Sure. But you'd be missing out on potentially meaningful connections. On top of that, hearing a visceral exhaust note while rapidly accelerating is adrenaline inducing. Does it get boring after 10,000 hours? Probably. But, what doesn't in life?

The same way a trust fund child never views owning a dump or being in debt. It just isn't in your payscale/range, so why waste the brain cycles?


> But, what doesn't in life?

Studying. I learn (not skim or read but study like I did in uni) new things all the time for the past 30 years and it does not get boring while it costs very little to do so (I do not need diplomas or certificates but I am hard on myself and I do do exams if I can find them like it is real).


> Driving a high speed status symbol [...] can get you access to groups of people who would never have looked at you before

I grew up in a very wealthy area and learnt to stay away from that kind of people.


Elon Musk did it once , I guess for the lols.


And this yet another example of the HN bubble. My parents retired at 55 and 57 in a small town and have never worried about money. My dad had maybe a million in retirement as a factory worker and my mom retired with a pension as a school teacher.

My mom did low pay volunteer work as a consultant for a few years after she retired, but now they are in their mid 70s and not “worried” about money between social security, a pension, and retirement savings. They don’t live an extravagant lifestyle.

That being said, I understand that they are fortunate to have had a guaranteed pension and paid for health care at 55.

On a more practical note, seeing that $120K a year is twice the average household income and even if you add another $25K for insurance, if you consider a return of 6% a year, most people could live comfortably with $2.5 million in investments. That would be even easier if you have a paid for house.


This is a good example; no one has to worry about finances for the rest of their life if what they've already saved up can sustain them for the rest of their life. Just as a squirrel doesn't need be concerned with finding food again if its nestegg is properly stocked.

So many people are so concerned with The Jone's and new cars and high-expense lifestyles that it requires a very different kind of number.

It's a formula, and you just need to put in the numbers to find what works. For some maybe that's $200k. For others, maybe $200M.

- Unfortunately, this whole thread is yet another example of the HN bubble.


I could come up with a lifestyle where my wife and I could live off of $200k, a paid for house and social security if the social security amounts that we would be entitled to now don’t change when we are retired (inflation adjusted). It wouldn’t even be a hard life that wouldn’t allow us to have some fun, travel, etc.


That 2-3 million number is a common one I see for software engineers who aim to have that much invested by 40-50. Certainly my goal.


Well because of $bad_decisions up until I was 35 and purposeful financial commitments I’ve made for the past 10 years, it’s going to be a stretch for us to have $2 million. But, I’m okay with that. If we can retire with a paid for house, about a million and whatever social security is then, we should be okay.

Worse case, what would We do retired that we couldn’t do with me contracting/consulting part time? My hobbies are technology and fitness. I’ve been developing for 20 years and never disliked my careeer. I have disliked my job but there is mobility in the technology industry if you keep your skills up.


Certainly true, goals can very different from reality. I could never retire from making stuff, would be a different type of death really.

sjg007 37 days ago [flagged]

You're fucking crazy. $1m is enough.


Maybe so, but please don't post unsubstantive comments here.


Some thoughts from Seneca:

"Let me share with you the saying which pleased me to-day. It, too, is culled from another man's Garden: "Poverty brought into conformity with the law of nature, is great wealth." Do you know what limits that law of nature ordains for us? Merely to avert hunger, thirst, and cold. In order to banish hunger and thirst, it is not necessary for you to pay court at the doors of the purse-proud, or to submit to the stern frown, or to the kindness that humiliates; nor is it necessary for you to scour the seas, or go campaigning; nature's needs are easily provided and ready to hand. It is the superfluous things for which men sweat, - the superfluous things that wear our togas threadbare, that force us to grow old in camp, that dash us upon foreign shores. That which is enough is ready to our hands. He who has made a fair compact with poverty is rich."[1]

"Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough."[2]

"I do not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains is enough for him."[3]

[1] - https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Let...

[2] - https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Let...

[3] - https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Let...


One of my favourite philosophers and one I try to follow the most, but the unacquainted reader should be made aware before reading his commendations of poverty that Lucius Annaeus Seneca was the richest man in the Roman Empire.


Thank you. I’ll pass on reading The Bill Gates Guide to Being Poor and Happy About It too :)


Another perspective outside of the SV bubble. I grew up in a typical middle class home - mother a teacher, father a factory worker.

Because of $reasons I really didn’t focus on my career until my mid 30s. I bought a house in my late 20s in a new (statistically) middle class neighborhood. All of the houses around the area and all of my friends were middle class. Some houses slightly bigger, some cars slightly better but no serious differences.

Then I got married and had (step)children who were use to going to school in the more affluent part of town. When I was single, I really didn’t think about the school system. I was making more by then and we moved to the more affluent part of town. While we were on the bottom of the top quintile by income, since by definition the top quintile is boundless, there is a much wider disparity in income between the 80 percentile and the 95 percentile. I was exposed to the lifestyle of people with a lot more money than I have.

I have a much nicer house (relatively - its nothing extravagant), in a better part of town, making twice as much as I was but I actually feel poorer even though my income is more than double what it was 10 years ago and I’m much more comfortable now.

We are not at all “rich” but as a software developer/architect with a working spouse, our household income is more than 80% of households - again not bragging, almost any experienced developer working in a major metropolitan area would be in the same boat.


I've had the experience of thinking I'm doing well and then getting exposed to another level of "well". Here in Tokyo, at least before 2008 but I think still, there were lots of "expats". In my vocabulary, "expats" has a different meaning than just "someone from another country". It specifically means someone sent to a foreign country and "set up". A good example might be not only do they make $300k to $1million a year but their company, trying to reproduce their lifestyle back home in order to compensate them for asking them to move abroad ends up renting them an extremely nice place, usually in the $4000 to $8000 a month range and paying the rent for them.

There was an English language magazine who's ads targeted these "expats" showing the apartments in that range and other service far far far out of reach of anything I was making.

So in that sense I felt more like a failure.

That said I don't believe I'd always want more if I had 10x what I had now. What I have now is not enough to stop needing an income. 10x is enough to stop and then just do what I want without having to worry that I'd better have a real job saving for when no one will hire me.


> feeling wealthy is about comparison with others in your reference group

I guess the solution is to not hang out with other rich people, don't move to a wealthy neighborhood, and just don't care about your social status. "Ignorance is bliss".

I would be very happy if I had $200k in passive/investment income. That would be a SaaS company worth ~$1.5M, or ~$6M invested in index funds. If I ever get there, I hope I can resist the temptation to just keep going and waste my life trying to make more and more money. I just want a small house, unlimited free time, and no responsibilities. Then I'd like to spend time on hobbies, non-profit work, and maybe start new companies to solve problems (but not for the money.)

There must be lots of people on HN who are multi-millionaires from startup exits. Did you notice a change in yourself, and you started to want more money?


In the UK it's been common advice to buy the worst house in the best neighbourhood. Perhaps it should be the other way round for your wellbeing.


A rich man is just a poor man with a lot of money.

The biggest drug with having money is the opportunities that come with it. Financial freedom is freedom to chose what you want to do with your life and who you want to do it with.

That's one half of the drug. That your days suddenly can look like one long adventure without too much repetition besides what you choose.

The apple in paradise is that other people have more than you and thus you start comparing to richer people and make that the new standard.

Finding the balance between enjoying what you have and wanting more is such a fundamental struggle in humans and start with the poor person without the money.


Right, all money ever buys you is time. The big problem most people have is that they are miserable money or not. The best advice is to find something to be involved in, find a hobby to master, find a cause to support. There is such power in a supportive community of similarly focused people working for the same end.


But isn't it the well oiled marketing and advertising industry that is keeping us constantly unhappy and forcing us to compare our own (projected) shortcomings against others?

My hypothesis is that wealthier people are even deeper in this trap, as once you can afford nice clothes, accessories, cars, houses etc., you are immediately exposed to others in the same (or higher) wealth bracket, thus exacerbating these feelings of comparison and inadequacy. It is a self destructive feeding frenzy that can never assuage itself.


I think this is partly why "old money" isn't flashy like nouveau rich money. It's easier to blow a fortune than it is to make a fortune.


Regardless of what other people are trying to get your to do, unless they actually force you, you're the only one responsible for your decisions. Stop trying to find a scrapegoat.


Look I agree with you. Everyman should make their their own decisions and do what is right for them. However advertising has had a massive impact on how we see the world. You only need read about how de Beers the world's largest diamond producer changed our perception of diamonds [1]. There all manner of adverts designed to make you feel incomplete. I don't have links now but there have been a few stories here on HN which show what we regard as the norm now was nothing more than advertising campaign.

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/02/ho...


Yes, people try to manipulate you all the time. My point is - it's fair game. It's exactly the game that all of us are playing all the time, it's pretty fun, it's challenging, and I see no point in painting someone as immoral just because they're winning at it.


Not all of us play this "game". Most of us aren't psychopaths.


But you have to coexist with everyone else in a society that finds advertising, manipulation (to an extent) and other things psychopaths excel at tolerable.

There's a whole range of "bad" things that society finds tolerable (I'm talking in general, not specifically advertising or trying to manipulate people) and if you cannot stand one/many of those things then you're free to live in a log cabin in the woods.

I'd love to not play the taxes game or put up with the paternalistic government I live under but it just so happens that it's a prerequisite to being part of society. I'm free to screw off to some log cabin in the woods but I'd rather live within society even if it had some problems.


Of course, and that's why a lot of billionaires are obsessed with flaunting their wealth and earning even more.


It is not advertisers who are all to blame. Pride and envy predate magazines and TV.


So does cholera. But if you spend your work time trying to spread cholera you get a bit of blame.


Pride and envy predate magazines and TV.

So does advertising.


It isn't the marketing and advertising industry. Greed, Pride, Lust, Envy, Gluttony - 5 of the 7 deadly sins.. Aristotle might not have reduced it to such a short list, but he wrote plenty on similar ideas. So there's 2300 years on paper...

It's really human nature.


Yes but the marketing industry fans the flames. Edward Bernays has a lot to answer for.


that just remind me of the movie Seven, maybe the guy was right(?)


I’m immediately reminded of the denouement of “This is Water”: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PhhC_N6Bm_s . It’s become/ perhaps always has been a little trite or on the nose, but it’s also not wrong.

If you worship money and things-if they are where you tap real meaning in life-then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already-it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power-you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart-you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race"-the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.


Really insightful, thank you. I'm struck by this:

> Worship your intellect, being seen as smart-you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

which suggests that Imposter Syndrome is a result of "worshipping" intellect, particularly our own individual intelligence. We spend many days judging interview candidates for their intelligence (even when it is not clear that anything more than adequate intelligence is needed for quality, lasting work), and then wonder why we are so afraid that we feel like imposters.


I think imposter syndrome is something completely different - a result of answers begetting more unanswerable questions and the "hard" not feeling significant anymore. Thus it becomes "Anyone who can do N dimensional vector calculus can do what I do but I can't even come up with a way to unify physics or prove or disprove P = NP, I'm a failure and a fraud." Even though there are say only 5 people in the world capable of rederiving his work in a year.

The runaway progression is the same however. That happens in some cases with eating disorders - even when ribs are showing and they weigh under 100lbs they are convinced they are fat.


Oof. I listen to this essay regularly but this part has never stuck out to me in particular before.


It’s a nice thought, and gives a sense the world is fair. But it doesn’t ring true to me.

Some people are hot, and they know it. They do not feel ugly. Ditto for intelligence.


I think the key word is "worship". Not e.g. "value intellect" etc. but worship it.

I draw a parallel to sports. It's easy for young athletes to "worship" ability in their sport...to the point where, when you achieve success, you look down on those who are worse than you and look up to those who are better. Reality is that while athletic accomplishment is admirable it does not automatically make you a good person and vice versa.

My experience with "intelligence" has been a bit similar although I have found that smart people I encounter also tend to be wonderful human beings. But I know correlation is not causation.

Anyway, my point is that I think there's an unhealthy "worship" vs a healthy "value" of intelligence beauty etc, and DFW's quote makes sense to me from that perspective.


I have a sense that people who are hot know it, but they also know they're not.

If you're the hottest out of 10, you know someone who's the hottest out of 100. They know someone who's the hottest out of 1000, and they know someone who's the hottest out of a million. And even they look at others like themselves, and think "She has a better smile than me... she has better hair... she's thinner..."

If your identity is in your hotness, you can't win. You can only lose.

Disclaimer: I'm not hot. I'm not close. This is my impression, not my experience.


They don't stay hot forever, though. They eventually grow old and wrinkly and gray and sick. You could argue that they're still hot that way, but most people will choose the young hot person over the old hot person.

That's what it's saying that "when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you." I.e. you will start to lose that beauty in many different ways, no matter how desperately you try to hold on to it, with plastic surgery, spending all your time in the gym, etc, and you will no longer be able to win your internal game of being more beautiful than others that you valued so much, before you have died (unless you die young, then... I guess you win, if you call that a victory).

And for intelligence, a common saying is "The more I know, the more I realize I don't know". An intelligent person will just see more and more out there they could be learning and aren't, or don't understand and want to, and no matter how accomplished or smart they are, they can probably always find someone smarter and have used their intelligence more effectively over the years.

There's a game designer named Chris Crawford, for instance. Really smart guy, designed some classic games in the early Mac years and worked for Atari way back in the early days. But at one point he left the game industry because he saw it going the wrong direction for interactive storytelling and started building a storytelling game engine called Storytron that was super ambitious, could tell dynamic cinematic stories and was super complicated. He started building that about 26 years ago now. It still isn't built. I'll let him use his own words:

"In 1992 I dedicated myself to the task of making games that centered on character interaction. It was about then that I settled on the term “interactive storytelling” to describe my efforts. This was long before anybody else was thinking along such lines (although Brenda Laurel had speculated about drama in games a few years earlier). I remember how my friends in the games industry told me that I was absolutely crazy to pursue this line of development -- nobody was interested in stories in games. I know this is difficult to believe now that everybody is talking stories, but it really was the case that, in the early 90s, nobody thought that stories had any place in games. The biggest hit of that time was Doom, and the team that developed it had famously split apart over a dispute regarding the role of story. The winning faction insisted that “we don’t need no stinking story -- action is all that matters”. The rest of the games industry applauded their clarity of thinking. Stories were for wimps.

As the years rolled by, I pursued my lonely quest, picking up a few like-minded idealists along the way. With little financing, it was slow, painful going. We made a major push starting in 2007, but in the summer of 2009 it became clear that we had failed to garner any support. I put Storytron into a coma and contemplated my future.

Thus, when my sixtieth birthday struck, I found myself bereft of achievement in my most important undertaking. I have always felt a calm self-assurance that I am right, that I have developed ideas that would surely conquer the world if I only gave the world enough time to recognize them. My sixtieth birthday shouted loudly that my ideas had most definitely failed to conquer the world. It certainly looks as if I am a washed-up failure. I don’t really believe that -- I still believe that I’ve hit upon a solid approach to interactive storytelling and that someday the world will appreciate my work. But with each passing day the evidence of my failure mounts."

In fact, on that same link, he downplays his own intelligence by comparing himself to others, exactly what I was just arguing: "I do not consider myself particularly intelligent; I have known some real geniuses and the feeling of utter inferiority I feel in their presence drives home the mediocrity of my own intelligence."

I feel he's being too modest. I've read a lot of his writings and feel that he's a super smart guy and I've learned a lot from him. But here he is seeing other smarter people out there and comparing himself to him and finding himself coming up short.

I also think I'm pretty smart, at least in some respects, and used to value that over just about everything else. But eventually you don't find the success you thought you would, or all that learning doesn't lead to breakthroughs or opportunities you thought it would, or you spend your time on dead ends, sometimes out of necessity, sometimes by taking a chance on something and failing, and that's when 'worshipping' intelligence will fail you.

Source: http://www.erasmatazz.com/personal/self/sixty.html


Trite, but not untrue.

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