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America’s Professional Elite: Wealthy, Successful and Miserable (nytimes.com)
296 points by ojbyrne 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 460 comments



I just don't understand this at all. If you can earn a million a year, do it for 3-5 years, never have to work again, and pursue your passions in life.

I think the problem for most workers is the lifetime of toil, not the meaninglessness of the work.

I'd happily dig ditches for 8-12 hours a day for 3 years if I knew I was completely financially independent with millions in the bank that. Actually, I'd rather do that than write code. At least I'd be getting a workout.

As it is now, I write proprietary software for much less than those featured in the article, work is miserable, and I've still got maybe 10-15 years to go.

Am I in the minority here?


Most people don't have passions in life, they do have a passion for possession and social status though. Our culture also looks down on the people that don't have all these status symbols, and people naturally do not want to be looked down upon, so they keep racing to keep up just so their peers respect them. Our culture breeds depression. There are farmers in third world countries that live a more meaningful and joyful life than most do here. Koyaanisqatsi.


That is true but also people come to care about what they do. They may not be "passionate" about work but it is what they spend the most time doing, it is their main source of daily challenge and problem solving, it represents social interaction, and it is their main source of pride and accomplishment and personal striving. To just up and leave work leaves a huge void in their lives. People can learn to fill that void with art or gardening or various other things but it may take years and years of discipline and self-reflection to become satisfied.


I said that because the parent comment said "I just don't understand this at all. If you can earn a million a year, do it for 3-5 years, never have to work again, and pursue your passions in life." They don't have those passions in life per say and fill that void with work and other things. You are actually echoing what I'm saying in your own way.

Also, I like how people bring up gardening sometimes when passion is discussed. To me, passion is coupled with expression and allows you to take on an identity in some other "world". You can be passionate about music, you can have your musical identity. You can be passionate about mathematics, you can have your way of reasoning about problems. But gardening? Is there a difference between things you really like to do and a passion?


When I think of 'passion', I think of creating things, making things better, doing something that can bring me into a state of flow. I'm not an avid gardener, but I can absolutely see how gardening would tick those boxes for someone who was.


You're right. My father was a gardener, so I should have known better than to feel that way. I saw him prepare the soil, sow the seeds, and give the plants the support they needed to thrive over time. Thinking about the process of gardening makes me understand how it could be a passion. What about the classes of passion? Can gardening be put on the same level as art? Why or why not? They certainly at least have a different pace about them. A painter can work quickly, but a gardener must have such patience. Obviously a painter also must have patience with the process as well. I would like to think of this in a more mathematical way. This idea that in the space of gardening there are certain operations and objects that are distinct from, let's say, the domain of music. When you look at it that way, what is the character of the constructive mathematics being done in these spaces? This is now apparently liberal arts news.


Seeing seeds spring up that you sowed yourself is exhilarating.

Almost anything can be approached in an artistic manner and therefore considered art.


change 'gardening' to 'nurturing' and you might get a sense of the fulfillment (contentedness?) of being able to enjoy your creation that took planning, effort and time. exponential if you get to enjoy your children enjoying it too. it may be small but leaving _your_ patch of dirt a better place than you found it can be a personally enriching pasttime. then again, i don't understand people that create gardens so they can be photographed for lifestyle magazines so there's that...


When I read 'gardening', internally I interpreted that as any agricultural/floricultural pursuit. That spans everything from an indoor potted cactus, to no-till gardening, to hydroponics, to soil-management, etc etc. Growing plants is as much a science as it is a creative pursuit.


I wonder if the problem is simply exaggerated. Is this really only the case with white-collar Americans? I'd imagine that throughout the human history the vast majority of human beings have always been working like this, or even much worse, e.g. actual slaves who constituted a huge percentage of the population. Maybe it's just that there isn't that much of a tradition to talk about the problem that often, and now that our material comfort is quite advanced, we think about such issues more and more, which is a good thing. We're not quite there yet but at least we're rethinking our lives and trying to find solutions, instead of just passively accepting whatever is thrown at us.


It's easy to fall prey to the lifestyle creep.

Suddenly your $300k house/apartment is too small, and you aim for one that's 5-10 times more expensive.

Then your cars get more expensive.

You start looking at a summer home.

You get a couple of kids...and they turn out to be extremely expensive: - Daycare - Prep-schools - Private tutors - Prestigious Universities

Because you want to maximize their chances of success, and have planned their academic life for the next 15-20 years.

It all adds up. And since you're surrounded with peers that live the same lifestyle, you get conditioned that this is all normal.

Here's a personal example, and one that I never, EVER, thought I'd fall for:

I bought my first "real" suit after graduation, and paid $1000 for it. I felt like a real baller, but was also anxious about wearing it. What if I got stains on it, what if some douchebag with a cig bumped into me, what if, etc. I could afford it, sure, but it felt like A LOT of money for a piece of clothing.

Years later, and I'm buying suits 5-6-7 times more expensive. The old $1.5k ones don't feel right - the fabric isn't nice enough, the fit isn't as good, the small details are lacking.

Internally, I rationalize and convince myself that all these small differences are truly making the price (premium) worth it. And since I make good money, it doesn't mater.

But, what if I lost my income? Or had to settle with a "normal" job, making $45k a year? There's no way in hell I could afford spending 10% of my income on one thing. But at the same time, downgrading from luxury like that, and all the way down - it's not even like going from 3-ply to 1-ply TP, it's like going from 3-ply to newspaper.

And that's just for something as trivial as a men's suit. When I was a student, I didn't even own a suit - and had absolutely zero interest or care about wearing one. But then you get put in an environment, and ridiculous things start to get normalized.

I know people that swore to the shittiest of shit lite-beers, but now obsessively shop wine bottles worth tens of thousands. It doesn't happen overnight - but is rather a very gradual process.


Great comment. I'm still in school but I noticed how my lifestyle got slightly more expensive after I made some money through internships, or after I've been on vacation and enjoyed myself (and seen others enjoy themselves).

I used to think of myself as a very minimalist no-frivolous-spending kind of guy. I would do meticulous research on products to maximize the quality to price ratio (with strict upper bounds on price of course). Nowadays I just don't bother. I think you're right that the process is gradual. When a culture built around consumerism surrounds you, there is no choice but to become more consumerist.


There are apparently people who are able to maintain a frugal, minimalist and prudent lifestyle even when they're very rich, seeing from various stories and anecdotes. But yeah the moral of a lot of stories we hear is always to remind people constantly about how they should not lose themselves after they get rich. Says exactly how hard it really is for a large portion of people then.


I'm 100% in agreement, and am trying to pursue that on a payscale that's fractions of what's described. I think the problem is the balancing act between "live now" and "save for living later." I think I have a healthy balance, particularly in not denying myself decent food and lifestyle despite the costs. That said, I'm moderate in almost every other way (and I don't have a car, or buy expensive clothing, etc.)

At one extreme I know people who save every penny, even though they make a fortune. One person I know spends maybe 10-20 dollars a week on food by never drinking, receiving farm deliveries of vegetables, etc. and etc. At the other extreme, as per this article, you have Real Housewives-types scoffing at making less than a million, perhaps living extravagant lifestyles.

Maybe this should be called "lifestyle inflation." Through social pressure, greed, trendiness, or perhaps stupidity, people piss all their money away and need more.

There's a balance there, but yes, at the end of the day the goal is to have free time, right?


>I think the problem is the balancing act between "live now" and "save for living later."

In my mind, this is key. My parents barely saved for retirement, mostly because they didn't make much money. The net effect of that is that I've maxed my 401k since day one of my professional life.

In contrast, my father also died at 46 (I'm 42, going on 43), so all of the life experiences he'd deferred to a more financially prudent time never happened.

I work hard to try to find the balance so that I'm not left without an emergency fund or a paid-for retirement, but I also don't fret over every penny and "waste" money from time to time. My motto is to plan for tomorrow, but minimize any regrets that could arise if tomorrow never comes.


> Maybe this should be called "lifestyle inflation."

It is: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/lifestyle-inflation.asp


"Maybe this should be called "lifestyle inflation." Through social pressure, greed, trendiness, or perhaps stupidity, people piss all their money away and need more."

There's also a lack of education teaching people to value and strive for something beyond material goods, fashion, and whatever the mainstream media happen to be hyping at the moment.


Not really. But remember the 1.2 Million guy is married. Sounds like an awful relationship since his partner laughed at him when he mentioned finding a more satisfying career with half the pay ( that's still 500k a year). He sounds trapped in this clusterfuck of either living in misery and keeping a luxurious "normal" lifestyle or seeking novelty and ending up in court with divorce procedures, loss of wealth, custody and a fresh start from zero. If I was this dude, I would take the red pill, but hey, who said shifting from blissful ignorance to brutal reality was gonna be that easy?


In my limited experience, and excluding obvious exceptions to the rule, the people who make 7-figure salaries are chosen for those positions because they are over-leveraged, and thus controllable.


Ding ding ding. In my brief foray in management consulting at a big three firm, both the company (helped by the credit card companies) sought to create a culture of excess. My colleagues were way overleveraged -- vacations weekly in Cancun, etc. This created dependence on the company, and ultimately intelligent workers who had no choice. By the time they made actual money (5-6 years), their expenses would way exceed their incomes. Thankfully, I got out and never really succumbed.


I have pretty much no exposure to that world, and about half the comments here seem to agree with you, but I still don't understand.

I can appreciate that you might need a wardrobe with nice suits, a respectable looking car, and a few stories about places you've been and things you've done. It doesn't seem like it would super hard to craft that image without spending a lot of money.

How'd you get into the management consulting world? Is there a 500k/yr salary just waiting for me if I fake like I'm a Wall St guy from the 80s?


I have quite a few friends who ended up doing this. It isn't easy at all. And if you are just in it for the money, you probably wouldn't get an entry-level position.

That probably sounds slightly crazy but how many people actually do end up leaving and doing something else? Not many. They end up in those jobs because they want the lifestyle, the status, and being "the guy" is critical to their self-image. Faking it would be pointless (it would probably lead to severe unhappiness).

And if you are an employer, your job is to feed into that. I don't think it happens consciously but most of these places have working environments where the stick and carrot are used quite heavily. If you "win", the rewards in status are huge. If you "lose", you will be crucified. And most people who do exit, exit because they lose. Not because they win and decide they have had enough...no-one does that.


> Not because they win and decide they have had enough...no-one

I was lucky in that I had my CS qualifications. I left 6 months in, and got a better paying job. Only gave them a weeks notice.


> How'd you get into the management consulting world? Is there a 500k/yr salary just waiting for me if I fake like I'm a Wall St guy from the 80s?

Straight from undergrad. I went to a tech-focused school, majored in math and CS, and did a financial course series as a requirement for a scholarship. That, and I guess I'm a good interviewer / have people skills?

> I can appreciate that you might need a wardrobe with nice suits, a respectable looking car, and a few stories about places you've been and things you've done. It doesn't seem like it would super hard to craft that image without spending a lot of money.

This is not difficult. I wore mostly hand me downs I had tailored. Worked in a big city, so lack of car was not a problem. I also had my fair share of 'stories' (mainly because being student body president at my college exposed me to a world of very rich people).

The difficult part is that you enter in 'classes'. You and thirty other people who just graduated start at the same time, and you are put through the grinder together. There is an expectation you do all your socializing in this group. For me, part of the problem was that I was engaged and planning our wedding, so I had to take time off to do that and not partake. The group would collectively decide to do things every single weekend. If you did not attend, you were ostracized. These were not things like playing board games together or even clubbing (although there was a lot of clubbing). These were things like, 'so and so has a birthday, let's go to Cabo!' or 'let's rent a boat' or 'let's rent a mansion'. These things cost a lot of money, and the company does not pay. However, if you do not invest in maintaining these relationships, you will face issues later on.

The company encourages this by throwing extravagant parties every few months. And I really mean extravagant.

For example, before we accepted the offer, we were all flown out for a weekend filled with free booze, clubs, etc. We were all 'beautiful people' so to speak (although, I personally think I was the ugliest person there). The company provides enough of an exposure to a lifestyle that it whets the appetites of status-seeking 22 year olds, who then seek to accomplish the same 'epicness' on the non-company-sponsored weekends.

> Is there a 500k/yr salary just waiting for me if I fake like I'm a Wall St guy from the 80s?

No. The salary is piss poor. Starting undergrads in 2014 made $75k/year in San Francisco at my firm. The big bucks only roll in after you've been there for many years (and thus have that large debt hanging on your neck).

As my first manager said, "you can wait until you're 30 to have a family and free time." She told me that the week before I quit.


That's fascinating. I had no idea about the 'classes' thing.

I wonder if there's an alternate track for someone already established in another field. Could an established software developer somehow transition to getting a "big bucks" management position? Or does it all flow through that class system, and if you didn't enter at the bottom, you're not able to get to the top?


As OP said, the typical way to go into management consulting or investment banking or another of these "big bucks" careers is to do it right from the start. Going to a "prestigious" undergrad school helps immensely. Being able to look and talk like a big shot helps. Slog it out in a bank as an analyst for some years. Then at some point go to MBA school as a finishing degree, and then back into a bank/consulting company as a made man higher-level employee. The key is to get that "elite" pedigree early, which opens the rest of the doors.

There are also career changers who start out as something else (like a software developer) and go to the best MBA school they can get into, in order to try to "sneak in to the back door of the club" that way. I actually tried (and failed) to walk this path. My jaded view, after blowing more $ than I care to admit on B-school and literally dozens of interviews that went nowhere, is that these employers are looking for people already in the in-crowd, pre-blessed as elite, and are in general not welcoming to working class career changers. Investment banks are primarily looking for pedigreed former bankers, and management consulting firms are primarily looking for pedigreed former management consultants, and good luck if you're not already in one of those clubs.


My "conspiracy" theory is that tech companies would be like this too, except it would literally be impossible to fully staff your CS team on elite bigshots.


> "big bucks" management position? Or does it all flow through that class system, and if you didn't enter at the bottom, you're not able to get to the top?

Unless you are bringing in substantial expertise in the strategy side of technology (and most importantly, have a rolodex full of rich potential clients), it is unlikely that you would be hired. Outside of the traditional hiring rounds from undergrad and biz school, it is exceedingly rare to be given an employment offer.


I know many people (two billionaires, a few several hundred millionaires, and many low 10's of million net worth) who make 7 figures and none fall into that bucket. The folks I know mostly fall into the buckets of Finance (think fund/investment management), inherited money, and self-made. The finance folks can move jobs at will and are able to get significant concessions to do so. The inherited money folks use the family money to invest and make even more money. The self-made folks parlay early success into bigger time roles and also seem to have no problems moving jobs. In all cases, the people seem to be in control, and not controlled by someone else.


People say these things all the time, but I always wonder how you'd actually feel if you did the 3-5 year work and saved that 3-5 million you earned. My guess is with most people, you get that 3-5 million and you're going to want more. I'm not saying you specifically, but people in general.

And a clarification, I'm not thinking it'd be because you're around wealthier people which would make you want to spend more to compare to them, but rather having more security, if your passion requires more money.


I think it's not just competing with other people. In many cases, spending more money really does get you stuff that's better quality. And then you discover that you can spend more and get things that are even nicer. Not just show-off nicer, but better design, from better materials, that last longer and age better. Real quality of life improvements. I suspect that a lot of people would find that hard to give up.


Have you actually dug ditches for a few weeks? It's a popular rhetorical device but I wonder how many engineers have actually done stints of hard labor.


I have, yes. I've also framed homes, roofed homes, and water proofed basements. I spent some time landscaping. I've held a variety of manual labor jobs, from working fields to construction to warehouses and factory floors to the military. Today, I'm a team lead and senior software engineer.

I'd also rather be outside again all day, working with and alongside people, physically and towards goals we can visualize, doing tasks that we all understand well and can articulate in an accurate way, and cultivating a genuine sense of camaraderie. Not the sort of weird brogrammer nonsense that is frequently encountered in our industry and which is oftentimes confused with camaraderie.

I pull a lot of my previous lives experience in to my work today and I spend a lot of time working very closely with my colleagues, but it's not the same. I don't end a day with the same sense of purpose or belonging that I experienced with physically demanding jobs. I got close, once, but it was a shared experience between myself and one colleague, as opposed to a team, and it was because of circumstances that aren't exactly repeatable in a meaningful way.

edit/ Of course, the above is making some assumptions that probably don't hold. There is genuinely something that I miss from physically demanding work that can't be found or replicated with the work that I do today (or, perhaps it's just that I have failed to find or replicate it). But, I'm also dramatically better compensated and live a nearly fully autonomous life today, too. These are just the trade-offs that we make, I suppose.


Almost in the -exact- same boat, as if I could have written this comment myself. My favorite job, by far, was landscaping. Being outside all day, getting sun and exercise, and seeing your completed project were all very rewarding/valuable. I was in great shape, left work at work, and had no problem sleeping at night. It just doesn't pay well. I find working at computers all day rather depressing, at times pointless, and I can watch my health slipping. I really wish there was some kind of middle ground.


>> I really wish there was some kind of middle ground.

I think there is a market for a large, physically demanding computer keyboard. The keyboard 'keys' would require pressure from a full hand to activate, and the return and backspace keys could have a different type of lever action (pull to the side maybe). The operator would have to stand, which seems like a trend these days, and the PRO-version could come with a large inverted water bottle. Not joking about the keyboard, only half-joking about the bottle.


Repetative strain injury is already a common hazard of typing heavy proffesions. I'm not sure adding keyboard resistance is a good health move


I would often find it pretty satisfying to punch a punching bag to send emails.


The closest thing to a middle ground I can think of is FIRE-ing and going back to work as a landscaper, or a carpenter, or whatever. You can not "need" to work financially, but still have to/want to have a job. The key is it can be any low or even non-paying job that you want.


Some of the happiest people I've met are retires that work part time in jobs like you mentioned. They get to feel productive but not have the same level of pressure and hours that people that work full time and are living paycheck to paycheck have.


A stint of physical labor is certainly a valuable experience, I long for it too, but it DOES eventually break the body if it is done year after year for decades.

I suspect that years of meaningless work just shuffling money around for wealthy people and institutions has a similar effect on the psyche, even if it is obscenely compensated.


Physical work shouldn't break your body if you work within reasonable limits of exertion.

Also, sitting all day does breaks your body.


I've concluded when people say "break your body", they usually refer to the slowly accumulating string of little slip-ups. You turn the wrench too hard and bash your knuckle. You grab something that was still too hot. You drop something on your foot. You lift something the wrong way and pull something. No one slip-up is a real big deal, but you can't help but make a few, and they slowly add up.


Goddamn. Can we be coworkers? I've worked countless manual labor jobs and am now crammed in an office. If I have to be here, I'd at least like to have coworkers who have your notion of cohesion and vision.


I worked manual skilled labor for four years between college and graduate school. I enjoyed most aspects of it but there is a definite pay ceiling and a greater risk of injury.


I have tried a variety of hard manual jobs over the years - mainly during my college years:

- Longshoreman (manually unloading 45 - 120 lbs of frozen boxes, non-stop, for up to 20 hours a day)

- Worked on construction sites, carrying cement/concrete bags up and down - for hours and hours - often in sweltering heat during the summer.

- Dug ditches all day long .

- Manually emptied trailers for appliances (fridges, ovens, dryers, washing machines, etc.) all through the night.

and some more.

Either way, they all sucked. Some were absolutely terrible, and made fresh workers quit only an hour or two into it (longshoreman), while others were more bearable (emptying trailers).

But all these jobs share a couple of things:

- The majority of workers lack formal education, and take the jobs because they have to. - They are all in it because of the cash - Almost no one over 40. 90% of the guys are in their 20's. - Injuries are extremely common. In fact, that's why I took those jobs: There "regular" crews were always short of people because of injuries or recovery, and would let anyone (with a fitting physique/strength) try for the spots. And on larger jobs, they would call in extras.

A lot of office workers seem to romanticize these types of jobs - like some kind of honest "manly" work where you get to be outside and enjoy the nature, while staying in shape.

Yeah, no, most of these jobs just suck.

Doing it for 1 hour might be OK, but when you're 12 hours into the shift, sore from the previous days, and know it'll be the same tomorrow, next week, next year, etc. you really start to question your life choices.

The only thing you look forward to is to lie down and rest - but even then, you're getting anxious because you know it's only X hours 'til your alarm goes off, and another day of grueling work. It gets to the point where you have actual nightmares, and will wake up depressed.

Of course, YMMV, and not all of these hard labors jobs are the same - people are different. But the above is based on my own experience, and what the other guys would say.


I used to dig ditches on weekends as a way of relaxing. It's not bad when you get to do it on your own time. But yeah, I'd probably not appreciate doing it for eight hours a day five days a week.

I'd still do it for a million a year though.


I did it 10 hours a day, four days a week when I had just graduated from high school. Extremely good money for the time, but you would have to pay me a lot more than a million now.

Brutal and back breaking. I couldn't get enough to eat, my body was always sore and tired.

I would do it if I had to, I suppose, but even though my cushy desk job coding pays a lot less--a very much lot less--than a million a year, I would take it every time.


Having dug ditches for septic tanks for a few years I can definitely vouch for _not_ doing it. 5 years of digging ditches is awful work, and most people aren't cut out for that level of manual labor. After a week I think most programmers would happily return to their day jobs.


I'm not sure about nonstop digging of ditches, but I've done a fair deal of farm labor and construction. And absolutely love it.

I enjoy what I do, but I'd go back to it in a heart beat if there was even a chance for comparable earning potential. Hard work feels really really good at the end of the week. I think the one reason I enjoy software is because it gives you that similar high of being able to see something you've built with your own hands, that didn't exist before.


I worked on a farm in high school. Ditch digging was one of many manual tasks.

It was a much more creative & rewarding job in many respects.


I’ve thought about this...especially among the very wealthy. Why continue to be a high pressure CEO when you basically never have to work again?

My hypothesis is that most very high paying roles are incentive-based, and incentives can be addicting: meet a goal, get a million dollar dopamine hit. I don’t think these people hate their jobs as much as they might say they do.


It's more than that. People need purpose.

That's why things like UBI are a pipe-dream. Any Fortune-500 executive could live a life of leisure with 2-3 years of planning. They tend to not make that choice.


On the contrary, UBI would free people to leave the jobs that feel meaningless, and do things they are passionate about.

If the problem is that people need purpose, what better than a system that allows people to find purpose, rather than one that keeps them trapped doing work they hate?


Remember how the internet was supposed to bring people together, enhance the spreading and sharing of ideas, bring knowledge and information to everybody? Not many people predicted it'd end up with people going into echo chambers, spreading misinformation about one another, and helping to drive a wedge in society so extreme that an increasingly large chunk of society (myself not included) believe it will culminate in civil war [1]? Can't win 'em all I guess.

The point I'm making here is that we shouldn't play the naive game twice. Give people free money and an extra ~10 hours a day with no obligations to anybody. This isn't going to bring in some utopia of people pursuing wonderful new interests and ideas they always really wanted to, but were just held back by socioeconomic obstacles.

So let's think about realistic predictions. I mean I do agree with you people would be looking for purpose. Companies would be quick to try to provide this purpose by providing the most addictive, immersive, and life destroying games ever -- even the most hardcore WoW player would blush at what we'd have in store there. We'd also probably see people finding purpose similar to how we already do online. Imagine Twitter outrage mobs. Except now since people have no obligations and really nothing to do, there's a very good chance this would spill into the streets and likely in quite high numbers. 'Hey let's come protest against [xyz] in LA on the 17th!' 'Whoa, sounds like fun. Btw, no idea what [xyz] is, fill me in then?' 'Sure, not so clear myself tbh!'

Ooo and then the inevitable happens. There'd be another group, also looking for purpose, that now decides to counter protest. And these 'meetings' would be immense. There'd suddenly be thousands to millions of people with nothing to do and no obligations showing up to face off against each other to try to find some sort of purpose and meaning in life. No worries. I'm sure they'll just come together, spread and share ideas, and bring knowledge and information to one another.

Well at least everybody could come together in nonstop protests demanding that the basic income should be increased.

[1] - http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/gene...


I like the dystopian outlook and dislike of UBI. However, the advent of the internet = civil war 2 is a false premise. Dividing the country was possible long before the internet existed. You can argue that being able to rapidly spread information accelerated the preponderance of these echo chambers- however- you can just as easily say that the advent of the internet has made the world a more enjoyable place and has increased most people's quality of life.

TL;DR with the good comes the bad.


Yet the prejudice against UBI always assumes the poor and disadvantaged will always take the lazy option. They tend not to make that choice either as poor people need a purpose too.

It's politics all the way down.


> They tend not to make that choice either

Do you have any evidence of that? All the studies I have seen, imply or play out the opposite. The poor stay poor and disinclined to achieve. Survival is hard enough at the bottom rung.


This is exactly why UBI works -- people need a purpose. The Canadian study I'm thinking of showed the only people who left the workforce left to pursue liberal arts or to be stay-at-home parents. UBI lifts up the bottom line in a society to a level we should all deem acceptable and freeing them to continue to find their purpose.


Seems like that shows why UBI could work. The worry with UBI is that a ton of people just check out of the workforce forever once it’s no longer necessary in order to eat. If in fact most people want to work because they need purpose in their lives, that seems to indicate that this won’t happen.


When they did stuff like this during the great society era, it flopped.

People need support to thrive. Throwing a few bucks at people doesn’t nurture them by itself.


I read somewhere (I don't remember where) that when you're a CEO and all your friends are CEOs, you start to compare yourself to them and want to make as much as they do.


It's not that easy.

'High status' jobs in many ways entail a 'high status' lifestyle.

Example: they got the jobs in the first place as the result of their parents ability to pay for private school, and Ivy League. So in that lifestyle context, you're going to be doing the same thing, it's part of the cycle. Very expensive.

Partners in law firms or consultancies are really in sales. They are using their business relationships to position themselves as thoughtful, successful, excellent pedigree etc..

For the same reason that real estate salespeople who drive people around a lot tend to drive nice cars, many folks in high end careers have no choice but to live that lifestyle.

When you go out for dinner with business associates, you're not going to talk about the deal you got at the dollar store, rather, your golf game, the new club you got, your trip to Pebble beach. If there is any chance anyone will see you in your car, it cannot be jalopi. Telling people about your trip to Davos would be more than ideal.

There are very few fields where high end folks can get away with not quite living that lifestyle. Some doctors, dentists, business owners can do that. People in tech, of course can life alt-lifestyles.

It's not to say that a Director of trading at some big bank couldn't really skimp in stuff either, but it's hard to avoid the expectations of lifestyle.

'Career progress' in may of these fields entails a lot of signalling, and such signalling can be expensive. "I have three kids, so proud they all made it into Ivy League". That's a very powerful signalling statement, and a massively expensive one!

Taxes on regular income are high, and expenses add up - and having a 'fairly comfortable retirement' is not cheap.

I'm not entirely sympathetic to these people, because they do make choices - my point is that they are not living a 'regular lifestyle', their careers often have expensive lifestyles 'baked in' to the process.

Also: "They talked about missed promotions, disaffected children and billable hours in divorce court. They complained about jobs that were unfulfilling, tedious or just plain bad."

I think maybe we all have this, and when the numbers, cars and suits get nicer, those problems don't go away. In many ways, the risks are bigger.

If your company falls flat it can ruin you. A carpenter can usually get work, as can most decent devs.


I can't help but wonder - shouldn't these people be getting their metaphorical lunch eaten by those who don't engage in absurd conspicuous consumption?

That has happened before certainly throughout history as "gentry" have had their delusions of superiority and even relevance shattered in spite of their abundantly privileged start.


Well, that would depend on whether it's really "absurd" or not; maybe it's effective. You put on glasses, people think you're smart. You wear an expensive watch, people think you're successful -- "nothing succeeds like success", "dress for the job you want", "talk the talk, walk the walk", and so on.


Shouldn't peacocks get their metaphorical lunch eaten by those who don't engage in absurd conspicuous plumage?


That isn't how most people work.

Would you rather be the worst lover in the world but everyone think you are the best? Or the best lover in the world but everyone think you are the worst?

For most people, work is their identity, it is status, it is the ability to abuse underlings terribly with no consequences. Constructing your self-image this way leads to, imo, a great deal of emotional vulnerability. If I leave my job, what will other people think? I am not the boss anymore. I am just another normal person.

And btw, if you feel that you are doing whatever you are doing until you reach $X in the bank. Then that is the same.

The point of the article is that you can be happy working a shitty job for no money. But you have to understand what makes you happy, what is fulfilling to you, etc. Although it is true that some jobs/working environments are just shitty.


One million a year is not that much, if you live in NYC. Various taxes sum up to about half of that: 330k Federal, 70k State, 40k City, 30k FICA [1]. Health insurance plus copays, a few more 10s of ks. Then there's real estate. Either you rent, or you buy. Rent for a family of 4 in Manhattan, next to a good public school can easily be >10k/month. If you buy, a 3bdr appartment in a similar zone is >$2.5MM, the mortgage plus taxes and common charges are easily >15k/month. Let's say you manage to put aside 200k/year and you want to retire after 3 years of work. If you are about 30y old, your life expectancy is about 52y [2]. That will buy you an annuity of about $22k/year [3] (assuming a 3% annual growth rate). That is far, far from "never have to work again, and pursue your passions in life".

[1] https://smartasset.com/taxes/new-york-tax-calculator#aYosnz0...

[2] https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/longevity.cgi

[3]https://www.bankrate.com/calculators/investing/annuity-calcu...


It's very important not to live in NYC.


If you remove NYC and SF from the equation, there aren’t many million dollar jobs out there ...


Most fundamental jobs out there would not make anyone a millionaire


Many in finance do this, working like dogs until they reach their "number" they need to retire. Or, some take pride in their work and would do it for free. Creating and leading a company can be making history. I don't think it's clear cut as to whether enjoying life versus working hard to produce (and taking pride in this) is a better way to live.


In practice, their "number" goes up over time along with their pay, so they stay on the treadmill. Though obviously there are exceptions.


Private schools and high-quality childcare. If you look in the parking lots of top-tier schools, you'll see as many old Hondas as Range Rovers. Many parents care more about getting their children the best possible education than their own financial freedom. If the job's tolerable, why not just do it to see the kids happy with a bright future?


Meaninglessness creates the toil. It's not toil if it's meaningful, it's merely physical or stressful or whatever the hard part of the particular job entails.


5 years at a million a year, after taxes in a High COL state will be about 2.5M. A healthy sum indeed, but not enough to retire on, especially with a family.


Totally enough to retire on. The majority of families live on 75K/ year or less.

https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-p...


Assuming a 4% withdrawal rate yielding $100k/year, seems weird to me to retire on a middle class family income (in non-expensive cities) or lower middle class salary (in more expensive cities) when you have the ability to continue making $1m/year gross.


A single person could absolutely retire on 2.5M. That's $100k a year using the 4% rule.


Especially if you move to a lower cost of living place. That is, if that suits you. Some people absolutely love all that the big, expensive cities have to offer and it suits their lifestyle. A lifestyle you won't find in an affordable place.

But yes, saving a couple million and moving somewhere in expensive, buying a house cash and living off of interest is totally doable if you're into that kind of thing.


I thought nowadays the recommendation was the 3% rule.

Still absolutely doable.


The Trinity study said a conservative number was 4%. Since then a lot of people said "Well, I don't want a conservative number, I want a number that has no chance of failure", so went to 3.5% or 3%. Practically I don't think that's a wise choice, a vast majority of the time most of the time, any failures comes from sequence of returns risk and the remaining percent coming from simulated bad returns coupled with a very long life.

This means that as long as you're willing to cut back on expenses if the market dips soon after you retire, 4% is fine, and it's probably not worth the extra X years of your life to try to get that number lower.


With no or minor medical issues, sure.

Add medical, and you need a hell of a lot more than 2.5M$ . Remember, it's the US. We don't care about your health.


Is that number for 30 years? If you’re retiring early you need your nest egg to last for 40 or 50 years.


Don't think of it as a large nest egg; think of it as a modest fixed income. You can easily make 2.5MM last for the rest of your life if you're able to live on 100k. That might require downsizing a bit and moving somewhere with a lower COL, but it's certainly doable.


2.5MM will not let you draw $100,000 for 50 years with inflation.

That’s a great number for retiring at 65. But this thread is talking about working hard for 5 years and retiring super early.


Assuming a 4% return, 2.5MM absolutely does yield 100k per year, forever.

Yes inflation will eat away at the value of that 100k over time, but that's less of a problem if you own your home and have something left over each year to reinvest.


> have something left over each year to reinvest.

Right. So my question is how much can you withdraw to indefinitely draw the same inflation adjusted value?


The annualized return on the S&P 500 since its inception is 10 percent. Adjusted for inflation it's 6.5-7 percent. In the last 20 years, it's 5.9 percent. Adjusted for inflation it's 4.37 percent. So withdrawing 4 percent per year would be reasonable and keep up with inflation. It gets slightly more complex when you think about taking money out during down years is much larger impact than during good years, but that's an exercise for the reader.


check firecalc.com for historical likelihood of portfolio success, given a starting nest egg and an annual withdrawal rate. The 4% withdrawal rate mentioned above is very likely to succeed for an indefinite period, and 3% is essentially impossible. This is all assuming 85% US equities and 15% bonds, and that the future looks vaguely like the past 150 years.

Despite all the skepticism above, the 4% claims are true. Not 100% chance of indefinite success, but close enough to be actionable. You can also google the "trinity study" for more info.


$100,000 per year for 50 years with a $2,500,000 base has a 79.67% success rate.

So pretty likely. But not guaranteed. And for sure not indefinite. Not if you pull the same 4% during down years.

My dream is 5,000,000 and a paid off house. I can live off 3% of that for sure.


85% in equities during retirement is a bad idea.


The longer the duration, the more it is a good idea to be heavy in equities. This can be teased out of the data on firecalc.


If you're buying equities and leaving them alone for decades, sure. But if you're retired and depending on your investments for an income, being 85% in equities is insane. One prolonged bear market could wipe you out.


I'm talking about a fixed income, like bond dividends, annuities, etc. It doesn't adjust for inflation; that's a separate problem. Just saying that if you can get a 4% return on 2.5MM, which is on the high side of realistic, that's a 100k indefinite fixed income.


> It doesn't adjust for inflation; that's a separate problem.

It’s my only question.


Assuming 7-9% return, there is a high chance you can draw 4% annually for a very long time despite inflation


I wonder if people actually do this and then go on to "pursue their passions in life". I wonder how you'd feel if you actually went through what you described here. What makes one's passion and one's work two strictly separate entities? In fact many people who retire early feel really lost and even depressed because they lose their bearings and aren't contributing to the community meaningfully.

If you dislike the current job a lot why not change it? For example, some people might only consider programming in functional programming languages. The number of job openings might be smaller but they are really passionate about the technology and they can be much happier on the job.


I read somewhere about to really torture a prisoner in the Galog you instruct the prisoner to just keep digging a hole and then have him fill it back up again.

Continue this to break thoroughly break him down. This is done without giving him any particular reason why he is doing it for...


I don't know about "really torture". I'd have to dig and fill a ditch for a very long time before I'd prefer some traditional, physical pain based, tortures.


And I'd theoretically prefer water dropped on my head, but in practice it's just as grueling.


Reminds me of “Cool Hand Luke”.

Boss Paul: That ditch is Boss Kean's ditch. And I told him that dirt in it's your dirt. What's your dirt doin' in his ditch? Luke: I don't know, Boss. Boss Paul: You better get in there and get it out, boy.


Maybe "Notes from a Dead House" by Dostoevsky?


Seriously, it was hard to feel much sympathy for the person earning $1.2M/yr when they could very easily retire if they just stopped somehow spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.


Perhaps they are earning $1.2M/yr because they never found anything they enjoyed to do with their time outside of work?


So the problem lies with said individual then.


In addition to the other answers, one of the reasons animals strive is to attract a mate.

I think a lot of people marry someone who did so with an understanding that the gravy train continues indefinitely.


What % of that million are you spending


No. I've also always held similar thoughts. I will say, though, that in my late 30s today, I fully expect to be at this for another 30 years, if not longer.


I think we're focusing on the wrong thing here (broadly), which is mocking the guy making $1.2m a year. Yes, that's a lot of money, and almost all of us (myself included) struggle to see how to spend that money. But at the same time, I feel some empathy for that guy - he's increased his expenses proportionally and he feels trapped doing something he doesn't enjoy with no end in sight. I know I've moved my expenses up and to the right since graduating college and starting a professional job.

But all of this is a distraction - at the end of the article, the author speaks about the people who are happy and satisfied in their careers - and broadly it seems like people who have autonomy and a sense of purpose in what they do. I run a small business and broadly enjoy working, so things like the Financial Independence movement don't really make sense to me. More money, less money - this is not the crux of the issue. Engagement and autonomy are some of the keys to a fulfilling work life.


"Lifestyle inflation" doesn't necessarily just mean nice vacations and fancy cars - education expenses for children are often a huge part of it.

In the major coastal metros, living in a great school district or paying for an equivalent-quality private school is a tremendous expense. Parents also feel pressure to save enough to send their children to the best college or university that they can get into, which can be a $300,000+ expense.

For many parents, these expenses are non-negotiable - "downsizing" in this area is off the table.

I think there's a fair case that these parents are locked in a society-wide arms race: everyone would be better off if the kids were under less pressure to get the "best" education credentials possible, but almost everyone thinks they would be worse off if they unilaterally "disarmed".


You don't need nearly the income described in this article to live in the neighborhoods in NYC with excellent public schools. The price of entry is below $200k after tax income, assuming you demand three bedrooms in your apartment, less if you can make do with two. Source: I live in such a neighborhood.

Saving for college is a thing, but one year at this income is enough to sock away an entire college education.


True, although many families aren't willing to deal with the pressure and risk of the NYC high school application process.


In a good neighborhood, your only risk is that you will go to a very good school instead of a great one.

Look, it's not that I don't have any sympathy. My household makes about as much as this guy and live in a similar situation, although apparently I like my job much more. Doesn't mean my life is without problems. Doesn't mean I don't get sad sometimes. But there are ways to mitigate the downside we have access to which most families simply don't, because they don't have the excess income.

Also 99.9% chance this guy actually spends a ton more than he really needs to and therefore has trapped himself. Again, I'm not without sympathy, but this is one problem no social program will ever target. If you're to dig out of your spending habits you really will have to do it by your own bootstraps. Find a therapist, cut up your credit cards, whatever is necessary. If someone making $1M per year really wants to get out from under, there are in the best possible position to do so.


Yeah, I'm not claiming that the guy is right, and I'm certainly not aiming to debate or criticize your personal choices. I'm just aiming to describe this attitude that seems to be really common in the NYC area, and which explains why many parents feel their choices are constrained.


I absolutely agree that this attitude exists, and it really is a shame, because a lot of people are limiting themselves from achieving real happiness.


I feel like parents who obsess about the Ivy League track to success also tend to delegate raising of the child to the school. I would argue that a well raised child with a good enough education stands as much a chance of success as an Ivy educated child. Unfortunately there's no objective way to measure and compare the two.


That's nothing for someone who makes 7 figures a year. Two kids going to $70k/year top boarding schools still leaves a ton left over after tax for saving $600k over 18 years.


That's the point. They can easily afford the $140k/year in education expenses if they keep working the 7 figure job they hate, but they couldn't really afford it if they took a huge pay cut.


Ah, I get your point now. But $140k/year in education for two kids is at basically the second highest tier of education in the world (only things being higher are elite international schools or comprehensive private tutoring). Where I'm from in the US you could get the best education in the state for probably $15-18k/year/kid


Yeah I think the insane costs are a disease that mainly afflicts the major coastal metro areas. Families end up paying in some combination of high mortgages, high property taxes, direct private school tuition, or insanely long commutes. There are different choices you can make along those dimensions, but total cost is high regardless.


>I think there's a fair case that these parents are locked in a society-wide arms race: everyone would be better off if the kids were under less pressure to get the "best" education credentials possible, but almost everyone thinks they would be worse off if they unilaterally "disarmed".

That sounds like the case Elizabeth Warren made in "The Two Income Trap".


Granted I don't have kids - but that parents act like this seems utterly delusional to me.

Frankly, I think you're getting a below-average education if you're spending tens of thousands a year on it (before college). Private school, getting a seat at a public school in an expensive suburb - fuuuuuuuuck that. Those experiences are nowhere close to worth all that money, and honestly prevent the students involved from learning about the real world in important ways that they'll pay dearly for later.

Honestly, this is insane. Those parents are spending tens, hundreds of thousands of dollars on making their children worse-off. I know they'd probably disagree with me.


yes, the marginal utility of the "better" education is not generally worth the tens of thousands of extra dollars, whether it be novel instructional methods, extra time/attention, better credentials, or nicer, more advanced facilities.

but like most such situations, i suspect wealthy families are not simply buying better instruction, but rather exclusivity and esteem. the treadmill they're on is an attempt to maintain and improve their (apparent) social status.

money doesn't buy you a ticket off the treadmill. even the richest people jockey with each other for status. jumping off the treadmill means social isolation and most folks can't stand that.


It is more that they're buying their kids a social circle that includes the kids of other elite families. They're not buying better math instruction, they're buying access.


It's not just that it's not worth it, but that growing up in the rich-private-school/elite-suburban-school bubble is actively detrimental to people down the road. It's making the kids less happy and less able to be a part of the real world.


> so things like the Financial Independence movement don't really make sense to me

> Engagement and autonomy are some of the keys to a fulfilling work life.

Isn't the second point exactly what most Financial Independence proponents are seeking FI for? I imagine most work (Mr Money Mustache, a prominent FI spokesman, certainly still engages in activities that would qualify)..


Most people don't have the luxury of being their own bosses. For these people, financial independence will enable them to leave their unfulfilling jobs and pursue their own passions, whether it be starting a small business like you or getting a job that pays less but is more fulfilling. Most people are living paycheck to paycheck with little savings, and thus don't have the freedom to walk away from their jobs.


If you are saving towards financial independence you have the luxury of choosing if you'd like to be your own boss, or indeed if you'd like a job that pays less.

Most people are living paycheck to paycheck, but those are not the people who are saving for FI.


I think you assume people who are living paycheck to paycheck to be people that are just don't know how to manage their finances. If so, you would be massively wrong. Most people living paycheck to paycheck are people that usually got a horrible start at life with some bad luck thrown in. Maybe raised by a single parent who couldn't give the extra attention, so they fell behind in school. Maybe people who sickly as kids. Maybe people just born into poor families with bad habits. The list is endless. Yes this sometimes create people that were never given or taught the tools of proper finance but most just got the shit end of the stick. Or they made 1 bad choice and then couldn't get out of that hole.


Yes, but we aren't talking about poor people in this article. We are talking about people who earn a lot of money. In the parent comment I start by talking about a guy who's earning $1.2m a year.


Right it's in the title: "America’s Professional Elite: Wealthy, Successful and Miserable"


Or, maybe they have a high time preference that was inherited in their genes.


The crux of feeling trapped from increasing expenses with your income usually comes down to loans that you have to continue to pay off (or a contractual obligation). It's one of the reasons a lot of people see value in paying off their home earlier even though stock market investments are usually the better long term bet.

There's a degree of freedom that comes from knowing your cost of living can essentially be utilities and food if your income was suddenly interrupted.


This makes a lot of sense. Retiring early doesn't necessarily make people happy. In fact many could feel lost and unhappy since they're not contributing anything meaningful to the community anymore. A lot of advice mentioned working a job where you feel autonomy and passion, which I think does make a lot of sense and probably should be the way to go.


Lifestyle inflation is a very easy trap to fall into and hard to get out of.

Suddenly you feel like you have to have a fancy car, to live in a fancy neighborhood and get a $5 soy detox tea every morning and $300 a month crossfit/hot yoga/dance pilates classes or something like that


You're just describing weak willed people.


I'd be 100% fine with working like a dog for $1.2M a year in a job I hated, spending as little as possible, if it meant after N<=5 years I'd have enough to retire and that work would be optional. After that, I'll happily obtain my "sense of purpose and satisfaction" doing hobbies or serving the community in the time I'd otherwise be working.

Have not found that job offer yet, but if you know of it, E-mail in profile :-) I won't hold my breath.


The guy mentioned in this story certainly has that job. In 5 years, he'll make $6 million. That should be plenty to retire on if invested correctly.


Yea, I know those jobs exist--they're just not open to working class schmucks like us. I can say for certain that if I accumulated $6 million after five years of work, those would be the last five years I ever worked.


- He had received an offer at a start-up, and he would have loved to take it, but it paid half as much, and he felt locked into a lifestyle that made this pay cut impossible. “My wife laughed when I told her about it,” he said. Sounds like a good wife to me, and this "pay cut" is making 500k-600k instead of 1.2 million, what world are these people living in that you can't give up a job that you hate because you can't afford to live on 500-600k.


>what world are these people living in that you can't give up a job that you hate because you can't afford to live on 500-600k.

The one where you lock into a mortgage and a car that assumes a $1.2M salary to keep ahead of.

It's really easy to let your lifestyle expenses balloon, especially in a high-COL city where minor increases in living space/amenities can end up costing large amounts of money.


Yup. The golden rule: don't ratchet up your lifestyle when your income rises and you'll be far happier in the long run.

Also don't give a damn what people think about you. Typically people get trapped in that mouse wheel because "look what they have."


Yep. And if you get windfall and are really itching to spend it do yourself a favour and research what stuff is expensive but lasts. In NPV terms you'll be saving money, but you won't be pulling on hard-to-escape expenses.

Source: I sold a company and quadrupled my spend on housing. Something stupid that I regret. But I also spent money on high quality stuff that is still lasting almost a decade later.


This isn't really germane to the $500k+ set the article is talking about. Everything you're buying at that tier is going to last. What eats up their incomes is housing, transportation, and stuff like private school tuition and childcare.

The challenge there is it's hard to ramp those down once you lock in. Downsizing on housing means having to move and possibly sacrificing social life and opportunities along the way. Pulling your kids out of private school has consequences for their long term prospects and their socialization. And so on.


> Everything you're buying at that tier is going to last.

I respectfully disagree. Luxury goods are often flimsy or expensive to maintain (e.g., Toyotas vs Porches) so research is still required.

As for private school and housing, these are exactly the expenses I'm talking about not getting wound up in. I went to private school almost my whole life, and I understand what it is to not want to be pulled away from a community, but the reality is that $500k—let alone $1m—is more than enough to afford a good private school and a good home in any city. The struggle to live on $500k / year is an artificial, self-sabotaging one.


I'm surprised no one here has yet name-checked Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. There is a famous comedic passage in which Sherman McCoy discusses his expenditures relative to his (vast) income.

EDIT:

One breath of scandal

—his spirits plunged even lower. One breath of scandal, and not only would the Giscard scheme collapse but his very career would be finished! And what would he do then? I'm already going broke on a million dollars a year! The appalling figures came popping up into his brain. Last year his income had been $980,000. But he had to pay $21,000 a month for the $1.8 million loan he had taken out to buy the apartment. What was $21,000 a month to someone making a million a year? That was the way he had thought of it at the same—and in fact, it was merely a crushing, grinding burden—that was all! It came to $252,000 a year, none of it deductible, because it was a personal loan, not a mortgage. (The cooperative boards in Good Park Avenue Buildings like his didn't allow you to take out a mortgage on your apartment.) So, considering the taxes, it required $420,000 in income to pay the $252,000. Of the $560,000 remaining of his income last year, $44,400 was required for the apartment's monthly maintenance fees; $116,000 for the house on Old Drover's Mooring Lane in Southampton ($84,000 for mortgage payment and interest, $18,000 for heat, utilities, insurance, and repairs, $6,000 for lawn and hedge cutting, $8,000 for taxes). Entertaining at home and in restaurants had come to $18,000.

-------------

It goes on. The guy needs Mr. Money Mustache.


Yeah... I literally don't buy it. High Cost of Living city has nothing to do with needing $500k/yr in earnings (post tax). What kind of mortgage and car do you have that? Simple answer... that's a $10M house or a $2M car or half of each of those.

Besides the fact that if you're earning $1.2M salary, you're taking home other bonus/stock that are comparable. Getting locked into this sort of lifestyle is a choice not driven by need. A drug dealer in "low cost" Detroit or Sinaloa might make the same claims...


Usually when someone mentions a salary figure it's pre-tax. $500k in NYC is ~285k post-tax.

If you have a family, a $1.5m house (which barely gets you a shabby 3-bedroom in a high cost city) will, assuming you put $300k down, be around $8-$10k/month in mortgage + property taxes + insurance + any hoa/maintenence, which is by itself 40% of your monthly take home.


> If you have a family, a $1.5m house (which barely gets you a shabby 3-bedroom in a high cost city)

Uh... median house price in Seattle is less than half that. $1.5 million for a house in Seattle will get you an extremely nice house. Extremely nice.

If you disagree, it's because you have incredibly high standards for what constitutes "nice". That's fine, but it makes it more than a bit silly to complain that you "can't afford" a different lifestyle.

You're just making bad choices at that point.


I didn't mention Seattle...I'm referring to NYC or SF.


So literally 2 cities. Wildly expensive cities like DC, Seattle, Boston are still highly livable on $1.5 million.

Honestly, if you're regretting your life choices so severely but you're unwilling to live anywhere but NYC/SF, you're either not really regretting your life choices that much, or you're just really bad at making good decisions with your life.


I'm making the assumption that there are more jobs that pay $500k+ in Silicon Valley and NYC. If you can get that salary in 2nd cities like SEA or BOS then of course you're doing better than someone making the same in higher CoL places.


Article says friend is in Manhattan and earned (i.e. total comp) $1.2mm. Very unusual for anyone in finance to have that high a salary short of being a CEO earning $10mm+.

Suppose he lives on the UWS in a 2000 square foot 3-4 bedroom condo which he bought for $4mm and has a $3mm mortgage. With a 30year fixed mortgage, that's maybe $180k a year. Don't forget the $60+k a year in condo fees and taxes. Throw in anywhere from $40-80k for nanny/childcare/preschool for the 1-2 kids he may have and you already have nothing left over if he went to a $600k comp.

I'm not saying he can't choose to live more conservatively, but when you're used to making $1.2mm a year, it's not hard to imagine how he got here. High cost of living does play a part, especially in NYC.


$1.2M total comp is not that unusual in finance if you've been in a number of years[1].

[1]https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/salary/investment-banking-co...


More like a 2M house and a 120K car. 500K/year isn't enough to live in a 10M house because it's 20 years of work (30, accounting for other expenses) and that assumes no cut in income. To get into a 10M house one needs to start a very successful business, which is quite possible after all the experience at such a job.


100% agree. We recently purchased a car. In our case the "expensive" aspect is that we bought new... a new Subaru Outback. We could certainly afford a brand new Escalade, but those types of behaviors would lock me into my current employer or something that pays similarly and that idea isn't something I'm fond of.

And this dude bought that shit despite hating his professional life. Hard to feel bad for him.


I've been in a similar position as you for most of my life. One weird aspect: employers/managers/companies have come to rely on you "needing" the pay cheque as a powerful motivator and control. When you can literally walk away from a job because you don't need the money to make your end of month payments it makes the relationship weird in some aspects. I don't even know if the party who traditionally holds this power consciously realizes it, but in my experience they seem to exhibit less confidence or willingness to play the "because I own you" card. It could also just be that I come across as less of a push-over and they respond accordingly. Regardless, interesting phenomenon...


I’ve heard it given the name “Fuck you money” – the money you have that gives you the ability to just say “Fuck you!” and walk away from your employment.


The median annual earnings of palo altans is about $400k/year. That's probably workable for cheaper areas like south palo alto where a house built in the 80s will run you $2.5 mil. Move closer to downtown and you could easily double or triple your necessary annual take.


"According to Census data, the median household income in Palo Alto is $137,000 a year, while the US average is $57,600"

from: https://www.cnet.com/news/silicon-valley-middle-class-earns-...


Those numbers don’t remotely reflect the cost of living for people moving to the area now. Prop 13 has distorted things dramatically. In Palo Alto, there are numerous retired people living in houses paying property tax rates essentially set in the 1970s. In fact, Palo Alto has the lowest tax rate in the country by percent since the houses are so expensive but the people pay so little compared to the value.[1] You could definitely live off $500k, but $137 would be really tough to near impossible with a family. Prop 13 has really broken the California housing market.

https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2016/12/01/pro...


I think this type of Census data understates household incomes. I am not exactly sure why, but Atherton comes in at about 400k a year per household. That is a lot, but doesn't seem like a lot for Atherton.


I believe it is skewed since many people in these neighborhoods aren't making their money through salary income (anymore), but instead through interest / dividends.

If you sold your company, aren't working at FB/goog/etc and are sitting on a ton of stock holdings, your income is going to show as near $0


that should be accounted for in govt household income calculations, but I could be wrong. For example, ton of stock holdings will pay you dividends or capital gains.


What you put on your tax return every year doesn't really reflect your actual wealth. Even in tech most people top out at ~$200k-$250k base salaries but you may vest and accumulate millions in stock RSUs that you don't sell in a given year.


Stock RSU vests go on your tax returns.


Ah ok - I'm thinking private shares


Those do too. The only thing that doesn't is deferred compensation in the form of an ISO or NSO. The latter is recognized as ordinary income when exercised.


My working explanation is that it's actually survey data. the richest people either don't answer the survey or understate their actual holdings when they do answer.


Don't RSUs show up on the W-2 as income though (even if you don't sell them)?


They do; RSU vesting is a taxable event. It's counted as ordinary income based on the fair market value at the time it vests and taxes are due immediately. Companies tend to withhold a percentage of the shares and sell them to cover your tax burden.


No, this seems right. The typical distribution of income across the pop., even in a distorted environment like the valley, looks far more like a Poisson distribution with a long tail than a typical Gaussian


137 is a median. Half the people in Palo Alto make less than 137 in household income? Maybe, if you count East Palo Alto. But Atherton at 443 ( https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-hundred-richest-plac... ) ? seems too low


You don't want to rely on it for means because the high incomes are capped at a relatively low level so that they don't out high-earners in sparse areas. But that shouldn't affect medians.


I can't find the $400k/year number anywhere. The census puts it at "$250,001" which seems like a fishy number.



Stock options are not counted as income. They are exactly that: Stock options. Your income is your take-home pay, specifically gross pay on your stub extrapolated to annual salary.

Yes, there is capital income from stocks and other market investments, but appreciation for those comes under capital gains, which are calculated (and taxed) separately, and don’t count as employment income, for good reason: You can’t use stock options vesting in 4 years to buy food tomorrow or pay mortgage next month.


The spread between purchase and grant price for Incentive Stock Options actually is counted towards income for Alternative Minimum Tax.


Which makes it ironic that capital gains taxes can bite exercisers before they are actually able to be liquidated.


So... sell your expensive shit and buy less expensive shit. That's what us plebs are expected to do. No one's locked into anything.


> where minor increases in living space/amenities can end up costing large amounts of money.

It is pretty crazy how little extra money buys you. E.g. in NYC, the only differences between a $2,000 month apartment and a $20,000 a month apartment are going to be things like location, granite countertops, a well-designed bathroom, and better windows. But in most cases the actual floor space and layout is going to be almost identical.

Clearly those things are worth something, but it's easy to see how the work and stress of paying for those accents is to result in a net negative happiness for many if not most people.


This is not true. $20,000/mo rent in NYC will get you a gigantic apartment (thousands of square feet), as you can verify on any housing listings website.


It can get you that, but not if you want to be in SoHo on the 30th floor of a luxury building or whatever.



To consume $100k a month we need a $10-20 million dollar mortgage (50-100k/mo depending on years and rate). I have to assume a few cars, dining, etc would probably end up being $10-20k/mo so the mortgage is probably around $15 mil. So in NY or SF you are looking at something like a 1-2k sq/ft 2 bed 1 bathroom shithole apartment. Not so luxurious after all really.


Less than $15m could buy a 5 bedroom mansion of a single-family home in San Francisco, and in New York, a ridiculously stunning 5 bedroom apartment.

Where did you get 1-2k sq/ft 2 bed 1 bath shithole from?


I assume you're being sarcastic... a $15M shithole apartment! X^D


Yeah looks like I obviously touched a nerve with some people here I guess?


You didn't touch a nerve. You're out in bizzaro-land. $15MM in Manhattan will get you a brownstone on the Upper West Side.


Your NYC numbers are way off. Here are some listings for apartments for sale between 9 and 12 million: https://streeteasy.com/for-sale/manhattan/price:9000000-1200...

For those who don't feel like clicking the link: most are very large (5-6 br) apartments, in expensive neighborhoods, in nice new buildings.


And that's not even taking into account taxes...


Yeah, Manhattan real estate is something like $1600/sqft and SF is $850-$1200 unless you want something in one of the fancy new high-rises. $15 million will buy you 12,500 square feet haha. Just check Zillow.


Putting kids through school, paying for parent's mortgage, vacation properties, country club dues.


> country club dues

> vacation properties

I'm glad there's a "stupid tax" for wealthy people too.


You're likely not going to get that $1.2 million job unless you "travel in the same circles" as the people hiring.


So this dovetails with what I think is the most fascinating topic in evolution: the demographic transition in humans. If you're not familiar, demographic transition is the term used to describe what has happened to the demography of nations as they become developed. Which is that, rather than producing more children with their material abundance, people in rich nations have less children. This is not, at all, what biology would predict. More resources should lead to more offspring.

My personal hunch as to what causes the demographic transition is that we have an evolved system for determining whether we are doing well or doing poorly and that system calibrates itself by examining the people around us. But, because our current economic and social system sorts people by income and status (talented people migrated into the cities from farms, even more talented people moved into more expensive neighborhoods, etc.), and because advertising constantly shows us higher levels of consumption to aspire to, even people who are, in an absolute sense, raking in obscene amounts of money are surrounded by a peer group that are roughly at their level. So it never really feels like you're rich; even though you live in a $3 million dollar home, you live on a street with $8 million dollar homes; even though your kid goes to a $30k/year private school, you can't afford to spend $200k vacationing in France during the summer like some of their peers, etc.

Interestingly, this parallels my own experience. As a senior developer, I'm now making roughly 3x what I made before becoming a programmer. Back then I would have imagined that all of my wants would be satisfied by 3xing my income. Yet somehow I still yearn to make more.


> This is not, at all, what biology would predict.

Why isn't it? Afaik in biology, healthy populations tend to be stable populations.

Populations that shrink or grow too fast are often a sign for something going very wrong, usually having to do with sustainability.

That's why I think people in rich nations having fewer children is a feature and not a bug. It's the result of increasing living standards because when you have very low child-mortality rates you don't need to "try" several times to get one into adult age, just like the availability of contraception allows for more reliable family planning.

The same applies to having a social security net: Without that, you have to depend on your offspring to take care of you when you get too old to work/sick.

In a situation like that, more off-spring is always better, as long as you get them through childhood into productive adulthood. Each child is a future potential care-taker and each one of them could end up being a big earner. In that context, a whole lot of people treat getting children like playing the lottery.


Biological organisms are machines for turning energy into additional copies of the genes that created the organism. People in the developed world have access to an obscene amount of energy. Yet fertility rates are below replacement level in basically every developed country (if you don't count first generation immigrants). And when you zoom in, you notice that poor people have more children than all but the top several percent of earners (so fertility goes down as access to resources goes up). If you saw something similar in any other species, it would be the biggest unsolved riddle in biology. Something truly strange. And yet here we are basically not paying attention to it at all.


As it says on the wall at Jimmy Johns, "The gap between 'more' and 'enough' never closes."


hahahaa


> people in rich nations have less children. This is not, at all, what biology would predict. More resources should lead to more offspring.

This is not correct. Rich people in rich nations have more kids than middle-income people in rich nations. What matters is your comparative purchasing power.

Fertility actually increases with income, even for women with education; this is mostly due to rich being able to afford the costs of child care, and feeling secure enough to invest into all of their children as much as they feel they need to. (whereas a middle-class, educated woman would only feel secure investing into 1 child)


> This is not correct.

What isn't correct based on what?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_and_fertility


All you really need to know is that developed nations are home to the highest levels of human affluence that have ever existed, at all levels of society. And yet they have the lowest fertility rates ever measured. So low that they are not sufficient to maintain population size.

But if you go even further, you'll see that fertility actually declines with income in developed nations. It's not until you get to the top several percent of income that fertility starts rising again.


> It's not until you get to the top several percent of income that fertility starts rising again.

Yes, that's what I meant. You could argue about the significance of the top percentage rise in fertility, but if anything, it shows that fertility is constrained by lack of resources in a significant way as well as education specifically.


If fertility is constrained by lack of resources, the why do poor people in the developed world have more kids than middle class people?


Presumably because within the budget constraint, the survival rate of many kids will result in a similar amount of kids at the end of the woman's fertility window.

I didn't say it is constrained by lack of resources, I said it's also constrained by lack of resources.


It's probably about whether women are on a career track and, thus, what age they start having children. Poor women generally aren't on a career track. They finish school and start working a job that doesn't require school or much training. So they can (and do) have children pretty early. Rich women do usually go to college, but they meet a future husband there who is on a high-earning career track and are able to start a family relatively early because they don't have to help pay the bills.

What I'm saying, though, is that if you look at the fertility curve[1] you'll see that many middle class families could eliminate one earner and still have 2-3x the income as poor families that have more children. But people are choosing not to do that (well, secular people are choosing not to do that; intensely religious people often do exactly that).

That's what's interesting to me.

[1]: https://twitter.com/CSchmert/status/993934031174725632


> and because advertising constantly shows us higher levels of consumption to aspire to, even people who are, in an absolute sense, raking in obscene amounts of money are surrounded by a peer group that are roughly at their level.

Animals evolved using competition as a mechanism to select the best mates. Advertising is not the cause, it's the nature of all animals to project power. There might be some people here and there who are satisfied or whatnot, but even without advertising, people would be competing.


This is a fair nit, but still: it's self-evident that modern advertising high-jacks natural competition and amplifies it in order to drive an unnatural level of spending (else companies could just skip advertising and see no change in revenue).

tl;dr Not a root cause, but a powerful multiplier.


It's also worth examining if our typical ways of measuring inflation (in the USA, the Consumer Price Index, or CPI) is an accurate guide to the real costs of raising children. The CPI currently takes into account a very diverse range of goods, including canoes and guns and lamps and kitchen wares and music and coffee grinders. The CPI tries to avoid the assumption that some purchases are more important than others, but if you are raising children, you know some things are much more important than others. You can cut back on coffee grinders, but you can not cut back much housing -- you need a certain minimum for each child.

My great grandmother gave birth to 16 children (this is my mom's mom's mom) who lived to adulthood. She (with my great grandfather) had no trouble housing them, feeding them, clothing them and ensuring they got educations to at least 8th grade, most to 12th grade. Does the CPI accurately reflect the changing costs of each of the things that were then easy to afford? How much would it cost to raise 16 children now? In theory, we are much more wealthy now than my great-grandparents were in the period 1880 to 1910, and yet they were able to afford something that nowadays would take a great deal to afford. Why is that?

Another thing that the CPI does not capture is how some new expenses have arisen that have become essential. In particular, automobiles. In much of the USA, having an automobile is non-optional.

We should think about those changes in lifestyle that make comparisons difficult across time. My great-grandparents raised 16 children in a dense town where transportation was dominated by walking. If you were trying to recreate that lifestyle in a USA suburb, some odd questions come up. Can you fit 16 children in one car? Do you get multiple cars? Who drives them? These questions point out how difficult it is to make direct comparisons.

Nor is it correct to simply say "No one needs to live in the suburbs in the USA, they can, if they wish, continue to live in a dense urban center". But the USA economy is a cohesive whole, and the existence of the suburbs effects the price of things in the urban core, as well as the focus of transportation infrastructure. Over the last 100 years, most USA urban centers have built significant transportation infrastructure to help workers in distant suburbs come into jobs in the urban core, and then go home at night. The money spent on those infrastructure projects could have been spent on some other priority, but instead were spent as they were because of the existence of the suburbs.

So it is very difficult to make direct comparisons, because some lifestyle changes make direct comparisons blurry. But in that blurriness, we can argue that in important ways our standard of living has not increased as much as the CPI seems to suggest. In particular, for those people who have a strong craving to have a large family, one can reasonably argue that their standard of living has actually decreased over time.


Let's say you've got three kids and you're living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Your mortgage and maintenance for a 3 bedroom apartment at $3.5MM are going to be ~15000 a month or 180K a year. Three private school tuitions are 150K. Living in NYC you're paying NYC, NYS and Federal income taxes for probably the highest tax rate in the country. So basically it's easy to be paycheck to paycheck on 500K in NYC.


It's "easy" to squander almost any amount of money -- even Johnny Depp went broke. But just like Depp didn't have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on wine, nobody has to live on the UES and send their kids to 50k/yr schools.


Yeah but imagine that you already do and now you're explaining to your wife why you want to pull your kids out of their schools and move to the suburbs so you can take a job that pays half what you already make. I'm not saying I'm sympathetic to the guy, but I understand the situation he's in.


a problem easily solvable by a move to NJ, which of course, would dramatically increase your misery level. In fact, that's probably why that guy is miserable - he doesn't live in Manhattan and has a 2 hr or more commute every day.


There are plenty of wealthy people living a comfortable lifestyle in rich communities off the Palisades pkwy. with a 20 minute hop into the city. 15 if you drive at entitled speeds.


> with a 20 minute hop into the city.

Maybe early on a Sunday morning? Or maybe if you're stopping the clock as soon as you get to the other side of the GWB?

On a weekday morning, you'd be lucky if you can get from Secaucus to the Manhattan side of the Lincoln Tunnel in 30 min.


>what world are these people living in that you can't give up a job that you hate because you can't afford to live on 500-600k.

New York City


The median income for NYC is $57,000. Surely 10X what a typical person makes is enough for a family to get by, it's just not enough for the lifestyle they want.

Source: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/newyorkcitynewy...


You are correct, but if this guy's an HBS alum pulling in 7 figures on the buy side, then he and his family are living the Upper East Side lifestyle which means:

Private school tuition - $50k/kid/year Additional activities such as tutoring, sports, etc - $10-20k/kid/year Mortgages+fees or rent for a 1,500 square foot apartment in a doorman building in East 80's - $75,000-150,000/year Mortgage or rent for country home in Hamptons or Litchfield County - $40,000-100,000/year

Literally half of his income is going to be taxed as an NYC resident. So he's got $600k of cash flow and if he has 2 or 3 kids, the very basic fixed costs of housing and schooling are likely taking up about half of that. With the remaining half he has to pay for food, vacations, cars, clothing, etc, and anything left after that will get saved.

To be clear, nobody is making this guy do this. Nobody's forcing him to "summer" anywhere, nobody's forcing him to enroll his daughters at Spence when PS 6 is free. But at the same time, this is a guy who came up through a system in which preppy affluence was the chosen lifestyle of his "me 10 years from now" role models. As easy as it is to mock the concept of anyone being "trapped" when they make 1.2mm a year, the truth is that stopping his current job would be profoundly disruptive and stressful for this guy, his wife and their kids. So I get where his wife is coming from when she laughs at his mention of the startup.


> Nobody's forcing him to ...

I dunno, his wife did laugh at his startup job offer and divorce is expensive. Not that I feel bad for the guy, but it is often something like that.


This guy NYCs


Yeah they do. On the nose.


Avoiding lifestyle inflation in the first place is definitely part of the puzzle, but it’s not clear that it can dig you out of the hole once you’re in it. Is giving up the lifestyle they want and have really going to make them happier?


Is an answer of "yes" inconceivable?


Plenty of people living in NYC are doing totally fine on a tiny fraction of that.


That depends on your definition of "totally fine" is and where in NYC someone doing "totally fine" lives.


During the 2008-2010 crash, there were reports of many women leaving their wall street husbands when they lost their jobs. I still remember reading about one woman - one of her excuses were that she was no longer able to buy organic fruits (avocados or something) - apparently she only eats organic, and organic everything.

That might be a small example, but it shows the way the wealthy lead their lives. Luxury cars, high end electronics, multiple homes ... they all add up.


Did those wives have any way to make the kind of money needed for their lifestyles themselves?

After all, it's not like wealthy bachelors were common during the recession.


Contained in that question is a really interesting bit of learning.

There are many ways to go through your career and your 'wealth' cycle. What worked for me was that when ever I got a raise or "extra" money (bonus, stock vesting, etc) I always adjusted my savings rate so that my take home pay was unchanged relative to inflation. The company gave me a 10% raise and inflation was 3%? I added 7% of that raise to my savings rate. As a result, my savings grew and my lifestyle didn't change, I could always "live on" a much more modest salary than I was being paid. That gave me tremendous flexibility in being able to take jobs that had a 'pay cut' but had other aspects that made them desirable (learning something new, opportunities to develop a new skill, more fun, Etc.) And after a while the amount of money your "savings" is kicking off gets to be more and more significant. If you're lucky, then one day the number your savings is kicking off is the same amount you're paying yourself out of your own paycheck and then you can walk away at anytime, keep your life style, and never have to work again. That gives you a tremendous amount of flexibility in how you spend your time.


>what world are these people living in that you can't give up a job that you hate because you can't afford to live on 500-600k.

The same one where a dev making $160k can't give up a job they hate because they can't afford to take a job paying $80k.

Everything is relative. To many Americans and $80k desk job is the lap of luxury. To many devs, that pay would be insulting.


Not sure how you're interpreting the "good wife" but I interpreted her reaction as laughing at the notion they could afford to live on anything less than his current 1.2m salary.


I believe OP is being sarcastic about "good wife".


I bet its mostly taxes and real estate.

City + State + Federal taxes are around 50%. So $600k. Private School per kid is $50k. Assume two kids so about $100k.

Okay, now a 4 bedroom apartment in NYC is like $25k/month (on Zillow, eyeballing it), or about $300k/year.

You're down to $100k-$200k for food, vacations, clothes, cars etc.


> You're down to $100k-$200k for food, vacations, clothes, cars etc.

Oh, the humanity.


You're doing fine, but at $600k, you'd be taking home $300k, and then its all going on rent unless you downsize drastically and move out of private school etc.

I'm just explaining why the move would feel tough for a family.


It’s not about living on 500k vs 1 million. It’s about much, much earlier retirement.


To expand on this, many people who make this much as employees have a great deal of anxiety about the future of tech, and a reasonable doubt that this level of income cannot continue indefinitely. From that point of view it seems foolish to walk away from the opportunity.


People outside of tech have anxiety about the future of tech.

People inside tech having anxiety about it?

Seems to me the anxiety has far less to do with tech than with the nature of the economy and employment in general.


For many readers here, and adherents to the FIRE philosophy, sure.

But to most people who actually make $1.2 million per year, it means giving up all kinds of status symbols and creature comforts. Many of which they are locked in to via mortgages, leases, etc.


More likely it's about keeping up with the Joneses. If all your old school friends are making $5 million, it pains your status gland enough to "only" be making $1 million.


The funny thing is when you move from making $1mm to $5mm you pick up a different set of friends to keep up with.


It's true, the coke dealers don't really hang around until you reach a certain income threshold.


I don't understand the mindset of burning yourself out in middle age so you can "enjoy the world" when you're much more likely to be frail and have serious health problems that prevent you from participating in many activities.


If you make 1.2 million a year you could literally retire after 1-2 years and live comfortably (on ~40k) for the rest of your life. Want to live on 100k? Only takes 4 years.


Taxes.


And inflation.


Is it?

Many people could retire after one year at 500k or 1M because their cost of living is such that they would be able to save almost all of it, and this would spread across their retirement..


The average UK private pension pot is £100k ... this implies that either people with £1m should be retiring earlier, or we'll have a generation who can't afford to retire.


The situation is similar, if not worse, in the US, and the latter is true: absent government pension programs like Social Security, almost nobody can afford to retire. Social Security is the retirement plan for regular people. Basically only union workers with defined-benefit pensions and high-salary professionals who are able to fund their 401(k) meaningfully have any kind of plan for retirement besides living on Social Security. The luckiest can also draw on help from family, life insurance, and getting part-time work as e.g. a Walmart greeter.

Thinking about retirement savings at all is kind of a luxury.


Even a poverty level wage (for family of 4) is $25k/year. So $500k over a 20 year retirement sounds like a lot, but it’s not.


not saying it's easy, and no, doesn't sound like a lot.

but it's possible, is my point - the difference on whether it is possible or not possible is the lifestyle one chooses to lead with it.


You're leaving out the compound interest that could be earned through stocks/bonds.


Yes, but even bonds don't keep up with inflation, and you need enough principle to ride out the dips. The "safe" return is considered to be 4%, which is $20k on $500k, so you'd be dipping into the principle even on that poverty scale.

It just take a lot more to retire than the average person realizes, and not eat Alpo.


What world are they living in where startups are paying $500-$600k?


If “startup” means “pre IPO” then there quite a few places in town that go up to this for very senior roles.


I think a lot of people here don't realize how lucrative the sales roles in tech companies are - if you're good at it. Top sales reps often make more than than top level managers.

I estimate the top sales people are the highest compensated people in a company. It is true meritocracy, however. You are judged on a single metric more or less and the bottom of the group is dismissed without second thought.

You can make a great living on the engineer side of the operation and it's steady but you'll never see the highs of the top sales people even when you're at a point with stock and salary being many hundreds of thousands.

It's not a life for me but I have nothing but respect for the effort, time and relationship building great sales people put in. It's a hard, competitive ladder but if you make it work you'll hit high 6 figures and at times 7 figures for many years.


Uber, Lyft, AirBnb....500k+ for Sr & Manager roles.


Sales. If you bring in 20million in accounts. A 1 million paycheck is just a write off.


Could be a sales gig, commission can push total comp quite high, particularly in enterprise sales gigs.


Take home pay in NYC on a $500k salary is ~285k/year or $23.75k/month. If you are supporting a family, then rent + living expenses + tuition + retirement + college savings etc will eat most of that easily.


The way I read this part is that his wife laughed at how ridiculous the idea of taking a 50% pay cut was. I think that she was the one who couldn't imagine living with 600k instead of a million.


Let me guess: he lives in San Francisco?

Ok, looks like it was actually New York, but under the same principle: golden handcuffs.


In my experience, for men it's usually some combination of women, children, addictive substances and "stunting" that finds guys in that situation.


Making $1.2 Mil and probably spending already even the future raises that may not come. Your lifestyle adjusts to your salary.


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