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I’m not saving ninety percent of my income for myself (thecut.com)
178 points by mooreds 38 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 219 comments

I'm honestly so jealous of the husband's situation. 7-figure networth before hitting 30, a 4-bedroom home in a major tech hub, and a compulsively frugal wife who is obsessed with financial planning and amplifying your shared incomes/networths. The dream.

This article just feels like a vector to drive traffic towards her sites, though.

I mean, I’m in a similar boat. I did the whole “make it rain” thing for a few years by dripping in designer clothes, fancy restaurants, etc. But that lifestyle made me way more anxious as impostor syndrome kicked in. Having money doesn’t really solve problems; there’s always someone with more who will make you feel poor. Buy a Gucci bag and it’ll feel like half the world is dripping bespoke Hermès. You can’t win.

I live way more frugally these days. I don’t intentionally scrimp and save, I just find it difficult to spend what I make without buying $5,000 purses that will get donated when they’re way out of fashion in 2 years.

I know, I know: first world problems. But it’s emblematic of the wealth inequality in the US: a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet while some people have to invest effort into finding ways to spend the money they make.

> Buy a Gucci bag and it’ll feel like half the world is dripping bespoke Hermès. You can’t win.

This is fascinating. I suspect 99% of people simply don't care and can't even tell a $50 purse from $5000 one, and this Gucci vs Hermes rivarvly is only relevant for a tiny minority of sad snobs. Like the other poster said, good for you for ditching this.

Right; the whole mindset is about trying to impress the people you deem “above” you and climb some bullshit social ladder that means about as much as Instagram likes. But you know in the back of your mind, they’re just as lonely and looking for validation as I was.

It’s kind of ironic: these days, within my private world, my job and the money I make cause people to distrust me at first. Most of my friends make less than a quarter of what I make, so I have to be careful about new purchases (e.g. a friend of mine had been saving for a $2500 guitar which I could easily have bought on a whim — but I got a way cheaper one so as to not make her feel like shit because she is far more dedicated to her music than I am). At the same time I can’t buy my friends things like that because it distances me and makes them feel they owe me. I don’t see it like that — I feel the amount of money I make is arbitrarily unfair because I blindly made a career decision 20 years ago that worked out from me. But they do, so I have to be sensitive.

I still wear the flashy clothes, purses and shoes in a work context because they make me feel like a confident bad bitch and I’m client-facing. But I do it for me rather than the external validation (ok, and maybe a bit of imposter syndrome).

Also it’s entirely the same with the men so this isn’t a sexist thing — it’s just bespoke suits, shoes and watches for the guys. And a class ring on your finger if it’s from an Ivy. And this is true regardless of the kind of “business” — go to the music world and it’s all streetwear with $500 Supreme t-shirts and $2500 limited-edition sneakers; and the tech world has hoodies, bicycles, cars and the latest bleeding-edge tech. It’s all peacocking.

Reminds me of a story I read once about a woman who had finally gotten the purse she wanted.

She was walking down the sidewalk an a woman coming the other way had an even more expensive purse which she turned toward her.

The expensive purse woman took a subtlety diagonal path to gradually force her to the side until she had to step behind a light post to avoid a collision.

Quite the power move hahaha.

You would be surprised how many people care deeply about this. And they can tell a lot about the purses and their owners. Those that care put in a lot of time to research them - like some people do cars.

Or shoes, or watches, or hats, or trousers, or shirts, or suits or anyone one of thousands of expensive items and brands.

They make their money by telling people that owning them sends a signal to others.

Good on you on graduating from that mindset.

Ha I read this comment, then the article, and I got my first ad for Hermes!

It feels like a recipe for marital disaster that she's living this extremely frugal lifestyle despite him making good money and he "goes along with it" (her words)

Wow, I can't count the number of men I've met that would want a wife that is extremely frugal. Also you're reading into the "goes along with it" a little bit too much - Literally inventing a whole relationship drama from 4 words is a bit insane.

I dunno, I’ve never seen a positive example of “compulsive frugality”. Obviously it’s not good to live beyond one’s means, but everyone I’ve ever known with money who would brag about their own cheapness was an utterly miserable bastard to be around. Obsessively saving money isn’t any more of a virtue than obsessively spending it, it’s just less explicitly self-destructive. Everyone I’ve ever known with money who valued their own extreme frugality or cheapness seemed like they were just feeding some sort of anxiety, or feeding their materialism and ego in a very roundabout way.

Just look into the FIRE community. Many people are opting out of blatant consumerist attitudes because they realize compulsive frugality is a means of prioritizing what you want.

I guess that seems really materialistic and self-destructive to me as well, just from the opposite direction. Obsessing about everything that one could possibly spend money on (early retirement in this case, I believe), then spending one's entire young adulthood obsessing over how to accumulate and not spend money to get it? It's just consumerism and materialism in another form, obsessing over which things to save up for and micromanaging one's finances to get those things.

To me the biggest luxury in the world is being able to live reasonably happily within one's means and not having to worry about it. To think about one's finances as little as reasonably possible while not overspending and still getting to have fun with it sometimes, with the confidence that a reasonable amount of it is being saved for retirement someday. It doesn't require being rich, just having a sense of the value of things and the value of one's own time and life and life experiences, and getting good at quick, rough estimates of one's financial situation.

The more I have to worry about money the less happy I am, even if it's tons of money and I'm just figuring out how to best utilize it. Obsessing over money leads to a person thinking about nickel-and-dime bullshit throughout the day, every day. That's fun for some people, I get it, but they need to realize they're wasting time thinking about nickel-and-dime bullshit because it's fun to them, not because it's practical or pragmatic to do so. And that's fine if they want to do that, but they just tend to be miserable people to spend time with who are always missing the forest for the trees when living life.

I buy everything I want to buy and still save around 85% of what I earn. I don't obsess with discounts or so, I buy things when I want them. I can happily live like the poorest few percent while earning like the top few percent so it doesn't make me miserable.

In my opinion spending money is usually more work than it is worth, even without considering the time it takes to earn said money. Like, you have to go to the store, keep track of another item in your home which you basically never use, throw it away etc. Or go to a restaurant, order things, wait for 30 minutes just to eat and then wait to pay and so on. Or going on trips to exotic places, which mostly entails wasting a day sitting on a plane just to visit a country with barely functioning infrastructure.

So to me it looks like people work hard to spend their money for no reason at all and that is what keeps them miserable.

Not to mention that even with your favorite restaurant and favorite meal at said restaurant do other people find that 20% of the time the chicken is cold or undercooked or the sauce was wrong or mis-applied. Opting in to spending money generally makes one double mad because of how little comes back.

Why pay $10 for a salad when $20 can pay for a week of salads customized exactly the way you want. (and organic)

Only if you assume spending more money will make you happier though

As marginal utility goes, though, it sounds like “spending more money” in this story includes things like “having more than one room to live in.” And, admittedly this was an inference rather than baldly stated, “nice vacations.”

Money doesn’t just buy a different grade of items. It also buys a whole slew of novel experiences, of which you only get so many in your life.

Yeah, some amount of spending can make you happier.

The ROI from vacations when your younger vs much earlier retirement seems to favor early retirement.

...and then you die at 35.

Live while you're alive. You don't know when the bus is going to come around that corner a little too fast.

Humanity has been having this debate for thousands of years, e.g. the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. It's a virtue to work hard and plan for the future. Delayed gratification is a foundational building block of civilization. There's a balance that each person must strike but I'm hesitate to criticize unless someone has parked at one extreme end of the spectrum or the other. The secret may be to more carefully measure and unnderstand experiential ROI from money spent which our traditionally materialistic focused consumer culture does not make very transparent.

That’s more convincing if you ignore interest. I do take long breaks between jobs, but I also avoid debt and save a huge percentage of my income.

I emphatically disagree. If your job has high stress, then relaxing and checking out can pay huge dividends; up to and including the ability to maintain your high stress job. Additionally, for those of us who take more exploration-learning-bucket-list style vacations, the memories and knowledge offer more value the earlier in life you take them, as they contribute to lifelong education. Finally, the vacations provide networking opportunities, opening doors due to shared experiences leading to new friendships and possibly new jobs or clients.

You don’t need to travel to Hawaii to destress or make interesting memories. I simply recommend cheap vacations in your youth.

It is extreme frugality, not just frugality, when you choose to put your dining table in your bedroom.

I would honestly never live like this, regardless of my financial goals. I hope the husband is actually enjoying it...

I disagree that a studio apartment is _extreme_ frugality. Not many years ago, it was standard for people to live on much less space per person than these days.

> I would honestly never live like this, regardless of my financial goals.

Yes you would. If your financial goal was to have enough money to put food on your table, you'd care less where that table was located.

> I disagree that a studio apartment is _extreme_ frugality. Not many years ago, it was standard for people to live on much less space per person than these days.

And I also disagree; I have lived in a studio before.

But in this context -- owning a 4 bedroom house yet deciding to rent out the remaining rooms to live in one of the bedrooms -- it is indeed extreme frugality.

> Yes you would. If your financial goal was to have enough money to put food on your table, you'd care less where that table was located.

So you think that there are people out there who own a 4 bedroom house and have a 7 figure (?) household income and yet struggle to put food on the table??

Or do you just have trouble sticking to context?

> Or do you just have trouble sticking to context?

To be fair you wrote "never", not "within this context".

It's enough that the husband assumes it to cause marital disaster...

Yeah, I've made a bunch of assumptions about what the husband is like based on what can be inferred from this article.

I'll keep that to myself because I don't want to offend anyone and get downvoted, though a lot of it is drawn from what I was like when I dated someone like the author.

She only had to spend half of her post-China childhood in poverty before her mom started earning doctor money, but she still thought/behaved very much like the writer of this article. Though unlike the author, she hates her parents.

I see compulsive frugality as a boon in a capitalist society. Especially in the United States.

Hasn’t really helped Japan get out of their 30 year depression, though.

And who wouldn't love to live in their "Depression" They have 2% unemployment and some of the highest quality of living standards in the world. Sounds like they are doing something right.

If you opt out of the growth is required mindset its perfectly possible there are other economic models which work just fine to live under despite the scary sounding descriptions.

> And who wouldn't love to live in their "Depression"

The Japanese are committing suicide at higher rates than Americans[1], and a million of them have chosen to live as shut-ins rather than participate in society.[2] They're also not having children. Maybe that's your utopia but it sure isn't mine.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_in_Japan [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikikomori

There's an argument that Japanese people don't accept being medicated as much as people in US/EU, which, combined with very supportive parents, means that the depressed people just stay home as shut-ins instead of trying to function on anti-depressants, as they do over here.

"The country doesn't believe in treating a debilitating disease" is not my idea of a Utopia.

>instead of trying to function on anti-depressants

Or amphetamines, which are very illegal in Japan.

But that isn't new, their rates have been high for the ~80 years your linked chart points at.

Japan's unemployment rate hides a whole host of social and economic problems. Hikikomori have withdrawn from social life to the extent they don't consider work, but the initial cause is often work stress related. The unavailability of child care services means many women cannot consider working even if they want to. Plus, just like the US economy, part-time work is still on the rise, which means people are employed but not financially secure.

Have you been to Japan? People don’t make very much money and work very very hard (or atleast pretend to). They have very small houses and are so risk adverse that most are totally unwilling to even take a small chance to make their lives better. The culture is built on a foundation of shame and fear. Their economy is collapsing and they are too racist to let any immigrants in. Japanese people are probably the most hateful and racist individuals I’ve ever come across. I’ve even come across establishments that ban foreigners from the premises.

I lived there for half a year when my wife was teaching english after college and I wouldn’t want to go back. The dirty looks I got, the salarymen sucking their teeth at me, the houses I was denied from renting, the list goes on and on.

And I look white and put together. God help you if you’re black or an ‘inferior’ darker asian.

> And who wouldn't love to live in their "Depression" They have 2% unemployment and some of the highest quality of living standards in the world. Sounds like they are doing something right.

This guy.

I left Japan because I felt that the fabric of Japanese society was unraveling. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but at a minimum, the “social contract” was changing dramatically, and it was debatable whether the change was good or not. My opinion was that it was not.

Note, however, that I was not in Tokyo. Tokyo and the rest of Japan are basically different worlds. I may have a different opinion if I lived and worked there.

Things that made me sad:

- People with good, stable jobs were hyperconservative with their money, as though a crash had just happened or was imminent. This has killed the velocity of money in the country, and it’s terrible for the economy. Simple example, a group I used to be a member of used to have four big enkai (basically a party) at roughly between $100 and $250 a head (sometimes with hotel/onsen stayovers) as well as second, third, and fourth stops at additional bars. For folks with lesser means, the folks with greater means would pick up their share of the extra bars. Now that same group meets once a year at about $50-$60 a head and there is a 1-2 drink second bar. Incomes of the participants is the same or better than before. Note that I am not advocating one over the other, just that it’s indicative of the drastic slowing of the velocity of money in the economy.

- Once-proud towns are becoming villages (legal distinctions) and are having to merge into other towns. This has squashed a lot of the furusato identity, imo.

- Houses in provincial areas, some of them extremely nice, are either abandoned or only used during obon and maybe new year celebrations.

- Top students from top 20 universities are not guaranteed really good jobs any more. Decent ones, sure, but great ones? No. They are feeding much lower down on the food chain now.

- Ways for non-salarymen to have a good social/financial living have decreased dramatically. Far fewer OLs (love or hate the idea of them, they were a great way for men and women of a similar social status to meet/date/get married). For folks with no college, opening a little bar or snack is nothing like it used to be. It’s still possible, but the number of enterprising folks who can open a small bar and reasonably expect to make salaryman level of income or better (it the past, it was often much better) is far smaller than it used to be.

- Degree credentialing has become a thing. I think this was sort of brought over from the US, but the implementation has been terrible. For reference, in my department (I was a professor), the worst students and future professors were the only folks who applied to grad school. The worst students did so because they couldn’t get a job, and a masters degree would help them the next time around. The department took them for the money.

- My close friend and real estate agent and real estate manager actively discouraged me from buying a house. She said it was a bad investment unless you had access to privileged deal flow (like she did) or were going to die on that land (probably not that house).

I could go on. Needless to say, I did not think that my future in non-Tokyo Japan was going to be like living in some sort of utopia. Far from it.

I now live in California. It has its problems, too, but i much prefer it to where I was in Japan. Maybe Tokyo is different, but I wasn’t willing to make that bet over California.

Note that I love Japan, and there are certain aspects I miss about living there, but “great feelings about the current and future social fabric” is not one of them.

Do you mind me asking what part of California you're in? Did you end up buying a home here?

Central Coast, and no not yet.

I thought about buying one in 2011-12, but there was a good chance I was going to leave the area, so I did not buy.

On a personal level, I’m not so concerned about buying a house in general. If I ever buy one, it will be as an investment at a rock bottom price.

Additionally, where I live, you can rent a place for much less than you can buy it. The only recent time that this was not true was after the crash, and that was only for a brief period of time (4 years tops).

I think that more comes from their society aging than being credit card debt levels of spending.

It might be a dream if the feeling of security, of having assets, money in the bank, is the thing that's missing in your life. That'll be the case to the degree that you were insecure and poor as a child, I'd expect.

I grew up poor, but not as poor as the lady in the article. And it was in Ireland, so there was a social security net, my college degree was paid for, etc. So I feel comfy enough once I have a year's take-home income in the bank. Past that point I feel good spending money on things my partner and I enjoy, things we may not have time for if we have kids or might not be able to do at all when we get old. Working hard is only good if the work in itself is rewarding, or the money buys you things that are rewarding. Money in itself doesn't really have that allure. A six or seven figure bank account wouldn't excite me - I've spent the best part of a million pounds since I started my career, and certainly don't regret not saving it.

Proponents of financial independence would say that high savings rates eventually buy you control over your own time which is one of the most rewarding things in the world.

It depends on specific circumstances though doesn’t it?

The view of these proponents is usually that if you can max out savings for 10 years or so by living extremely frugally, the next 40 or 50 years of your life can be lived without having to seek employment, which seems reasonable if that’s what you care for.

OTOH many people find their careers soar with time, as they build experience, empathy and learn their way around how the corporate world works. The financial rewards get larger, but more interesting is the opportunity to solve tough technical problems (well, for me, as an engineer).

I also find it a little wasteful to not enjoy ones youth, which is not a time that will come back, and is likely the only time where you can experience life somewhat unattached and figure out what kind of partner would work best, what kind of personality works best, which city is a good one to lay roots etc.

>Working hard is only good if the work in itself is rewarding, or the money buys you things that are rewarding.

This is a pretty restricted view of turn power of money. Charity and/or helping one's family is rewarding. Also rewarding, as the other commenter pointed out, is the freedom to not chopse between non-rewarding work and poverty.

Charity is something money buys.

The freedom to choose doesn't require enough income for a frugal lifetime without work. It just requires enough income to find a more rewarding job. The marginal benefit declines, the longer you look the more likely you are to find what you're searching for. That's why I only keep a year's worth of takehome on easy access (apart from my pension, house equity, etc.)

A life without a job is a life without purpose. People who retire early die early. Even outside a conventional job, money is proof that you create value; if there's no money in whatever activity you choose, it's probably a consumption good.

I pretty much disagree with every point here, but we don't need to get into it. You do you.

Full-time blogger wife of a wealthy tech worker is like the millennial version of the full-time philanthropy/NGO wife of bankers/lawyers/execs in times past.

Once he placed the ring on her finger he accepted her terms .. as an American who hasn’t grown up with Asian cultural norms I would never marry someone with an obligation to take care of their parents also in America.

Then it might surprise you that 30 states in the USA have laws requiring you to be financially responsible for your parents' care if they cannot cover it themselves.

That’s insane, as there is no limit to the amount of money that can be spent on elderly care, and whole industries with the sole purpose of bilking the life savings of the elderly.

Do you have a link to the list of states?

Thanks. Damn, glad I don’t live in one:

“In 2012, the media reported the case of John Pittas, whose mother had received care in a skilled nursing facility in Pennsylvania after an accident and then moved to Greece. The nursing home sued her son directly, before even trying to collect from Medicaid. A court in Pennsylvania ruled that the son must pay, according to the Pennsylvania filial responsibility law.”

That's odd to me, and I'm not sure how common it is. I would never have expected to have to take in my parents growing up, but now that I'm reaching middle age it definitely seems like not only something that may happen, but also a far better situation than the alternatives. If not me, perhaps a sibling could do it.

Also, my spouse's parents wouldn't necessarily require care, but honestly I'd really prefer if they came to live with us too.

I may be an outlier, but I see the nuclear suburban family lifestyle as a recipe for misery and loneliness. I look forward both to multigenerational living and to more dense walkable neighborhoods.

I have a normal American background. I grew up in a house with my parents and elderly grandparents.

I married a woman with full knowledge we would have to support her mother who had cognitive issues due to a stroke.

I’m not sure where this idea came from that it is somehow an Eastern ideal to take care of your parents. It is common across many parts of Europe and the US.

Social Security is nice, but that’s just money. It doesn’t address the emotional and cultural aspects of keeping the elderly part of society.

What kind of American? Multigenerational living is still routine among African Americans and Hispanic Americans, and pretty common among rural white Americans. The median distance an American lives from their mom is just 18 miles.

Upper middle class American. People who focus on accumulating and spending wealth on themselves tend to draw their circle quite narrowly.

Fascinating piece of data. I found a source here which breaks down the "distance from mom" statistic further by region: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/24/upshot/24up-f...

I would LOVE to save 90% of my income, but I live in the bay area and 30% of my income goes to rent, 6-10% goes to food, 8-10% goes to transportation, 5-7% on utilities, none of which I'm splurging on, so these aren't exactly negotiable.

I also budget about 10% toward educational purchases (equipment and services, mostly tech) for personal projects and learning, which I think will financially benefit me long term even if it means I save less now.

OP's $1.7M in investments? If I had that, yeah, I'd surely be saving 90% of it, too. Maybe 95%.

As Paula Pant of Afford Anything [1] would say, you can afford anything, but not everything. The author here is house-hacking [2], which certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it is one way to get around high housing costs.

I've listened to enough financial independence podcasts to know that it's absolutely possible to hit a 90% savings rate. There are guests on the show who have done it on much less income than my family, and we'll be lucky if we hit 40%. It just depends on what assumptions of necessity you're willing to give up to do it.

[1] https://affordanything.com/

[2] https://www.coachcarson.com/house-hacking-guide/

Sure, pretending that your rent/mortgage payment isn't an expense, and calling it "house hacking", makes it easier to claim a 90% savings rate.

I see your point, but I also don't think it's crazy to calculate effective savings as net wealth contribution over net wage income, which seems to be how she's thinking about it.

Actually, to me, savings percentage isn't important as a bottom line number. It's just a helpful intermediate number for understanding cash flow. I'm much more interested in net wealth contribution and how that dials up to future plans involving large sums of money (e.g. moving or expanding house, education, letting go of wage income, major philanthropy, estate plans, risk management).

Do you have your dinner table in your bedroom as the author does?

I only have one room, and I don't own a bed. I sleep on the floor on a roll-up Japanese futon and the same space becomes my daytime space.

I think about this a lot, as another frugal but high-earning household that earns way more than we spend, even after maxing out 401(k) contributions. Most people in our position save more than they need partly as a means of hedging personal risk (higher-than-typical retirement and medical expenses, children who grow up unable to financially self-suffice), and partly (IMHO) just because they gain some satisfaction from seeing numbers climb and because hoarding wealth is not seen as having any downside. However, at least the first of these reasons could be much more efficiently managed by having social (rather than individual) safety nets, for the same reason that insurance works. Some people also save with the thought of giving away a ton of money at death, but this again holds money out of useful purposes until decades away. With these thoughts in mind, and with the example of religious folks with much less disposable income than us who tithe, we annually give away whatever money we don't have use for after sensible but not excessively conservative allocations for immediate and future needs. To be clear, I'm not certain this is the right thing to do; ask me how I feel about it in a few decades!

> Some people also save with the thought of giving away a ton of money at death, but this again holds money out of useful purposes until decades away.

What makes you believe that? The overwhelming majority of savings are held in bonds, stocks and real estate, not in paper notes in a vault. You might quible over the usefulness of savings and investments vs other allocations, but assuming is useless is pretty extreme.

Thanks for writing this. Saving is not storing money. It is delaying your right to “use” it, thus allowing others to “use” it now (which is why you expect a return interest).

That is why banks are not evil. On the contrary: they are the basis of a healthy economy.

Nothing is black/white. Banks which operate like your grade school basic economics classes are providing a healthy/necessary service for the economy.

OTOH, it might be debated that banks which take your money leverage it out and get huge returns while giving you a fraction of a percent, banks that charge 2-4% transaction fees for basic transfers for merchants, or fee harvesting people for more than their net worth are more economic parasites than useful service providers.

Much of modern banking in countries like the US are basically shifting wealth from the economic value creators to a few vampires growing their own personal fortunes which dwarf that of the other 99.999% of the population. The idea that they might return some of that to their customers though interest bearing checking accounts, removing low balance fees or any of their other abusive practices never comes up.

Well, I was referring to the institution, not to specific instances of it. I should have said "banking", probably. You have a point (that corruption is almost ubiquitous nowadays in the large banking corporations) but my argument was intended as an abstract.

And precisely because banking is so essential to economy, its corruption is one of the worst events in an economy.

Many economically productive things are immoral (cigarettes, child labour) and many are amoral or zero sum (somebody choosing one food brand over another is of no value to society). Anyway, the usefulness to humanity of an investment must be orders of magnitude less than a donation.


In all honesty, putting money in real estate or stocks is just speculation which is fairly meaningless - the only benefit that brings is that it drives market forces to evaluate a certain good at a given price, and even still I don't believe it's all too useful today. Further still, putting money into real estate with a hope of ROI is, in my opinion as a home-owner-to-be, actively detrimental to society. Having seen the market prices in my current city rise more than 2x in less than 10 years without the wages seeing anything remotely close to the same adjustment. Just because somebody can make a profit doesn't mean that any intrinsic value has been made.

I'm measuring with respect to the default. When I say "useful" I mean "more useful than the default". Investing in stocks and bonds is the default (very few rich people save cash notes in a coffee can, so that's not worth talking about). Market investments don't help with the climate crisis (in fact their effect on climate are generally negative), human rights, etc, whereas our investments in 350.org and the ACLU do. Additionally, these orgs also have the ability to utilize the market as a means of growing money, although if they focus on this excessively that can be a distraction from their core mission. But we're getting into higher-order discussions here...

And even money in "sitting" in deposit accounts is, in reality, loaned out to be put to productive purposes.

My parents tithe 10% before tax each year. When I became an atheist I decided it wasn't going to make me less generous, so I "tithe" 10% of my pre-tax income to an assortment of charities and put the rest of my excess in savings. Of course the right amount varies greatly by an individual's circumstances, but 10% seems like a good rule of thumb unless you're super-rich.

As the other commenter said, unless you are hiding your money under your matgress your money is being used by society in some manner.

Hiding your money under the mattress increases the value of money being spent because it reduces the amount of money in circulation in the near term.

In a system where money is debt, money under the mattress means someone else is in debt. That is someone that has to be more risk averse. Normally this is balanced by someone who can take more risk because they have more money. If hoarding money under your mattress becomes a movement then it may be that it tilts society to unhealthily risk averse and no one is in a position to try ambitious investments.

I haven't fully thought this through so please poke holes in the argument if you can :)

Money is not debt its paper or equivalent whose only purpose is exchanging for things. The government can and does print as much as it likes without creating any obligation on anyone else. They could print a billion dollars to put under your couch without any affect on the economy at all until you spend it.

Just to be clear, this is a story of a person who has been traumatised by a combination of the worse parts of US and Chinese poverty. It's not a nice story, at all...

Also, the two websites she runs, as linked at the bottom of the page - one of them is a blog/content site about living frugally, one is about making money any way you can. They're part of the same problem that the article (probably inadvertently?) illustrates.

Yes, this is being overlooked by most readers... this article is a woman plainly describing her mental illness.

Hard to describe that as mental illness, I might go the other way and say people so consumed by their social status that they throw away their perfectly functional year old iphone/cloths/cars/etc to buy the latest version are suffering far more harmful mental illness. And that might just be the surface, people who throw their lives away going into massive debt to buy the largest house and nicest car they can afford are clearly harming themselves.

Its an ugly cycle, people who check out of it are definitely not mentally ill IMHO. Average US consumerism is an addiction.

> My husband and I never really discussed the fact that I’d be supporting my parents. It was just a given

> He doesn’t mind the way I want to live — he just goes along with it.

> I once had a conversation with my husband about how if I died, he’d have to keep taking care of my parents. It’s a dark topic, I know, and he wasn’t thrilled about the idea. But he wouldn’t kick them out.

> My dad is now retired, and when my mom retires she’ll move in with us too. The plan is to give them this house eventually, and get our own nearby.

She says her parents aren't pleasant people. Imagine how her husband feels about dedicating all his future earnings towards their happiness. She thinks this is normal.

Its getting a bit off topic, but in the US at least its still fairly common for children to take care of their parents in their last years. Particularly if ones parents aren't well off enough to afford some kind of senior living arrangement. Despite what you might think of medicare "Medicare doesn't cover custodial care, if it's the only care you need. Most nursing home care is Custodial care" https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/nursing-home-care

Getting married basically means that if you haven't already discussed this there is a strong possibility that might end up living with your spouses parents during their last few years simply because its more convenient driving them to the doctor and generally taking care of them as they go downhill. About the only way you get out of this is if some other sibling is better off or has more free time, lives closer or any number of other situations.

How is this mental illness? Unless she’s actually harming herself by living frugally and taking care of her parents I don’t see this as illness.

Is that really the worst part of US poverty? I didn't see anything about drug addiction, abuse, prostitution, or prison.

Chinese poverty, I suspect, gets far worse than that.

Just seems like straightforward frugality, and she probably did far better than her ancestors going back a thousand years (or ever). Chinese premodern poverty was always worse than European.

I’m 100% the opposite way. My wife is very frugal, but I save nothing. What’s the point of pinching every single penny? That’s not life; it’s survival. Even more ironic is the fact that this is multiple decades of mere survival all aimed towards one goal: ensuring survival in those decades when work is no longer possible. Perhaps I’m obtuse, but this isn’t a life worth living. I want to enjoy my healthy years in the here and now. I like my disposable income, I like living in a nice neighborhood, I like taking vacations, I like eating out. I’m keenly aware that I’ll be left penniless once I can no longer work, but I have a plan for that. Until then, I have a couple of good decades left, so I’ll enjoy this time together with my family. I’ll cross that other bridge when I get there.

On the contrary, living paycheck to paycheck is survival. Being able to just say "fuck it" and walk from a job that's bothering you, or investing in a business idea you get, or starting a family dynasty, these are taking advantage of and enjoying life to the fullest.

I live frugally, and I feel like my accumulating wealth is a laser cannon strapped to my back, ready to deploy as I see fit. The freedom is exhilarating.

I'm... not nearly as extreme as the author, but pretty frugal. Not "rent out most of the house" frugal, but "make and stick to shopping lists", "spend a couple of days mulling over a purchase of 0.05% of my income" frugal. My spouse is like you.

Just a word of advice that you may already do. Please have very good communication with your wife about financial matters. This situation is very stressful for the frugal person, and it has caused all of our biggest arguments. The only thing we've found to help is very clear communication.

One of the problems with this strategy is that it ends up becoming a burden to your family and others (who sacrificed to save for a rainy day). And it may happen sooner than you think.

> I’m keenly aware that I’ll be left penniless once I can no longer work, but I have a plan for that.

What's the plan?

What's the plan?

The post sounded to me like the Smith and Wesson retirement plan.

> What's the plan?

I have a morbid, but sneaking suspicion that that it's the latter half of "live fast, die young." Maybe I'm just projecting, though ;)

I too really want to know. I'm guessing living off the state? I know that's the case for most people I know, but pensions are all managed by the state where I live so you don't really a choice. You get a baseline poverty level income even if you never paid taxes.

> What's the plan?

His frugal wife's savings maybe...? I hope not.

I lived more or less that way until age 30. But then as my income rose dramatically, my lifestyle gradually grew in cost as well. But I don't think that cost is truly buying me more fun. I had a ton of fun in my younger years on a lot less income.

And as I've put in the effort to be more mindful of my spending, it's felt more liberating than anything else. All this to say, you might also find it can actually feel better to do other things with money than spending it.

This (the writer’s view) is what anxiety makes you think. And as an expert in anxiety (by experience, not study) I can tell you: no, that is not a life worth living. You are a slave of your future.

The author is frugal as a hobby and for her blog. She has close to $2 million net worth and her husband most likely earns $300k+. Extreme frugality is impractical from a time/$ perspective but that doesn't concern her because she doesn't need to worry about money or about developing a career.

>I’m keenly aware that I’ll be left penniless once I can no longer work, but I have a plan for that.

What's your plan?

what happens if there’s a severe downturn in the economy?

The article misses out on the math though. She saves 90% percent of her income? So does she earn 80k after taxes? She would need to earn about 130k+ after taxes to save 90% of her income, given that she is the one who pays all the expenses, which at 1000$ per 3 people is hard to imagine. Even in a small German town, where things are dirt-cheap compared to Seattle, 1000$ for 3 persons is almost impossible.

I don't like these headlines. Why does everything have to be clickbait these days?

On that $1,000, it seems she is excluding their mortgage because they rent out rooms. This seems like disingenuous accounting. If you lived and ate at your own bed and breakfast (which they essentially do) you could claim a 100% savings rate if you spent money on nothing but food and housing.

I wouldn’t normally think calling this out is so important, but she’s using struggle porn as advertising for her businesses linked at the bottom of the article. She’s lying for profit.

It's not that hard.

She rents the house she lives in for more than the cost of her mortgage. She makes income from that there. They don't own a car. Her husband gets a free bus pass from work. No housing or transportation expenses. So what's left? Food?

Her husband works in tech (first Amazon, and now Google!) and saves 100% of his income. And they live off hers. They have like $1.7 million saved from his Amazon stock which should be a nice investment income too.

Their expenses are around $1000 per month.

Not that hard to imagine the math.

But it's incredible amounts of luck combined with having a partner who works for a series of big well paying public companies.

Being able to buy a house and rent it out for more than you pay is /hard/ because it's based on luck. No one in a major tech hub could start and do that right now. Houses in the bay regularly sell for $10k/month in total cost but rent for $5-6k. And then immediately say goodbye to 40%+ of your rental income to taxes. It's just not hard - it's luck.

I think they’re saying doing the math isn’t hard. Actually doing the saving and earning is a different matter.

Her and her husband lives, cooks, eats and sleeps in a single room of their house.

They rent out the rest of the house including the living areas and kitchen.

That's some massive sacrifice. That's not luck. That's the willingness to give up massive amounts of comfort in exchange for money.

Not many are willing to do that.

A very important note: he joined the big tech at the beginning of the stocks growth. You can't do this today.

The math is a lie because she isn't counting her living place's share of mortgage as part of that "10%"

It is clickbait, but I can see how most expenses (including mortgage) could be covered through Airbnb in a city like Seattle.

I would also think that "90% of my income" is really "90% of our income", since they're married.

Not sure what to make of this.

Marrying a rich man was the deus ex machina.

I thought the talk about breaking the "cycle of poverty" was pointing towards a heroic use of frugality to overcome, but no, solution was marriage.

And then the extremely/uncomfortable frugality, as opposed to healthy frugality, after becoming rich points to pathology more than anything else.

This. Her brand is called "Merry for Money" (intentional pun?).

I'm disappointed and feel slightly bait and switched. Her husband's income enables her take on ephemeral gigs and run a blog full-time instead of working at a regular 9-5 job. Also, her extreme frugality is just a fun thought experiment, blog topic and hobby for her. It is impractical and an ineffective use of time for non-hobbyists --- if she had to work a full-time job, she would be better off spending more time developing her career and less time being extremely frugal.

Additionally, I like reading about 1st/2nd generation immigrant stories but she appears to also solve the integration and cultural challenges of her immigrant background by marrying an all-american rich white guy.

> ...solution was marriage...

What if it's an important part of the equation? Stable marriages have rather strong inverse correlations to poverty levels. Maybe finding someone rich in this case was especially fortunate, but even marrying someone of similar economic means tends to be a boon (on average at least).

And pathology... most people are "pathological" in some way. It's hard for me to tut about personal inclinations too much.

The OPs point is marriage to a rich guy. Not just marriage.

The causation here is the opposite: rich guys are more likely to get married because they are attractive partners. It's like discovering the correlation between the cleanness of a car and its price and hoping to increase its value by keeping it clean.

When I read stories like this, I always think of the systemic factors that are creating this behavior; that America, and indeed many countries in the world, do not have the social safety nets to take care of its own people when they can't work anymore. It would be better and more efficient for a nation as a whole to take care of its children so that they can choose their own avenues of success rather than needing to choose between two hard choices. Imagine where mankind could be if we had everyone being able to have the basics, and ample free time to think, to explore, to experiment, to create. I dream to see such a world, and to see the human progress that results.

> ... so that they can choose their own avenues of success ...

At present 'success' in practice is basically synonymous with 'resource consumption'. At a guess that is going to be a very sticky connection that might even be wired in at the biological level; it seems to be quite consistent across the different cultures I know of.

It is not possible to liberate people to pursue success by improving the social safety nets. People who use their free time to advance society are as rare as hens teeth; even most of the productive people use their free time to advance their own interests or their immediate families interests.

I think there is a good argument for making sure everyone has few-questions-asked access to ~9,000 kJ/day of food and some sort of safe housing to live in. We live in wealthy times. But a social safety net isn't going to set people up for success in any way that is meaningful to most people.

> I think there is a good argument for making sure everyone has few-questions-asked access to ~9,000 kJ/day of food and some sort of safe housing to live in. We live in wealthy times. But a social safety net isn't going to set people up for success in any way that is meaningful to most people.

I find that a very sad view. Many people I know can't start a business or do risky things because of food, shelter, medical insurance/premiums. I know I'd jump if I knew that if/when I failed, I wouldn't be destitute.

Right now, doing such is primarily relegated to inheritance, familial money, or miraculously winning it 'big' (Horatio Alger stories). They have the cushion. They can fall back to safety within family money. They have connections.

We don't have any of those things going for us. But then again, people also think we're just too lazy or unmeaningful. No, we just know what's being risked, and we can't make that choice with the threat of destitution.

The bottom goes pretty deep in the US.

> Many people I know can't start a business or do risky things because of food, shelter, medical insurance/premiums.

I believe that's a personal thing, some people would, but most wouldn't. Some people would get hyper productive if everything was taken care off, others would barely leave their flat.

> I know I'd jump if I knew that if/when I failed, I wouldn't be destitute.

You wouldn't be in Western Europe. Yet, very few people jump and take a chance. I don't think that the effect is that large, if it exists at all - don't forget that social safety nets come at a price: (very) high taxes, lots of regulation, entrepreneurship isn't looked at the same way, the systems are rather static.

At present 'success' in practice is basically synonymous with 'resource consumption'.

This reminded me of one of my favourite quotes from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri:

"Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill."

-- CEO Nwabudike Morgan "The Ethics of Greed"

Point to evidence that free time leads people to do these wonderful things.

In a macro sense, biological life/evolution, economics, and production of goods points to innovation and efficiency gains being made by risking one’s time/enengy/resources in hope of creating a new local efficient outcome.

Free time has nothing do with that.

Arguably, the advances we have now in modern day is because we have generally decided that everyone should be able to read, write, do arithmetic. Now we have a massive funnel (the entire generation) to do innovation. This is a much larger pool than was possible with a very narrow subset of the population capable of these things.

We also know that stress and poverty actually reduce the brain's capacity to think, and even moreso, a child who suffers from stress/hunger/general poverty has a stunted brain development due to exposure to stress in their formative years. So, naturally, we can say that not having systematic stressors like hunger, economic insecurity, health concerns, etc. would lead people to have greater capacity for wonderful things.

In a making stuff up sense, you can fit near any narrative you want to near any set of data about our history. Consider, used to be there was literally nothing to do for the majority of the day/night for folks. Yes, you could tend the garden and such, but that was done before sun was fully overhead or you would suffer exposure symptoms. You could watch the herds, but that was mostly passive, for mostly the same reasons.

With that narrative, many scientists in history were not people that didn't have to do some of these boring things. They were people that filled their free time with experimentation and other observations.

Of course, that is just one narrative to fit to the data. I'm sure there are others. But it is not just incumbent on one side to give evidence. Can you point to evidence that free time is not beneficial? Observationally, as a parent, forcing my kids to have boring free time has led to them doing/learning as much as forcing them to productive learning time. (Indeed, I've grown sympathetic to the argument that productive learning time often isn't either of its claims. )

The inventor in a shed is a well trodden meme. Pre 20th century most science seems to have been done by rich amateurs. The most interesting blogs I've come across are just interested amateurs trying things out.

I'm not sure there's a linear relationship between free time and scientific progress, but people need free time to scratch their itches, and sometimes this itches progress our understanding of the world.

The entire open source software ecosystem?


I like our world isn't wonderful as is.

Imagine what a peasant from 300 years ago would think seeing what their work would be value at today.

Its peanuts in our perspective, but not starving is a start, eating meat would be a luxury, being able to see a doctor.

Hating ourselves is trending right now, sad.

I would certainly hope that 300 years of techonological progress would offer the basics to a "peasant".

I believe the peasant's king would be just as astonished.

Do you think our world isn't incredible, and by far the best a human could ever hope for so far?

> by far the best a human could ever hope for so far?

Wow. I am without words.

All I can say is, some people have bigger imaginations than others and being a slave to capital is not always paradise.

The bit about the king completely misses the point. Again, I would hope that in 300 years, technological progress UNDER ANY SYSYTEM would afford "miracles" in the eyes of kings or peasants. jfc.

I like the idea of those things. However, this is HN, and full of people that would try to be productive/creative for society if they had a safety net that allowed them to pursue awesome endeavors. Many people work to earn money, not to free up time so pursue their passions and hobbies. There are a significant amount of Americans that would enjoy the safety net by watching Netflix, eating, gambling, etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with those things if you enjoy them, however, a benefit of the current model is that people who aren’t creative/ambitious/driven end up spending 40ish hours a week working on things that are useful for other people or businesses.

I’m not sure I see a case where the economic machine speeds up by giving people limitless free time.

I like the idea of a safety net for healthcare btw, bc even privately we pay too much, and the current system sucks to use, pay for, experience, etc. A world where the basics are given sounds nice, but there are a seriously concerning amount of people that are wildly lazy (I wish there was a dataset to measure this I was aware of, but I’m going off of the towns I grew up in and people I knew.)

I’ve been unemployed for a significant time period. The pressure to work is huge. I’d bet with a safety net, most people would still be working a similar amount of time.

Possibly, but there are a lot of people unlike yourself that don’t feel a major pressure to work, some might continue but there would be more currently employed people that would choose not to work as much, than currently unemployed people that would choose to start work under a big net IMHO.

Just with the arithmetic of 5ish% of unemployment. People who start working under a net can only be 5% of population. People who stop working or work much less could be up to 95% of population. Much bigger percentage has possibility to work less under that system.

Sure. Other comments in this thread are throwing out numbers like 99% of people would chill at home with tv on all day just because of a safety net. I wasn’t sure what sort of degree you were going with things.

Of course more people would take advantage of the system, but Americans overall as a society don’t like excessive laziness and put pride in some amount of work being done. Not working and being poor is frowned upon generally. To keep things loose, this is true for at least greater than 50% of the country.

> Imagine where mankind could be if we had everyone being able to have the basics, and ample free time to think, to explore, to experiment, to create.

Western Europe has vast social safety nets going way beyond "the basics". Yet you don't see an explosion of innovation, culture, art, philosophy or what have you. They may not be related, or a full belly isn't hungry and doesn't look for ways to fill itself.

You do though, you’re just not aware of it. When you look at the cultural life of French cities for example, it’s 1000x richer than the cultural life of an American city the same size. And one could easily argue they don’t cover « the basics ».

It's partially because, in Europe, the states are funding arts in a myriad of ways (grants for writers, video game designers, major money for covering costs of making films, tons of museums etc.), while in the US, even the major philharmonics are only funded by private sponsors. In EU, if you're very good at networking, art can be relatively easy money.

That may well be, but that's just one aspect France has generally always been known for (whether it's accurate, I don't know). New musical styles, for example, mostly came from the US in recent decades. Whether Broadway can be compared to Paris' musicals, I don't know. I just don't see the explosion that you'd expect. Europe should have Star Trek technology if that was the case ;)

And sure, you could argue that they don't cover the basics, but you'd have to expand the understanding of basics, tbh. Germany gives you shelter, food, health insurance, money to spend on culture, public transportation, free education including university, a TV etc pp. That's beyond basics in my book. Sure, a car isn't included, but you don't need one either.

« Has generally been known for », is your cultural biases showing.

Spend a year in France (or Germany for that matter), you’ll realize that the social safety net isn’t as good as it is, but also that a lot of things you wouldn’t notice. France has a shit-ton of food innovations you’ve never heard of, great universities, the world record on rail speed, vibrant local theater life in almost every town. You just can’t know about those things if you’re not there, just like people outside the US have no idea what life is like in the US.

France is ahead in fashion and few other art forms. America is ahead in popular art because LA is the silicon valley of culture and has the population of Europe.

After a certain point it's a language and population thing, and France has a language barrier compared to english.

I've never really understood fashion, so I can't comment on that (Whoever makes the models wear the most ridiculous outfit wins?). However, why isn't France going to Mars? Where is France (or Germany, or Sweden etc for that matter) creating the Internet, or GPS, or Hip-Hop, or Jazz, or doing cutting edge medical research? It's not that they don't do that at all - it just, that, if the safety net was such a strong driving force, we'd be light years ahead of the US. And we're really not.

Regarding culture superiority, I feel like it's just that the big and wealthy countries manage to spread their culture the most, and that's what catches on in the world. If jazz and hip-hop were invented in the Czech Republic instead of the US, there would be much larger chance of it staying just a local phenomenon, and the world would be taken over by some other cultural trend instead.

Possibly, but I'm not convinced. France and Germany spend lots of money to subsidize their artists, the French have gone so far to order radio stations to play a quota of French music - yet despite their wealth and their size (on the European level at least), they don't dominate culturally.

That's not to say that it couldn't be random that a lot of the recent advancements happened in the US, I just don't find it likely.

The problem with subsidised art (or subsidised anything really) is that the money in large part goes to the people who are well connected and great at weaseling their way into funding. So, there's a constant stream of always-mediocre French, German etc. (state-funded) movies in local artsy cinemas in Poland, which no one wants to watch, because they're mediocre.

In other words, the film makers are not subject to the market forces, they don't need to make something that the audience actually wants. The official stats of the PISF (polish state institute which funds movies) say that only 4 out of hundreds funded movies have recouped the state investment via tickets and other sales. The rests are flops, which is not a problem for anyone involved. That's how you get bad art.

Yeah, I've been having similar feelings. The state acts like a monopoly on culture and so the focus isn't on the audience but on the grant administrators. At least we're creating a proxy indicator for studying the tastes and likes of the officials that decide what gets subsidized ;)

I think you should vary your news sources, or pay more attention to the names. A large amount of cutting-edge research comes from EU universities and companies, especially Germany, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, UK. Related business ventures will always pop up in the US first though, due to the vast investment capital.

> A large amount of cutting-edge research comes from EU universities and companies

I'm not attacking European universities and companies, I'm not arguing that there isn't any great research, I'm saying it's not a multiple of the US, which it really should be if "have a strong social safety net and the possibilities are endless" was true.

While I hear your point that the explosion of cultural proceedings is below the utopia mentioned here, it may be worth noting that the WWW was invented by a guy born in London working partly for the French government. That was Tim Berners-Lee ;)

Yeah, I'm not arguing that nothing happens in Europe, just that it's not overwhelming - which it would have to be if the social safety nets were a deciding factor.

I don't that social safety nets play a large role - for most academics, researchers, engineers, artists, there's a de facto social safety net (via tenure, high income, patents, equity, stock options, grants, strong job security etc), so a general safety net doesn't improve their situation and output. And having a general safety net also doesn't by itself increase the amount of people of exceptional skill and/or ability.

I'm not against safety nets (though I do believe that we've gone too far and have created strong negative incentives), but I do believe that "our society will be like Star Trek" doesn't hold water. We have them, and our societies aren't like Star Trek.

Many systems would be "better and more efficient for a nation as a whole" if everyone was 100% selfless and treated the welfare of others as exactly as important as their own welfare.

Sadly, the way the universe works, any such system is open to free riders who take more than their share.

Tragedy of the commons.

The only solutions we've found so far are:

1. Assign people control of what they create, so they can benefit from their own efforts, and are thus incentivized to make those efforts. Side effect: People who didn't/can't create much have a really hard time (this is what you're concerned about).

2. Assign control of what people create to a central authority that redistributes it evenly, and also have that central authority kill anyone who tries to change or exploit the system. This hasn't tended to work out well.

1. You don't need to get "more health". You get treated and you feel better again.

2. All people should have the right of food. I don't care how much you make, who you are, or whatever. You live, and that's your right. We should be working on automated farms so we can grow this locally.

3. Same, for water.

4. If you don't have a place to sleep, we provide you one. May not be big, but a place to sleep and call home is essential in solving homelessness. And it provides a way out of the poverty trap.

5. Communication should be inexpensive. I would prefer free for lower bandwidth. Its an essential for jobs and so much more. An internet connection is one of the biggest ways into self sufficiency.

I admit this sounds utopian, but the problem I have with such set-ups is they remind me of perpetual-motion machines.

Even this humble level of safety net that you propose is incredibly expensive. Who does the hard work of building the small apartments? Who comes out and works on the plumbing when it clogs? And who picks up the trash every week and takes it to the dump? Who runs the water plant, the electrical plant, and who runs the fiber out for even the free, slow tier of internet? Who makes the base model of phone or laptop that everyone would be entitled to? Who tends the robots at the automated farm? Who polices the buildings and neighborhoods full of all these otherwise-indisposed inhabitants? Who provides medical care?

Answer: The Government. The Government offers decent pay for all these dirty jobs, to keep these resources available even to those who pay nothing. Where does the Government get the money to pay all these people? Answer: Taxes. Taxes on whom? It can't be taxes on the general populace, because they don't have any money, which is why you propose these things be free. So it must be taxes on the upper tiers, people who are working more than the baseline. They could settle for the free stuff, but they choose to work to earn more and get more.

But my objections are twofold.

1. It just doesn't seem fair. All these people that are rich and supposedly could share their wealth with the rest of us, like Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who are billionaires, they didn't have to do the things that made them rich. They chose to work at the things that made them so. If instead they chose not to do those things, then they wouldn't be billionaires, and that would be two fewer people you could tax the dickens out of.

2. It just doesn't seem like it will all add up in the end, at least not forever. Even though there are lots of rich people, I don't think there are enough rich people to keep society going forever off their taxes. First of all you would have to tax them so hard that it would be demoralizing to them. And it would be demoralizing to others who also would consider doing something to become rich.

A dream I have that might work is that every able-bodied person is required to work, but the standard work week is halved. If I only had to work 20 hours a week at my day job, I would be ecstatic, and I think I would have enough time for my hobbies, art, open-source contributions, and other things that people are talking about benefit the rest of society, if only people were given a breath to work on them.

I still think 40 hours a week is pretty hard, especially when you consider that people who work only 40 hours a week don't work only 40 hours a week. Add in commutes, runs to the grocery store, chores, home repairs, and other the other work you must do, unpaid, it adds up easily to 50% more. And I have not even mentioned parenting.

If people could live comfortably working 10-20 hours at an official job (not counting the other work I mentioned), that would be paradise. I don't think I would even want to work 0 hours a week. I would start to go stir-crazy.

> America, and indeed many countries in the world, do not have the social safety nets to take care of its own people when they can't work anymore.

I don't see any good alternatives to having children take care of their parents. Abuse is common at even the most expensive nursing homes. You can't always blame the caretakers either because being constantly surrounded by grumpy, dying people has a huge psychological toll.

> You can't always blame the caretakers either

What? There is absolutely no excuse for elder abuse. Are you kidding with this?

While I agree with you, it’s an extremely hard job for the reasons he stated. Low pay, dealing with nasty people, doing demeaning work. It’s not exactly a career most people choose.

Abuse isn't necessarily physical. Most of the time it's negligence, which is more forgivable.

> Imagine where mankind could be if we had everyone being able to have the basics, and ample free time to think, to explore, to experiment, to create.

Realistically? Probably better than 99% of people would play video games and watch TV their whole lives. Not everybody is oriented to be an artist/author, an inventor, a scientist, or some other creative type.

>Realistically? Probably better than 99% of people would play video games and watch TV their whole lives. Not everybody is oriented to be an artist/author, an inventor, a scientist, or some other creative type.

More people than you'd think, not saying they'd be good at it but they'd do more than play video games all the time. Nowadays you have people streaming, making podcasts, making tf2 hats, youtube videos, cosplay, fan-fiction, dancing, playing non-professional sports, graffiti, etc, etc.

If for every thousand people that spent all their time playing video games- or doing other enjoyable activities that don't leave a lasting legacy- one person was allowed to create an invention or make a scientific discovery or write a great novel, our civilization could easily still come out ahead. I also doubt it would be nearly so binary. I believe that most people do possess self-directed creativity and productivity, in varying ways and to varying degrees.

The percentage of people who take full advantage of being freed from working to survive isn't terribly important; it's the number.

> Not everybody is oriented to be an artist/author, an inventor, a scientist, or some other creative type.

More people probably are naturally oriented in a way compatible with that (perhaps not to be commercially successful at it, but that's expressly not an issue) before they are aggressively socialized out of it by people who want to prepare them for the economic necessities of surviving in the world we actually live in, where indulging such an orientation without the particular combination of skill and luck needed for commercial success is often a recipe for misery.

Lack of public recognition for their creative efforts would just as aggressively socialize the less talented people out of trying to create for all but the most determined.

More likely the freeloaders would just spend their time doing activism to get even more hand outs from the producers.

Given time, everyone would become producers in some form or fashion. There are studies regarding boredom and people would rather electrically shock themselves than sit still. If you had no job and money coming in, sure you would binge Netflix or do some other mindless activity, but how long can you keep that up? A week? A month? A year? Sooner or later you're going to get up and do something interesting. Humans have innate natural curiosity, like when you were a child, touching and noticing everything. Through excess work, that wonder is taken away because people must work to survive, but imagine an endless summer where you're tinkering in the garage, or writing code for a new project. Imagine the possibilities that people could come up with, new inventions and new ideas that eventually will propel the human race forward.

Some people are indeed doers. I don't think the majority are though. Look at people on welfare, that's not how they behave.

I think you're confusing what you would like to happen with what is likely to happen.

Even a good safety net is not going to provide more than the bare minimum. I don’t think I would stop saving and start blowing all my money even if the government decided to guarantee I wouldn’t be homeless or hungry under any circumstances.

Inclusive vs. Exclusive systems. A good (and comprehensible/relatable) overview can be found in this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12158480-why-nations-fai...

What does it mean for a nation as a whole to "take care of" its children? Or specifically, what is it beyond public schools that we'd want to satisfy that?

Is it simply better public schools where they're doing poorly, or something else I am missing?

Rights of the Child,https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention/convention-te... is a reasonable baseline.

Yeah, this is pretty reasonable.

I'm curious, when you start getting into how to educate children in a way to have them fulfill their potential, how we measure whether or not we're succeeding. I definitely do not think we are (in the US). I also perceive a "will" to succeed, but everyone disagrees on how to make that reality, and I don't believe that this sort of list, while reasonable, does much to help in the way of solving the problem. I'm not saying it's a bad list or I disagree with it, it's just not prescriptive in terms of, "This is how you help children reach their full potential."

(And then we start getting into questions about what is full potential? If we're thinking in a short-sighted way, full potential is probably limited to their usefulness to the economic system balanced with their own relative mental health.)

I meant children as in its citizenry, metaphorically, as one could see the country as a maternal manifestation of the will of the people. Literally though, sure, we would need better public schools that are more equalized in teaching science and philosophy, or other such disciplines. I admit I haven't delved too deep in thinking about that part.

> ample free time to think, to explore, to experiment, to create

People would probably go crazy from the boredom and start killing themselves. Work and struggle are good and inspire more creativity and inventiveness than doing nothing

There were (and still are) whole families of aristocrats who never needed to lift a finger in their life, and they seemed to find ways to not be too bored. I've never heard of high degrees of suicides amongst the very rich.

That's because, in order to cement an image of being better than others, aristocratic suicides were usually reported as accidents. In Europe during the Middle Ages, suicide was condemned by the church of course, and penalties were laid against the estate. That's in Europe; in other places in the world, it was expected, and rather common. For example, what is a duel, other than a suicide pact? In the absence of actual struggle, humans will make something up to be offended by so they can struggle against it. It is human nature.

Of course, today, suicide is less of a taboo, and indeed suicide rates are higher in richer neighborhoods, as one would expect: https://www.businessinsider.com/link-between-wealth-and-suic...


Maybe HN isn't really the target audience. Americans and/or rich people, in my experience, tend to get very knee-jerkily nervous around anything that reeks of centralised, socialized income/benefits/healthcare.

You both should at least admit that the comment you're talking about is not, in fact, getting downvoted.

It was until we upvoted it

> It would be better and more efficient for a nation as a whole to take care of its children

What exactly do you mean by that? State raising children? No families? That sounds dystopian to me.

That’s an interesting jump to make. I’ve never heard any one say that’s the way to go. You’d have to have a 99.99% extremist view to be serious about no families.

They likely mean what is the more obvious assumption. We take taking care of all children as a serious problem and try to have certain benefits happen for all children. IE they shouldn’t be going hungry or not going to school.

She could buy her parents a condo in some nice retirement city for well under $200k, set them up with an annuity to pay for their food/clothing/etc, and easily have $1M left in the bank. But to each their own.

Saved/invested money is stored freedom, i.e. ability to choose how to live. The social safety net provided (or not) by others can be changed or withdrawn by the perfidy of government. It can be great when it works, but when it doesn't, what are your options? What happens when the usually acceptable public health care system fails, and you need to get treated right now, or in a different way than the local system dictates? If you don't have savings and/or the ability to travel, you will have to take what's offered.

The social safety net may provide some degree of safety, but it often doesn't offer freedom to choose.

Freedom means being able to take the time to care for yourself or your loved ones if something happens.

That day came for my family several years ago, and my wife and I are constantly reminded how much worse things would have been (even here in enlightened Canada) if we didn't have that kind of freedom.

This reminds me of the generation that were kids during the Great Depression. The trauma of food scarcity & poverty often resulted in extreme forms of frugality that lasted for the rest of their lives. It wouldn't surprise me if this author also saves/reuses food plastic wrap, scraps of aluminum foil & rinsed out plastic sandwich bags as my own grandmother did.

The line about saving $1.7 million caught me off guard!

Btw, the woman's blog "Merry for Money" that's linked at the end of the article has a few extreme methods such as how to make money from PornHub: https://merryformoney.com/make-money-pornhub/

Make $100-$200k/yr from your equity compensation, have that same equity comp go up 2x (amazon) and you get 800k-1.6m for 4 years of work pre-tax. Add a few more years on top of that.

That's more legit than I thought. It could be that this is actually a good resource, hah.

I come from a upper/mid class family and I am the only one in my family that lives frugally. Technically, I don't have to, but I just can't find any joy in material things.

As near as I can tell, luxury (think 50k+ $ cars, huge mansions, expensive clothing, jewelry) exists for one and one reason only: impressing others, and in particular, males impressing females in hopes of sexually attracting them. Either that, or people just "going with the flow" without thinking. I cannot come to any other logical conclusion.

I've noticed that people buying expensive things don't really want to admit that they are buying it just to show others that they can afford it.

If you can afford food, shelter and some medical/dental care, and you can pay your bills (electric, gas, internet, whatever) without worrying about them, I don't think money will improve your happiness. Especially if you need to endure additional stress for it.

The Western civilization has it extremely good. If only people read history and truly understood and appreciated what this world consisted of not a century ago, they'd celebrate each day on the streets. Voltaire says that the perfect is the enemy of good, and that's a deep message.

I salute these two! If it doesn't bother them, I see no issue with the way they live whatsoever.

Answer: it's to support her parents' retirement.

I do not think this is accurate. While she does provide them with support, the article states that they actually need very little. She's saving a lot more than what's needed to support them.

I scrolled through the whole article but aside from loads of background story, I didn't find anything else. What did I miss?

They need her to buy them a house. That's not needing a little.

Buy a house, or rent for 10-15 years of the rest of their lives?

At some point it's not about financial independence anymore, but obsessive frugal behavior triggered by childhood trauma.

In my country the generation that survived German occupation in WWII (and huge poverty, starvation, etc), had what's casually called "occupation syndrome" -- which we use to describe more or less the same kind of behavior.

she is gonna drive that marriage into the ground. poverty is traumatic but being overly frugal is going to undermine your quality of life and will have consequences. she has no idea but her husband fucking hates it, trust me.

> I once had a conversation with my husband about how if I died, he’d have to keep taking care of my parents

This seems like life insurance could come in handy. For someone in good health and relatively young it can be pretty cheap too.

I just went to a talk by a software engineer in SF who was talking about effective altruism and how he personally donates 33% of this income to charity every year...

The one thing about personal finance blogs that consistently bother me is that they always feel incredibly selfish. How much do they donate to charity every year? Given the attitude of scrimping every penny I’m guessing very little to none.

A group declares themselves a charity, gets a foolish government to go along with it, and suddenly they deserve, for free, the money that other people worked for? Okay...

Believe it or not, some people see through this rather obvious scam.

Under capitalism, there are clearly no incentives to donate to anything. Maybe to tragedy of the commons kind of things like global warming, but even then you know that most of what you give ends up in NGO executives compensation and other employees payroll. Donating is only doable at Warren Buffet / Bill Gates levels of wealth.

Found the article very interesting and read some articles on the referenced blogs. More about her husband for those interested:


I’m just waiting for the part where her husband divorces her and takes all their money and leaves the country.

Life has a way of making a mockery of all your best laid plans.

What’s the point of suffering like this? She has escaped poverty from a financial perspective but not a mental one.

The only practical advise to anyone to not spend money you cannot pay off the next money, otherwise there is something wrong are about to go seriously wrong soon with your finances. Telling people to be Frugal is as ambiguous as the world

I, too, am building up financial resources for the point where I have to take care of my parents. They did not plan for their financial future, and now that they have split up, they are in an even more precarious situation.

Although my mother was an excellent saver (to a fault?), she was not interested in learning how to amass/raise capital, nor in any type of investing, other than older, traditional CDs, etc. that are not financially viable in this age of debt and funny money in the US.

My father is a spendthrift, so there is always a hole in his pocket.

I see in them the reluctance (or refusal?) to shift from the "American Dream" (go to school, get a good job, save for retirement, your employer/the government will take care of you) to what it more realistically takes to grow any sort of wealth in the current US financial climate.

Consumption was the biggest negative factor, I think, as well as the inability to sacrifice some of the present for the future. It seemed necessary as a kid growing up, if we were going to keep up with the Jones'. I remember being envious of having an "Ocean Pacific" jacket as a kid, and the only pair of "Britannia" jeans I had came from a second hand store. I was very caught up in the whole name-brand thing... That was the 80's, for me.

Now I save up and invest in Real Estate, effectively short the US dollar, as that seems to be the vehicle I am most comfortable with. My wife and I are accelerating the process as much as possible, without scrimping too much, as her mother, likewise, has little to live on. And being at the mercy of governmental healthcare is the pits, as I watch both sets of our parents attempting to navigate those hoops.

So I understand the author's motivation from my own point of view, and I think she has adopted practices that will serve her well, as long as she also has enough consideration for taking care of herself, her husband, and any kids they may choose to have, as well as her parents.

It is definitely possible, although I find I have to ignore all of the "consume this now" messaging I perceive blasting at me from all angles in media.

Side benefit: Ignoring that media helps on the political front, though, as well. I used to become (still sometimes become?) the raving lunatic when I pay attention to what higher politicians (non-local) and larger government employees get up to, technically on my behalf.

I feel much more calm ignoring that and focusing only on what I have a chance of affecting: My home, family, friends, and immediate neighborhood. I have even served in local government, and although I did not enjoy it (the waste! the pettiness!) it helped me make more social contacts locally that have positively affected my life and immediate living environment.

I now volunteer more often, as well, as there is much need in the community, and few obvious answers (to others' points of view).

It seems to be working for me... YMMV.

I’m still trying to make up for studying economics and not CS so 5 years in (too much time spent in ops) I’m still a very junior dev making a junior dev salary.

Mad props to them for sure!

She comes from a poor background. Now she is no longer poor, but pretends to be.

A family of three living off of $1,000/month in Seattle?

What decade was this actually written in?

It's $1000/mo plus rent which she excludes.

> A lot of Chinese people know this: It takes more than one generation to build stability

A lot of every people know this. It's called "the American dream". You may have heard of it.

The American Dream is the polar opposite of relying multiple generations to achieve stability. The general interpretation of the American Dream is the notion that any one person can achieve success by working hard enough.

"Success" is subjective; for many it is providing opportunity for your kids you didn't have, e.g. first generation college.

Plus you don't work in a vacuum by yourself; mutual success is more likely if you have close relationships with friends and family.

In spite of all that her son may not be accepted in Harvard for being asian

Those down voting would mind commenting on why? It is bizarre that racism against Asians is tolerated because of "too much success". It is especially harmful to people from low income families.

Here some news stories about it: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/harvard-asian-ame...





If she wants to make good use of the money, why wait? The longer they're hoarding it, the longer it stays away from people who need it.

'Hoarding' money doesn't consume any real resources and therefore one person saving can't really deny anyone anything that exists in the physical world.

There are some complex questions of whether it causes more or less resources to be allocated to the poor. It isn't a simple as branding someone a hoarder.

Indeed, a complex experiment has been running since the monetary systems moved off the gold standard that suggest the less people save, the more unequal society becomes to the benefit of the wealthy. There is a reasonable argument that when the middle class 'hoards' money it increases the access of the poor to things they need.

Damn - I'd better stop hoarding money in my 401K too!

Not spending it means not competing with other people for current consumption, which means lower prices for everyone else.

If the money is parked in property or some other rivalrous asset, then you're more correct. But not for money.

She is saving it for her kids.

If you look back at any wealthy family’s history they all have this story, especially in the USA. The story basically goes like this: “A long time ago our great great grandfather lived in a dirt floor home and the family worked really hard and was frugal and did without and eventually luck came their way and they made good investments, or happened to be in the right place at the right for a resource boom, and made a lot of money”.

A lot of middle class Americans could take this path if they did without and the kids worked as soon as able for extra money for the family (you know like you have to when you have no other choice) but we have to have the nice home, white picket fence, big SUV, expensive sports, iPads and android phones, and as soon as the kids turn 16 they must have a car of their own, etc...

Modern life by design now (it is designed) requires more and more to get by. You need a car to get to work because of the awful thing called suburbia. You need a expensive cell to make sure you get the call for that job offer. Where you had to submit a PDF copy of your resume which you had to type on a computer somewhere and have access to Internet to send it.

The downside is you miss out on this fabled childhood luxury that has only been a thing for the last 80 years of human existence.

On one level all wealthy families have this history simple because not long ago everyone was dirt poor.

Yup. The part of the story that is actually doing most of the work here is "and eventually luck came their way and they made good investments, or happened to be in the right place at the right for a resource boom".

Of {home, fence, big SUV, sports, iPads, android phones, extra cars}, half of those don’t seem in the same league as the others...

Cells are getting so cheap that almost all adults in the world have one. Something around the number of 5 billion, and 4 billion of those are smartphones.

Fairly soon everyone will have a smartphone and you can get service for one hour of work a month.

The car thing is really a symptom of American urban planning and car culture.

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