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Why do you want to do great things? Seriously, dig into it. When I ask a lot of people in startups this question and dig long enough, it comes down to money-- they want to be rich, they want to be free.

Fact: I've met these rich/free people and they are largely working their asses off to get more rich (and presumably more free?). The ones who make it (largely) LOVE THE GAME. The few who get rich somehow but don't actually love the game of getting rich are listlessly complaining about being unhappy.

You don't love the game, it seems. The way to be happy/satisfied is to find the game that you love or learn to love the game you're playing. The latter is often what to focus on-- there people with much less interesting jobs that are satisfied with them. Whatever job you have, figure out how to be freakin' awesome at it and opportunities fall into your lap- trust me. Or be the guy who gets by, can't be happy, is always looking out the window.

All that said, don't settle for a shitty job. Get one where you're surrounded by people who impress you in an industry/market that has potential. That's where you'll find your next co-founder.

If you've got great ideas, start side projects. They turn into businesses all the time.

Reduce your burn rate ruthlessly and save $. Seriously, your car/house/clothes are too nice, and you have them because society makes you feel less successful if you don't. Happiness and stuff have virtually no correlation. Get to the point where you're downright smug about your burn rate. Smirk at people who drive BMWs.

Remember that a million years of evolution has made humanity naturally discontent-- do you think happiness/contentedness is a survival trait? Add to that the external pressure of peers who make it big, do "great things", and the river of marketing telling you that you need fancier watches, shinier cars, the newest iPhone. Being happy/content takes smarts and discipline that most people simply can't manage. Be one of the ones who can.

> Seriously, your car/house/clothes are too nice, and you have them because society makes you feel less successful if you don't.

Stuff makes me happy. Moving from a tiny apartment with a small everything to a spacious house made me much happier. It's comfortable. I now have a wonderful kitchen to cook, which I enjoy doing, that I just couldn't do as well before. I have a view out my large bay windows. It's great.

Driving a nice car is awesome, especially if you commute longer distances or like road trips. I enjoy a comfortable luxury sedan with power.

I'm much happier with nice things. Society isn't telling me I like my large flat screen tv. I am because it looks stunning on my wall.

I agree with what others say here about debt though. Don't go into debt to buy yourself a bunch of crap you don't need.

What really makes you happy is the experiences the stuff affords you. Movies and sports are enjoyable. staring at a nicely mounted TV that isn't showing any content is a fleeting novelty. The kitchen isn't enjoyable on its own. It's only wonderful because it allows you the experience of cooking. A two year old Infiniti G37 the same price as a new Honda Accord, but it comes with all wheel drive, and 330hp. Maybe its not the same status symbol as a BMW or Mercedes, but you'll have plenty of time to look at those two cars in your rearview mirror.

I think this gets to the heart of form vs. function. Don't buy things because they look cool on your wall, or in your driveway, or in your kitchen. Buy things that make it enjoyable to watch movies, comfortable to drive on long trips, and enjoyable to cook with.

Favor function over form.

You're probably about as happy as you were with less/different stuff (unless you were poor enough to be anxious about making ends meet), but maybe you're unusual. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonic_treadmill

On average, happiness peaks at age 20, declines until age 50, and then starts to inch up again ( http://www.economist.com/node/17722567 ).

A lot of the decline in happiness is related to starting a family. Average happiness is lower with kids (there are much higher peaks because of them, but also lower lows http://www.ted.com/talks/rufus_griscom_alisa_volkman_let_s_t...) because of all the chaos related to kids.

Average happiness sounds absolutely preposterous.

What about it sounds preposterous? Certainly happiness isn't easy to measure, but it seems like asking "On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with your life?"(or something like it) is a really important question... And as a society, we'd like that number to be broadly high and climbing as we move forward... No?

I mean judging your own happiness against the mean or median of 300 million people who live in vastly different locations and climates, with different population densities, prevalence of poverty and opportunity, availability of social services, access to education and medical services, etc, is a meaningless exercise.

I don't think anyone was comparing happiness against other people here. It's happiness against yourself. Are you happier now than you were last year? Average happiness in this context doesn't mean the average happiness of the world, or a community. It's just how you would deem the average happiness of your life at a certain era. Yesterday I had a terrible day, but I would still say I am happy on average, I just was not happy on that particular day.

Amen. I wish I had realized at a younger age the importance of investing in nice clothes. Not only does it make a person more confident, it is literally the difference in many cases between getting a good job and a spouse and being totally ignored. Despite what your teachers and parents told you growing up, dressing well is critical to success.

Besides, why does it even matter if we enjoy something nice because society tells us it should make us happier? Yes, when I go out I DO want society to notice me and reward me. That's the reality of life- people have more respect for those who present themselves well. If the respect of others is something we value, then it makes sense to do what we can to gain that respect. Pretending that you're somehow above the rules of society is both naive and counterproductive. The bottom line is that if it makes us happier or more successful then it was a good investment.

"when I go out I DO want society to notice me and reward me"

reward you for what exactly?

Manipulating their perception of you by taking advantage of social cues.

I'm fine with people wanting to dress nicely as long as they realize it's total bullshit that people are judged by their clothes, but want to take advantage of it anyway. It's just human hacking.

I do feel a bit bad when dressing nicely, because I worry that I am contributing to the continuation of the practice of judging people by their clothing.

I don't understand this line of reasoning. When you go on a date, do you pick up the check for your SO? When you go to a bar do you buy a drink for your friends occasionally? Surely you'd rather save that money, but you have to "hack" society's rules so that they will like you.

Maybe you "hack" HR policies that reinforce the use of proper grammar by refining your resume. Or hold the door open for somebody who is behind you when you'd rather just be on your way. Society is full of norms and social cues, and I don't think it's deception to control your behavior to align yourself with them. To not do so out of some notion that we should combat human instinct is rather naive.

I think Benjamin Franklin put it best: "Eat to please thyself, but dress to please others."

It's human hacking when you recognize that the cues you're leveraging are inane and meaningless. Many people believe that the cues themselves are somehow meaningful or significant, and get caught up in the act.

How, exactly, is it naive to try to overcome illogical biases and ways of being manipulated?

Well I guess the fundamental disagreement is that I don't think these biases are best classified as illogical. Yes, if you are being completely objective, two job applicants should be judged solely on the basis of their qualifications. Yet, the one who is more polished is going to get the job ten times out of ten. Perception is simply a fundamental part of decision making, and I think the naivety lies in thinking that any of us are above catering to that perception or that we can somehow convince people to not rely on their perceptions.

It's not total bullshit. It's grounded in evolutionary psychology. We like people who are attractive because that shows that they have good genes and are therefor worth either a) mating with, or b) keeping around for other reasons. Nice clothes help make a good impression if you're in relatively good shape and your body is well proportioned. If you're 100lbs overweight, that tailored tux just makes you look like a penguin.

So you're telling me it's not total bullshit to hire someone for a coding job based on how attractive they are/seem?

Just because we have evolved heuristics for something doesn't mean those heuristics aren't stupid and irrelevant in some contexts.

"Besides, why does it even matter if we enjoy something nice because society tells us it should make us happier?"

If you REALLY enjoy it, that's great. But most of the research on the relationship between stuff/trappings and happiness finds that there isn't really any correlation. You're trained by evolution, society, and marketers to want these things, but (unless you're anomalous), they don't impact your happiness.

Meanwhile, 20% of households spend more than they make, unemployed millennials spend ~$800/month on discretionary spending, and half of american households save no money at all.

> people have more respect for those who present themselves well

If presenting yourself well means driving a luxury car, or having an expensive home, then no, I don't respect these people more than others. There are no such 'rules of society' except for materialistic people.

The subconscious mind is a very powerful thing. Even if you say you don't respect those people more than others, it doesn't mean that you don't.

Generally I respect people less for ostentatious displays of wealth (though a significant proportion of them have earned their money doing things I respect despite the sports car and bedrooms that outnumber even the guests).

Inverse snobbery is a very powerful thing too ;) But I'm probably an outlier

This is like saying "I don't respond to advertising." It sounds good in theory but pretty much falls flat on its face in reality.

Dressing nice, clean and decent is different from dressing according to the latest fashion trends. Get people to respect you for who you are, if they don't, Do you want to care about them ? do you want such people to dictate your life?

But all pleasure comes with pain/attachment/fear, the two are inseperable.

Now your decisions in life are dependent on making sure you still have those comforts that make you happy. You will miss out on adventures because you are scared that you won't have a comfy kitchen. What you own owns you too.

What about the hedonic treadmill? You say you're happy with your big TV, but wouldn't you be even happier with a still bigger TV? You like your luxury sedan for commuting, but wouldn't you be even happier if you had a Ferrari to drive on the weekends?

I like to think of it as a recursive function instead of a treadmill.

You get a TV that fits your house. But you want a bigger house. Then, the TV seems too small, the house seems bare, and your car is not nice enough for the neighbhorhood. So you get a bigger TV and fancier car.

Now, you have too much stuff in your house, it is too small again! So, you get a bigger house...

Yeah but what's the termination condition?


On the other hand, how much of your time are you willing to spend for that house, car, and TV? Because time is the commodity you're selling.

Despite enjoying my work for the most part, I'm willing to trade less than 25% of my time.

Typical hours worked in a year: 2000

52 weeks - 2 weeks vacation/sick/holiday (most have more) * 40 =2000 hrs

2000 / (365*24)=.228

Seems fair.

Probably ought to math that out with waking hours. And add in your commute. And 2000 hours = 38/week. I don't know many folks who work that little, though I supposed vacation days ought to factor into it (the average american takes 4.1). Let's nudge it up to 2400 or so.

2400 hours worked + 260 hours commuting (US avg. is 25.5min - probably average higher in startup cities?) Let's say 17 waking hours (even though people who get 7 hours of sleep are proven to be less effective on a lot of fronts, it's certainly plenty common).

(edit: average hours worked/week in US for salaried workers is 46: http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/Most_employed_Americans...)

2660 / 365*17 = 43%

Why 2400 hours - that's 46 hours a week! Maybe a founder is working that much, but generally they over-work and it's proven more than the tenuous 7 hours of sleep a night thing that 45+ hours a week is bad. e.g. http://legacy.igda.org/why-crunch-modes-doesnt-work-six-less... etc. I think it's totally reasonable to work 45+ hours a week in your first year or maybe even 2. But after 3 if you're working 45+ hours a week you have a major, major problem.

Most average people are expected to work 2080 or 2087 hours a year. Seems a little disingenuous to bump it all the way to 2400 - if you're working over 45 hours a week on average you're over-working, which is far worse for your health.

Even still, using the 17 hour mark and 2087 hours it's 33.6%.

Sorry, should have referenced a source-- I edited my comment to include the source for the 46 (which is the exact average for salaried workers in the US).

That's crazy. I don't know why people do that :-(

I don't know that I would take their numbers as gospel but to be fair in the tech industry it's probably more accurate when I think of it.

I don't understand it either. I negotiated my salary for 37.5 hours a week of work. I'm happy to work a bit more when the work is interesting, but I'm going to show up late or leave early the next few days to make up for it. Alternatively, you can pay me more.

That's the deal. My work/bosses are happy with it. My co-workers seem to begrudge that they're freely giving up extra time and I'm not. I keep suggesting they stop doing that...

House can be worth a lot of time investment. It is, after all, where you live every day.

How about food? I would love to invest zero time into food, but I have to eat.

Soylent? I haven't got my shipment though.

> I'm much happier with nice things

Have you ever traveled on a shoestring in S/E Asia, Africa or South-America? I bet you're going to be a lot happier with smaller versions of your "nice things".

My second bed is part second-hand, part Ikea. My first bed was ten times as expensive. However, after some traveling I consider my second bed to be luxurious.

No thanks, a good bed and a good chair are sacred. With food, housing and all the basics covered, they should be pretty high priority. I don't understand how some people can buy a 500€ smartphone and then sleep in a shitty cheap bed.

>Stuff makes me happy

The definition of irony. Happiness will exist regardless of circumstances. No one can take it away from you. Maybe you meant, "stuff brings me pleasure"?

For your own sake, keep track of how long your happiness lasts before discontentment sets in.

I think you're confusing happiness with pride.

I'm unsure they are different for everyone.

They are. Whether everyone realises it yet or not.

Remember that a million years of evolution has made humanity naturally discontent

That about sums it up. The drive to always want more is just how humans are. If it wasn't, the human condition would never improve. However, you need to recognize it for what it is and don't let it control your own happiness.

The older I get the more I realize that doing what I want to do now is much more rewarding that doing what I think will make me happy years from now.

To be fair, if you believe in evolution, thinking of things in terms of improvement is very subjective. Evolution isn't selecting for improvement, it's selecting for survival, which may or may not be correlated with your vision of improvement. Think of cockroaches.

From a christian perspective, the natural discontent stems from the fallen nature of man. You're worldly accomplishments will never be able to satisfy that discontentment, as the two areas are unrelated.

So many straw men here...

Nobody is saying that evolution is selecting for some nebulous sense of "improvement." Reproductive success leads to traits being passed on to successive generations, and general survival is merely one precondition to reproduction. The human impulse to jockey for status is a reproductive strategy.

I really don't get this. Why do people strive to get richer??

I've chose startup grind instead of super rich Facebook jobs 3 years ago and am still living like a student and see no need to own a lot of things. Am I that "special", to me it seems completely logical to sacrifice short term rewards to be in for the long run, delayed gratification and everything.

Once I've made it, I don't see either, why I would burn myself just to have e.g. $20M instead of $10M. wtf?

That line sounds nice, but I don't think it makes sense if you break it down. You are basically saying that discontent people reproduce more than content people. Is there any evidence of that?

Historically, do you doubt that this is true? Certainly it isn't in modern times, but when we were shaped as a species? The people who worried about having enough food, a strong enough shelter, sharp enough weapons, loyal enough friends and allies-- seems like that worry would be a survival trait.

> Certainly it isn't in modern times, but when we were shaped as a species?

When discussing evolution and species, it's best to avoid the past tense. Evolution never ends, and nature is shaping us as we speak. 200,000 years ago, we wouldn't have recognized our forebears, and 200,000 years from now, we won't recognize our descendants.

Basically yes. It is a giant assumption with no actual science backing it up. Maybe there is some science that I am not aware of. So many evolutionary statements get a free pass in this regard. Someone says it, and now it is so. Where is the skepticism?

I think he's saying that content people lie around sunning themselves and get eaten by lions, or fail to store food for the winter, or whatever.

I love that first line. In my opinion it neatly sums up a few things about human behaviour.

$ is freedom, but so is lack of debt.

Zero debt + $ = great freedom.

The edge of modern Western society (those not part of the main rat race) is a place where you can truly be free and happy, but you'll be seen as fringe.

Never go into debt. Eat beans and rice. Work summer jobs as a river boat guide. Write poems. Watch the stars. Help others find peace.

Just be true to yourself and don't let modern society set expectations or guide your life.

Financial independence is something that's been purposefully pushed to the fringe of society. We've got very few people who fit the category of subsistence farmers in the West even though we have the potential for their to be a lot.

The main reason why businesses don't grow is regularly cited as the founder/owner refusing to give up control and micromanaging. One person can only micromanage so much.

Is "subsistence farmer" a metaphor for financially independent? Otherwise I don't see why people would want to be subsistence farmers.

It's good to follow one's dreams. But there is a line between living in the moment, on one side, and not planning for the future, on the other. Youngsters are in for a rough ride later on if they are too romantic about practicalities and do not take well-conceived steps towards financial independence later in life. This is true whether they have it in them to become superstars or are simply hoping to do what they do well.

>Never go into debt.

This is bad advice. Sure, don't go into debt that you can't properly service, but I've made some good money that started out as debt (large investments, etc).

You had luck on your side though. Not everyone does.

Sure, there was some luck (there was also some educated guesses involved) but I'm simply arguing against use of the word "never". Debt can be good if it is the right kind of debt.

Agreed on never. I recommend house debt, where there isn't enough cash and there's no obvious bubble, only because houses are almost sure to appreciate given inevitable population growth.

To emphasize the last paragraph: You don't become rich by obtaining lots of money. You get rich by saving lots of money. You can become financially independent before you turn 40 making $50k/year at a 9-5. You don't need to start a company, or change the world. You just need to get to a point where your investment income is equal to your expenses, and the only way to do that is by limiting your expenses.

You can become financially independent with considerably less money. I know someone who at 30 sold up, moved way into the boonies on a hobby farm. He's got enough in the bank that he can live off the interest.

Now he just potters around his farm. Grows all his own vegetables and fruit, raises chickens and cows and is getting "richer" by not spending all his interest. So him and his wife get to spend all their free time with their kids, which is what they wanted.

The reason most people will never become rich is simply because they increase their expenses the more they make.

"The reason most people will never become rich is simply because they increase their expenses the more they make."

Words of wisdom right there.

I think there is an underlying difficulty there. There's usually at least a few of your friends who also are financially well off and growing. Or perhaps your circle starts to include more well off people as you become wealthier. There is an endless social competitive pressure to be at or near the top of your peers, and the metric for measuring that is how much you own and spend. Leaving society to go on a farm, however awesome and healthy that may be, is breaking the vicious cycle that you may have been in for much of your life. And that is incredibly difficult.

With bank interest rates at < 1%, having $2 million in the bank earns < $20K/yr. He must be rich or ultra frugal.

That's why you don't put $2 million in a bank account.

This guy retired on $800k raising a family of 3 with $25k/year of passive income: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-sim...

When people refer to interest they often are referring to investment gains, rather than actual bank interest.

Specifically, it is generally assumed that a diversified investment portfolio will earn ~4% after inflation on average, and by spending 4% of your portfolio balance at any time you are reasonably safe in the assumption that your money will not run out. At 3% it's all but assured that your money will not run out. These are conservative assumptions and take into account the fact that in any given year your investment performance could be significantly less than 4%

Yes, a diversified investment portfolio could perform like that in the past, when the gov't wasn't minimizing interest rates. Nowadays only with much greater risk of loss of principal.

The S&P 500 is up about 7% annually over the last 5 years, with inflation never exceeding 3% over that period. That leaves a calm 4% real return on one of the less risky investment options.

How has it done over 10 years? And that's with mega gov't help.

About the same... Over 10 years the S&P is up 83.6% excluding dividends. Going back to July so month to month comparisons are valid it looks like the annualized return is 6% excluding dividends and 8% including them.


Agreed. With a lot of risk for that reward. The risk shows in the volatility (ups & downs) over that time, and that the gov't had to borrow several $trillion to prevent a negative return over that time.

Another option is to put the money in foreign accounts. I don't know this space at all, but interest rates at consumer banks in India are 9-12%. Even after currency exchange rates, you'd probably make >= 4%/year

That interest rate is because on average, rupee inflation has been at over 9% in the last two years, and was over 11% at the beginning of the year. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/india/inflation-cpi

If I'd opened a bank account last time I visited India, converted sterling to rupees, to saved in an Indian bank account at 12%, I'd end up less pounds than I started with.

Putting money in consumer banks in India really only makes sense if you live there.

No such thing as a free lunch, though. Plenty of people's savings went poof that way.

Why? Indian banks defaulting? Corruption/theft issues? I haven't tried this method -- just regurgitating advice other's have given me. Always thought it seemed more profitable than keeping money in US banks, and India always seemed accommodating of foreign money coming in.

For example, savers around the world were enticed by Iceland's high interest rates, and then this happened: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008%E2%80%9311_Icelandic_finan...

Turned out those savers were the suckers needed by those banks, in an attempt to remain solvent.

Forex is risky because unless you have a use for the foreign currency you are at the mercy of exchange rates. For example, INR lost 0.74% vs the USD just today.

Bank accounts are't for storing your retirement savings. Even with the current low rates you can get 3% from 20 year Treasuries. If you want more yield you'll have to take some risk, which is why diversified portfolios are always advised.

In other words you must take the risk of forgoing retirement when trying to beat inflation. In 2008 pretty much the only diversified portfolios that didn't take a huge hit were the baskets of low-risk investments.

Yes, they are financially independant to remain where they are, but they are not financially independent to do do great things, e.g. they couldn't start a company, buy a new house, send their kids to college. (except your friend became a millionaire)

This financial independence normally is temporary and normally doesn't last long. Humans crave for change, living on a pottery farm is really nice for the first 1-2 years, however, for the rest of your life? Humans are not built for that.

On the contrary, I'd argue that it's much easier for them to do those things because they have considerably more time, free capital, and flexibility than non-financially independent people.

True, you're right. Except for the college thing though. :)

But nowadays the only way your investment income will pay for your expenses is if you were rich to start with, or you take the risk of losing a big percentage of your money to earn more than 3% interest.

I'm seriously considering framing your post. It is refreshing to receive reminders that working harder to consume more products does not make us happier.


America's middle-class is increasingly eroded and the nation as a whole split into those with fuck-you money and those without.

Not having money is not a good long-term strategy as we slide into well-branded feudalism.

Not to discount the very real problem of the eroding middle class -but spending/saving habits in America are real problems. Half of Americans are saving nothing [1]. 27% of households than make over $100k/yr say the can't afford everything they need [2]. Average house size in the US has about doubled since the 60s [3].

[1] http://time.com/98152/americas-savings-city/ [2] http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/schor-overspent.html [3] http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/02/todays-new-homes-are-1000-s...

I'd agree that your point is also true, and is related to mine: debt and credit are one of the strongest ropes that are being used to bind people into this system, and not carrying around debt helps a lot in being free.

Saving for saving's sake is not enough--I think it helps to divide it into "investing money so that it can 'grow' into more money" and "having enough cash in reserve to provide accounting liquidity in an emergency".

Simply hoarding gems in a mattress, for example, would not be winning strategy.

Why save? It's actually a provably bad idea to save money when the rich/government are actively undermining your savings and livelihood. Better to enjoy your money or try to actually invest it (note, not the same as saving).

> It's actually a provably bad idea to save money when the rich/government are actively undermining your savings and livelihood.

This is like arguing that it's pointless to breathe because we'll all end up dead anyway. Even in the face of governmental mischief and deliberate inflation, saving or investing money may still represent the best of competing choices.

I emphasize I'm not talking about a bank savings account -- that's really a losing proposition.

When people say save, they also mean your brokerage accounts full of index funds.

No offense, but this would kill 90% of the consumer based start ups we are all working on. Endless consumption is what has made America the best place in the world to start a business.

Just a thought.

If you're looking for a good read on some of the principles discussed in the parent, Early Retirement Extreme [1], is an excellent resource.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/dp/145360121X/?tag=oildepletiove-20

I disagree and think that people in the western world who are not starving want to do great things for other reasons which consist of: pride, ego boost, interest to face difficulties and overcome them, make history, find a goal and pursue it, mental challenge, feeling like they need to fulfill a purpose in life and many others. For me money is one of the most insignificant ones.

I want to somehow pin this post. Very well put.

THIS is why I read / love HN!

Money does correlate to happiness, so long as you have enough of it to live comfortably. Beyond that point, additional money does not increase happiness.


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