Highlights from the Emails on Golden Handcuffs

Previously: The Golden Handcuffs Were Insite of You the Whole Time and Empirical Estimates of Golden Handcuffs.

Leopold Aschenbrenner

My intuitive answer: stability? That sort of dependable income and status you can rely on to start and support a family. Second intuition: people are bad at saving—or by the time they have enough saved, they have dependents.

The dependents thing is a good point, but San Francisco also has some of the oldest parents. Related statistic from Twitter. This data is city wide, and I would guess that tech workers skew older than average.

Based on the math I did last time, you can quit a corporate tech job after a year with considerable savings, or after 5 years with around $713,000.

If you graduate at 22, work for 5 years, and have kids at 32, you still have another 5 years to do whatever you want.

Andy Matuschak

I worked at Apple for five years and met many people who felt stricken by golden handcuffs. The most common “trap” that people seemed to fall into was the classic one: jogging ever faster and faster on the hedonic treadmill.

Common vices included multiple vintage sports cars, buying wine at auction, multi-year construction and renovation projects, airplanes, etc. More mundane vices were also common: marrying and having several children, which often leads to a $3M+ home and a wife who no longer works. It’s easy in that situation to find oneself expenses to the tune of $300k/year if one’s not actively trying to reign things in.

The vices sound silly typed out like this, but as a 21 year old entering this scene, it was quite an intense thing having all my role models and more senior peers engaging in this kind of thing. In some sense, it was necessary to spend time with them: if I wanted to socialize (perhaps necessary for advancement), I’d need to go to dinner at fancy restaurants, share the wine, etc. Now, perhaps fancy meals and drinks amount to “only” $2k/mo, but it’s easy to develop a taste for such things, and then to notice the merits of your older colleagues’ interior decor…

It was easier for me to leave (I went to a non-profit) because what lifestyle changes I’d adopted were flexible: I could simply choose to stop going to fancy meals. Others have somewhat more disruptive stakes: selling the cars, moving to a different home, etc. I notice that when I talk to them about leaving, there’s a kind of distant wistfulness: “ah, if only…”—as if they’re imagining another life, another person, impossible for them to be. It’s a kind of complacency, I guess. [emphasis mine]

Engineers might be particularly prone to this trap because their identity is wrapped up in their job. As Ben Kuhn writes in What happened to all the non-programmers?, it’s shockingly easy to find yourself only hanging out with other engineers who have similar interests.

Seth Green (excerpt)

…two general thoughts:

  1. From a longer thread about how YC has lost its soul: “RPM at Facebook is the new IB @ goldman (and actually pays more)” (HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23916314). If this is true, then we should expect people who take these roles to be excellent and risk-averse, which is what it takes to get into Yale or Stanford and then BCG, Goldman, YLS, HBS, Apple, etc. The funnel selects for lack of courage (also high IQ & ability to grind).

  2. How many people do you know who are just stuck in ruts, period? Perhaps they make a lot of money, feel like they’ll never ever be fired, and when they go home, they get high and play videogames every day. I know a lot more people like this than I did ten years ago (Erik Hurst attributes some of the declining work share among young men to video games’ getting better over time). Perhaps people are just much less (consciously) bored at home anymore, which leaves less time for ruminating on things they want to maximize.

So perhaps it’s less of a handcuffs situation, golden or otherwise, and more of a selection for people who have optimized and been optimized for staying the current course, and look, now, rather than go down this other dark road, you can watch Tiger King or play Red Dead Redemption 2, doesn’t that sound more fun?

As I wrote in the other post, selection effects are indeed a substantial part of this. But I am confused why there aren’t more opportunistic idealists who work in tech for a few years and then self-fund a career in the arts or independent research.

Even among people who regularly play video games, the US average is just 7.6 hours a week, which doesn’t seem incredibly disruptive to ambition. In contrast, Wikipedia has Americans watching TV 4 hours a day, equivalent to 28 hours a week. So maybe the problem is TV, video games, social media and every other distraction combined?

Even then, it’s not like we’re talking about dysfunctionally unemployed people. Google engineers are (presumably) doing some work, I’m asking why they don’t spend that time on work they care about instead.


gr8nola is really good…

…why should i apply such aggressive temporal discounting to following my dreams right now? isn’t it almost surely the case that working my day job, collecting my paycheck is the pathway to both 1) a more successful shot at $the_dream in the future AND an even longer runway perhaps one that lasts until I die?

why should i be so naive to think that at ~25yo i have a finely tuned nose for great opportunities and the skillset to execute on them?

why can’t i directly apply the secretary problem solution and work 1/e of my 40 working years (14.7y), evaluating but passing up on potential opportunities during that time, then, after that window, take a stab at the next good one i see?

I agree that some jobs provide capital that is useful to future work.

The secretary problem is a useful framing, but has several key disanalogies. Unlike real life, the problem assumes:

  1. Decisions are totally irrevocable (you can never pursue an opportunity you turned down earlier in life)
  2. You’re maximizing the probability of selecting the single best opportunity, rather than expected value
  3. The judgement and decision happens instantaneously, with no cost of “wasted years” on evaluation
  4. You have no sense of absolute rankings, and can only compare opportunities relative to each other. In other words, if a mind blowing good opportunity presents itself tomorrow, the most you could say is “this is the best I’ve seen so far”. In real life, you at least have some useful priors over how good an opportunity is in absolute terms.

I’m not sure how this changes the optimal stopping point, but that might be a good topic for another post.

Anonymous (excerpt)

I’m a FAANG engineer, although since I work in a European office I probably make 50% less than your typical SV FAANG-adjacent engineer.

I’ve been doing this for a little over half a decade. So why don’t I, or most of the other folks around me, quit and follow our passions like you suggest?

Well some of us do quit to follow our passions. I know a handful of people who quit to join startups. I’ve heard anecdotes of a few other people moving back to their hometowns and taking on lower paid, less stressful remote work. While I don’t have startup ambitions as of now, I do plan to take a year off, explore the world the bit, learn scuba diving, etc.

But 90% of people end up staying at their jobs, year after year. I suspect there are a couple of factors making them do this:

  1. Lifestyle inflation. I think you touch on this in your post, but consider things like expensive cars, expensive houses (most tech offices are in high cost of living areas), sending kids to prep schools, etc.

  2. Social validation. People get attached to the social environment at work and see themselves defined by it. It’s scary to move onto something else. There’s also some social status associated with being a FAANG employee. You’re also competing with the Joneses now; your colleagues at work and other FAANG types around you.

I think 2 is probably a big factor for a lot of folks, probably a little for me as well, although I’m naive enough to think that I’m above such things :) I suspect it’s the same reason traders keep trading even after they’ve made millions.

Let’s see how the sabbatical goes. If I’m lucky I’ll be brave enough to cast off the golden handcuffs, at least for a year.

Competing with the Joneses is compelling to me. If you start working at Google out of college, you’re on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder. It’s easy to say “I’ll quit once I get promoted and really prove myself, if I quit now it’ll just look like I couldn’t cut it.” But of course, once you get promoted your reference class shifts, and it’s now other senior engineers or engineering managers you have to prove yourself against.

Anonymous (excerpt)

I’m convinced that the only thing that really motivates 80% of people to change is pain. If you’re working at Google, between the perks and the salary, you have no pain financially speaking. It’s pretty rare IMO for someone to make the jump from being motivated by pain to being self motivated by their goals. Google gives you a little bit of prestige, a lot of money, probably good coworkers, a path for advancement, and a minor feeling of achievement. It’s like being stuck at a local maximum and not noticing it’s not the global maximum.

Another reason may be that people are averse to open ended tasks. I would guess that the proportion of people is much less than 80%, although a sizable minority. For them Google would be the global maximum.

Anonymous (excerpt)

Most of the senior (above L6) FAANG employee comp (at least according to levels.fyi) consists of vested RSUs, with cash pay pretty much fixed. Not only do stocks appreciate over time but the amount gained per unit time increases with seniority, thus it appears as though sunk cost — finally — begins to repay itself.

74% of tech/math workers in Silicon Valley are foreign-born¹. Let’s discount that by some who got their Green Cards or became naturalized. Then some two thirds of them are probably on H1B and are legally obligated to leave the country if they lose a job.

…FAANG employees do a lot of open-source, many are literally paid to do it. When there’s a steady stream of income and no pressure to productize your creations, albeit useful to you, they’re simply left as half-baked margin notes on their GitHub. Thus product-gap-fullfillment urge is complete and you even got paid! Unlike randomly sampled YC applicant…

¹ https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/37-percent-of-silicon-valley-foreign-born
[emphasis mine]

The immigration thing is super compelling to me. Even if it’s only 66% of workers, that could be enough to set the culture. If you don’t need a visa, but most of your coworkers do, maybe you just adopt that mindset and stay put.

For what it’s worth, I consider this among the US’s greatest policy disasters. We’re ostensibly involved in some kind of Sputnik-style scientific competition with China, but instead of trying to recruit the best scientists, we’re actively turning away people who want to immigrate here.

It seems like if you’re going to offer someone a place in your best universities, you should be excited to then benefit from that person’s labor. But instead we have this insane system where we’re happy to educate the smartest people from any country, but unwilling to let them work for us.

I understand that O-1 visas exist, but unless you have a great lawyer or are actually a genius, this is still a huge and completely unnecessary hurdle.

Anonymous (excerpt)

I think both of these claims (“Presumably, you have some values” and “Everyone knows this”) are pretty strong and perhaps not entirely justifiable. One might be a hedonist in a practical sense, but still not have an explicit goal of “maximizing enjoyment” - or an altruist lacking imagination (it would be nice if people were better off… without the thought continuing further). I think some fraction of people (I’ll make up a number, 20%) just don’t set these sort of explicit values / goals for themselves, but instead sort of run on autopilot (I used to do this, which is how I know it’s possible, and still do when I’m not careful). My basic point is these people just don’t apply as much thought to the question of “what should you be doing” as you do, and so their continued employment at google is not a mystery.

Let me call them “reactively-minded” people, for lack of a better phrase. If you’re reactively minded and working at google, and you don’t hate it, you regard things as going pretty well. You have friends who you see everyday - that makes you genuinely happy - and the work is sufficiently interesting. You don’t have monetary troubles, so your mind has a chance to unspool and think about things other than competition / work. This is a totally pleasant state of affairs, and if you’re not explicitly contrasting it with a vision of a different and more interesting occupation, as a reactively minded person it doesn’t occur to you to ask “how could I be doing things better?” Your thoughts do not extend for years into the future, your joy is associative, readily available, and presents itself without delay.

In particular, joy is not produced by optimization of some well-defined reward function, or the completion of explicitly-defined tasks.

If you accept the existence of a reactive mind, I think you needn’t question why it doesn’t quit and do its own thing. The necessary dissatisfaction, ambition, and imagination are not present. And without holding explicit values, at least not ones viewed as relevant to daily life, there’s no conflict.

This is a good point, but doesn’t answer how people become reactively-minded in the first place. I don’t have the answer either, but here’s a speculative guess.

As a child, your life is heavily constrained exogenously. If you can’t do something, it’s probably because your parent or teacher isn’t letting you.

In college, you have a brief period of incredible freedom paid with low disenchantment. For many people, this is where incredible work happens. Of course, there are new distractions as well. Unless you’re really good at avoiding social pressure, it’s easy to spend all 4 years either drunk or cramming for tests, depending on your inclination. Either way, you’re probably not doing the thing you love the most.

And if you don’t hit that tiny window, you’re now in the workforce,

Once you work at Google, you look around, see thousands of genuinely brilliant programmers who aren’t successful, and you get totally trapped. All of a sudden, you go from “I’m incredibly gifted and would do great things if only society wasn’t holding me back” to “there are literally 100 people within eyesight more gifted than me, and they’ve all settled for mediocre jobs, so I guess that’s the most I can hope for”.

You can think of this as weaponzied Imposter Syndrome. If you already feel like you don’t deserve your job, you’ll be too grateful for the oppportunity to quit.

Earlier, I wrote that founding a startup is not necessarily irrational, it just depends on your reference group. Since the odds are really bad for a randomly sampled founder, the trick is in convincing yourself that you aren’t randomly sampled.

This is easy in high school, since if you spend any time programming for fun, you’re probably the best engineer around. It gets a bit harder in college, but the real nerds are mostly heads down and easy to ignore, so you can still convince yourself you’re among the best if you just squint a little.

But once you’re in Silicon Valley and surrounded by brilliant people with mediocre careers, they becomes your relevant sample population. Working at a prestigious company should convince you that you’re special, but instead it exposes you to an arbitrary number of counter examples.

If the effect exists at all (which I’m not 100% convinced of), it is largely explained by visa issues and sampling bias. There are many other psychological explanations, but I’m not sure they’re necessary.

Empirical Estimates of Golden Handcuffs

Last post, I argued against common explanations for Golden Handcuffs.

Before we dive deeper, it’s worth asking, are they even real? Are employees of elite companies actually pathologically unable to leave? Is it just a stereotype with no grounding in reality?

Here are a variety of attempts to estimate the Golden Handcuffs effect empirically.

YC Founders Join Elite Universities, but Not Elite Companies

Rather than examining the psychology of employees, let’s just work backwards and count how many founders have big company experience.

A while back, I published a dataset of the top Y Combinator founders and noticed something odd.

Of the 26 founders, only 1 had held a full-time role at a FAANG company. [2] Two others had worked at Facebook, but only as interns. Outside of FAANG, only 3 founders had worked at companies I recognized at all. [3]

One explanation is the founder-as-monomaniacal-hero. Founders are totally single minded in their devotion, and would never do something as stupid as get sidetracked by prestige or status.

Except that they absolutely do. Of the 26 founders, 21 attended elite universities, mostly MIT and Stanford [1]. So maybe those universities are just incredibly good at fostering entrepreneurs, but more likely, they’re just good at attracting and selecting them. I take this as evidence that founders are not allergic to jumping through conventional hoops, pursuing instrumental goods, sitting down to take the SAT and so on.

It gets weirder when you consider population sizes. Google has around 100,000 employees, whereas MIT and Stanford undergrad programs are just 11,500 combined! And since average tenure at Google is under 4 years, each unit of headcount produces more alumni than a full degree program. [4]

All else equal, we should expect to sample many more founders from Google than from elite universities, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

What’s going on?

Golden Handcuffs as Selection Effects

One explanation is that there are no golden handcuffs and it’s all selection effects. The kinds of people who work for Google are the ones who never intended to leave in the first place. The kinds of people who want to start great companies don’t have any interest in working for somebody else.

This is a reasonable explanation, but applies to less than half of the founders I looked at.

Only 11 of the 26 founders started a company right out of school. 14 have confirmed work experience, and another 2 have scrubbed the employment history, but have long gaps between graduating from school and founding their company.

Maybe working for a small startup shows that you’re less risk averse than a Google employee, but I don’t totally buy this. Brandon Leonardo (Instacart) worked at Webs, a company I’ve never heard of that claims to make “small business marketing simple”. Dan Kan (Cruise) worked at UserVoice, “the leading product feedback management software”. What exactly do these experiences select for?

In contrast, if you do want to start a company, working at Google seems like a great first step! You can meet co-founders and potential early employees, save money to fund yourself, gain legitimacy for investors and so on.

Of course, it’s possible the kinds of people who think about “gaining legitimacy for investors” are not going to start great companies. Maybe “real founders” don’t pursue instrumental goods.

A Third Perspective: Ex-Google Founded Companies

We’ve been dancing around the issue, but why not just go straight to the source and look at outcomes for the population we care about?

Are Google employees actually bad at starting companies?

Looking directly at startups founded by ex-Google employees valued over a billion dollars, we get:

  • Nutanix $5.8B
  • Cohesity $2.5B
  • Asana $4.3B
  • Lucidchart $1B+
  • Rubrik $3.3B
  • Instagram (sold for $1B, valued at $100B in 2018)
  • Pinterest $43B
  • Flatiron Health $1.9B
  • Xiaomi $46B
  • Affirm $2.9B

That’s a super impressive list! It doesn’t seem like ex-Google employees are bad at starting companies and pathologically incapable of quitting their jobs. Instead, the oddity is merely that they don’t attend Y Combinator.

That’s a different skew, and much easier to explain. Unlike regular YC founders, ex-Google employees may just be:

  • So wealthy that they self-fund until they can raise a Series A and aren’t willing to sell 7% of their company for $125k.
  • So tired of bureaucracy that they refuse to join an accelerator.
  • So credentialed that they don’t feel a need to go through Y Combinator to gain further credibility.
  • So well connected that they raise a Series A without going through Y Combinator.

Whatever the explanation, the fact remains that ex-Google employees do in fact leave to start companies.

Adjustments and Proportionality

Of course, we now have to ask if they do so proportionally. Even if Google has produced the founders of nearly a dozen billion dollar companies, we shouldn’t be impressed until we’re confident that they’re actually hitting above their weight.

Wikipedia lists 495 startups worth over a billion dollars, putting Google at 2%. But if you only include US based startups, Google is at 9 out of 122, or 7%.

To figure out the appropriate reference class, we’ll start with the number of software engineers in the US (4 million), then identify how many ex-Google employees there were 10 years ago when most of these founders started their companies.

A partner at google has compiled and released historical headcount data. This is a good starting point, but remember that we’re actually interested in the total alumni population rathern than point-in-time headcount.

To make this estimate, I assume 3 year average tenure and run a simplified simulation where 33% of the workforce quits at the end of each year, then Google rehires up to next year’s headcount.

Running this simulation from 2000 to 2010, we get that there were 50,000 ex-Google employees in 2010. They’ve previously said the workforce is 40% technical, so that’s equivalent to 20,000 engineers. [5]

Pitting that against the 4 million software engineers in the US [6], we get that ex-Google engineers were around 0.5% of the relevant population, but started 7% of the US based billion dollar startups. That’s a mulitple of 14x, and fairly good evidence that Google employees are not particularly bad at starting companies. [7]


Taking a step back, recall that what we’re actually curious about is not whether Google engineers are disproportionately successful at starting companies, but whether they even try in the first place. In other words, do they appear irrationally bound by Golden Handcuffs?

Compared to a randomly selected US based engineer, Google engineers have all sorts of benefits. They’re well credentialed, well connected, largely based in Silicon Valley, and supposedly smarter than average.

It’s entirely possible that their success rate is 140x that of a typical engineer, but they only try one tenth as often. The fact that Google engineers start successful companies doesn’t preclude the possibility that Golden Handcuffs are holding them back.

Further, consider that “rationality” in this case is really a function of both odds of success and opportunity cost. Even if Google engineers are less likely to start companies, it could be a perfectly reasonable choice given their relatively high opportunity cost.

So at the end of the day, the empirical data tells us a few interesting things, but can’t present a decisive conclusion.

[1] The other universities I count as “elite” are:

  • RISD
  • Joint RISD/MIT
  • 2 x Harvard
  • University of Waterloo
  • Berkeley, Columbia MBA

The ones I don’t include are:

  • USD
  • San Jose State University
  • Rice
  • Duke
  • Claremont McKenna College

I do include 4 founders who attended Stanford for grad school, but did not attend an elite undergraduate institution.

[2] Apoorva Mehta of Instacart spent 2 years at Amazon.

[3] Tony Xu of DoorDash was an intern at Square, and worked full time at McKinsey for 2 years, and eBay for another 2. Fred Ehrsam of Coinbase had spent 2 years at Goldman Sachs. Brian Armstrong of same had interned at IBM and Deloitte, then spent a year at Airbnb. Though notably, this was in May 2011, back when Airbnb was a small Series A startup with under $10 million in total funding.

[4] This ends up being a bit complicated. Reportedly, Google has an average tenure of 3.2 years with a median of 1.1. This is possible, but odd, and I’m not sure how they got these numbers. It’s tricky because at any given time, some population of employees has not left and you don’t know how long they’ll stay. If you count their tenure as their tenure-to-date, you’re undercounting how long they’ll actually end up staying. If you only count employees who have left, you’re skewed toward employees with short tenure. Also, Google has grown over the years, and we’re looking at founders who are successful now but started out 10 years ago when Google was around 25,000 employees.

[5] Data here. And yes, it’s possible the proportion of engineers has changed over time and this analysis is off.

This also helps explain why there are relatively so many founders from top universities. In the same 10 year time span, Stanford and MIT undergrad graduated around 115,000 alumni.

[6] Maybe we should be looking at the number of people who have been software engineers from 2000 to 2010 including retirements, and this number is actually higher. Assuming 40 year careers, and a constantly total number of engineers, it should be something like 25% higher, and Google is proportionately 25% better than it appears in the main text.

[7] There are lots of over corrections you could apply here, so don’t take this too literally. Maybe the relevant population is all people, not just engineers. In that case, Google ends up looking way better since the general population is much less than 40% engineers.

The Golden Handcuffs Were Inside of You The Whole Time

I consider the phenomenon of “Golden Handcuffs”, first as corporate perks, then as pay, then as Silicon Valley’s cost of living. I reject every explanation.

Golden Handcuffs as Corporate Perks

You get kombucha on tap, organic granola, a masseuse on staff. Soon enough, you forget your passions, get comfortable, and never leave.

I hear this all the time, but it doesn’t actually add up.

After a few years, an engineer at Google is making around $350,000. In contrast, organic kombucha is $0.14 an ounce. So even if you’re drinking 12 ounces a day 240 days a year [1], that’s just $400, or 0.1% of total compensation. To frame that otherwise, one year’s salary could buy you a 1000 year supply of kombucha.

What about the other perks? Google’s granola supplier sells to the public for $7.20 a pound. I don’t think it’s reasonable to eat a pound of granola day, but if you really wanted to, it would still only cost $1,700 for 240 work days. A nice massage is maybe $100, so if you go once a month, that’s another $1,200. Lunch is a pretty big cost, say $20 per day, or $4,800 per year.

What about your home office? The Wirecutter office chair is $1000, their 4k monitor is $500, and a top-line 16-inch MacBook Pro is $4,500.

So that’s an annual cost of $8,100, or just 2.3% of total compensation. Plus an upfront cost of $6000, amortized over several years.

I have a really hard time believing this is why people fail to quit large companies.

Golden Handcuffs as Corporate Pay

If perks represent only a tiny fraction of total compensation, then surely it’s the compensation itself that’s keeping employees in check?

This also ends up being tough to swallow.

Let’s say you quit your job, apply to Y Combinator, get in, pitch at demo day, and raise a Series A. Great news! You now have millions of dollars in the bank and can pay yourself a market rate salary again.

The odds that things do not go this smoothly are maybe 99-to-1 if you’re a randomly sampled founder. [2]

So let’s say you’re screwed and earn nothing as a founder. What’s the opportunity cost? Well in that year, it’s the full $350,000, or 100% of total compensation. But over your lifetime, the opportunity cost of taking a year off to pursue your dream is just 1 year out of a 40 year career. Around 2.5% of lifetime earnings. [3]

Is it not worth paying 2.5% of lifetime earnings to give your passion an earnest attempt? If you truly believed in something, would you really be unwilling to sacrifice even a miniscule fraction of all future income?

I’m sure this is part of the explanation, but it can’t be more than a small piece.

Golden Handcuffs as Bay Area Cost of Living

Ajay Royan of Mithril Capital writes:

How are you supposed to have a startup in a garage if the garage costs millions of dollars?

That’s a great one-liner, but it’s also garbage logic. Sure, home sale prices are in the millions, but if you just want to rent a garage, he’s off by a factor of 100.

Here’s a CraigsList search for homes in mountain view with attached garages. They seem to go for around $1,200 / bedroom. If you rent this 4br for $4,500 (perma) rent is $13,500 / year, or around $16,000 in a typical pre-covid market [4].

That seems expensive, but again, not compared to total compensation.

Let’s say you work at Google for 5 years, making $190k the first two, $260k the second two, and $350 the 5th. Post tax, that’s $793,000 in earnings. In those same 5 years, you spent $80,000 on rent, so you’re down to $713,000 in savings.

As discussed in the corporate perks section, Google takes care of every need you might have, so there are no other costs. [5]

Let’s be really conservative and say you didn’t invest any of your earnings during those 5 years. [6] And let’s continue to be conservative and say you’re using a 5% safe withdrawal rate [7] instead of living off the principal.

With those parameters, you are still pulling in $35,650 in passive income. More than enough to afford the $16,000 for rent, $8,000 for kombucha, granola and massages, and still have over $11,000 left over. [8]

Even one year at Google would net you $126k post-tax, which is $110k after rent. So at 23, you could quit your job and still have 4.5 years of runway to pursue your dreams. And you can do this while continuing to eat superfoods and living in the most expensive rental market in the world.

To summarize: Rising rent costs are nothing compared to corporate tech salaries. Royan’s argument that garages have gotten too expensive for startups is totally unconvincing.


If it’s not perks, pay or cost of living, what’s going on here?

I’ll provide my own theory in the next post, but here are some possibilities:

If none of those excuses apply, what are you doing instead?

Presumably, you have some values, and those values are not maxed out. They might be hedonic (your life is not as pleasurable as it could be), altruistic (the world is not as good as it could be), or narcissistic (your status is not as high as it could be).

Whatever the case, day jobs seem to be the proximate cause holding you back. I realize that quitting your job won’t magically turn you into a dream-fulfilling machine, but it is probably a good first step.

Everyone knows this. Everyone knows that it is best to directly pursue instrinsic value instead of getting distracted by instrumental goods and side quests.

So again, what are you doing?

I’m not asking rhetorically and this isn’t a motivational essay. I genuinely want to know.

Seriously, email me.

[1] I’m assuming 20 days of vacation, holiday, sick leave, etc.

[2] If you already work at FAANG, odds are probably much better. This reduces opportunity cost, and strengthens my point.

[3] Of course, the early earnings compound, but your salary also goes up later in life. Maybe that’s not exactly a wash, but this is all back-of-the-napkin anyway.

[4] https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Rent-prices-drop-again-in-S-F-and-other-Bay-Area-15692584.php

[5] I’m sort of kidding, but seriously, what else are you spending money on?

[6] For the record, the S&P is up 70% in the last 5 years, or around 11% annualized.

[7] I know you’ve heard 4%, but 5% seems reasonable. MarketWatch, Reddit.

[8] To be clear, this is not a financial independence blog. It seems great in theory, but given how many people seem to struggle with fulfillment afterwards, I can’t strongly recommend it. I’m not against it either, but I’d like to figure out what’s going before I start giving life advice.