Thursday, March 21, 2013

Things I do not understand

This is where I talk about how fantastically wealthy I am and how I have absolutely no understanding of how middle class Americans can possibly be A) in debt without an external disaster, B) bored, or C) unhappy under any but the most remarkable of circumstances.
I make just under $3,000 per month, and the government steals about $500 of that before I ever see it. I graduated college early, and was given as an exceedingly generous gift the remainder of the college fund and a reliable vehicle. Through two months of day trading, six months of unemployment, an unbroken streak of luck in the stock market, and now a year and a half in a steady job (that did not pay as well for the first year) I realized yesterday that I have accumulated $75,000, all in the form of bank cash or stocks (well, mostly index ETFs).

I do not know how that compares in terms of raw dollar value with David Henderson's story of saving as a young immigrant. I think I am doing better than he was, inflation adjusted, though I do not say this to compete with him, since he wins any hypothetical competition by virtue of being more intelligent and considerate than I.

There is Dr. Henderson, saving for two big important things (US visa and house) and then, when he no longer needed to save, he spent down his savings to nothing until pushed to save again by marriage.

And yet I have never saved money. I never studied in school, I give up on long term projects, I have pretty much the shortest time horizon imaginable. I got by in school by skating on innate intelligence and getting out right as I hit my competence ceiling. I get by financially by being extraordinarily fortunate in the stock market, by having a steady job, by being born in the right family, by experiencing no negative financial shocks, and, most importantly (IMO), by not spending a whole pile of money. I invest between two and four thousand dollars every two or three months just because it is there, sitting in my bank account, over and above my minimum balance requirement and not doing anyone any good.

Maybe I could buckle down and save money like Dr. Henderson (and, I suspect 95% of well adjusted Americans) for some grand project, but honestly I would probably forget/quit/get bored after a month or two and be back to my old ways.

But when I think of all the things my vast fortune could purchase, my mind leaps instantly to silly luxuries like a boat or airplane, which are more trouble than they are worth in any case. I have a giant library of video games on Steam, and have spent sixty six hours in the past three weeks playing Planetside 2 (which, incidentally, is free to play) and the spare time beyond that has gone to Hulu and my kittens.

I started writing this post at a bit after 9PM, then I went to look up the video I posted above. Then I got distracted clicking on related links and got to this:
Which is apperantly a meme now. Not the doctor, who is the hero of Stein's Gate, which is undoubtedly the best time travel show ever made, but the song thingy. Evidence for Stein's Gate:
And from there somehow ended up on this:
Which I clicked on because I thought it was this (the song, not the weird clip reel):
And now it is 10:30PM. I have another tab open with half of an unfinished episode of Psych that I need to get to before I go to bed.

And this isn't even the best the internet has to offer, just a random sampling as I slowly eat dinner (brisket and ramen soup with onions and celery, spiced with the pork ramen powder, cumin, garlic, bacon salt, and a dash of cinnamon) in front of a screen half the size of my wall.

Now, there exist people who make less money than I, and they face a budget constraint tighter than mine, but no one who makes more money than me has any right to be in bad financial condition barring external shocks.

And yet I am well aware that it is I, not those poor savers, who am the outlier. I, who has never cut back on my spending since becoming employed end up with more total wealth than people who budget with the well-being of a full family on the line.

I do not understand that sort of mild deprivation (for there is no major deprivation in America), but I see it everywhere. I am both the worst paid and happiest of my co-workers.


  • I alone have found the secret to true happiness in this transitional era or
  • I am missing something hugely important, broken in the head, or otherwise defective.
I find the latter far more likely and it implies that most if not all of my life experiences and thus opinions are formed on a radically broken set of priors and really I should never ever give my opinion about anything again.

This won't stop me from writing here (only laziness will do that), but it serves as a reminder that I should stop voicing my opinions publicly because they are almost certainly wrong.

After all, if the only person I have ever found to publicly support my experience of life is a comedian, then they are not laughing with me, but rather the other thing.

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