Thursday, March 1, 2012

Broke on $350,000 per year

 I loved this article. Or hated it. Or maybe just empathized with the folks mentioned.

Most guys on Wall Street seem to know all of the (following) cool quotes from the movie "Fight Club".  I knew these LONG before that 1999 movie. When I was reading the book, I called my older brother #3 several times to quote him stuff he has been saying since we were kids. Tyler Durden's got nothing on my brothers.

For most of my career I was one of the extremely-well-paid-universally-despised-Wall Street-foot-soldiers mentioned in the article. I can tell you from first hand experience that 99% of these folks are as hand to mouth as anybody else. New York City consumes ALL of the money you make, unless you make 8 or 9 figure bonuses year after year. A Martini at the Four Seasons is $40. A muffin and coffee is $9. A 2 bedroom apartment on 3rd and 64th (where I used to live) is $5000+ per month. A parking space is $500 per month. This is all after taxes... and taxes for a New Yorker consumes nearly half of their earnings.

What do you get for the privilege? Private school tuition of $35k per kid, a 60 hour work week, a bag for belly, and a spouse that resents the living snot out of you and who absolutely, positively WILL file for divorce once there is enough in the kitty.

Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.  - from the movie, "Fight Club" (the book was far better and its on Kindle)
It takes an unreal amount of courage to walk away from a life that everybody, since you were a little kid, has told you is the life to have if you can get it. Usually it is too late before you realize that your life has been a kind of Wile e Coyote trajectory - you wake up one day and you are 40. You have made a lot of money, but you don't actually have any. Your family is used to a certain "normal" way of living that you cannot change, but continuing this "normal" is as self-destructive as any addiction... and any attempt by you to make any changes what-so-ever will bring you to ruin in divorce court.

Most guys just don't get this:
You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. 
Until its just too f***ing late.

But the truth is:
The things you own end up owning you.
Well, that and those you love... they wind up owning you, too.

This CAN be avoided, though. See, all you gotta do is gain some manual labor skills, buy a small farm outside of Nashville (these can be had for less than $200k... most of you Wall Street guys could pay cash for it right out of your 401k), have your wife work the garden, milk the cows, and raise the kids while you work an artisan craft during the off months, ranch and work the fields during on months, eschewing all but a single vehicle and homeschooling the kids. You will have plenty of fresh air and sunshine, and you will be in great shape. You will have Wednesdays and Sundays off, as well as half day on Saturday.

Just message me here... I will hook you up. To make the adjustment easier, keep repeating (brother #3 will tell you that this has been a family motto for generations) this Mantra:

You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else. 
We all know I have little to worry about... not one of these guys is going to actually do anything about their lives... they are going to keep on keeping on as neutered adults with what little Testosterone levels they have left until their prostate hardens into a lumpy walnut... all the while talking to themselves... and the conversation sounds something like this:
  Tyler Durden: We're consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don't concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy's name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.
  Narrator: Martha Stewart.
  Tyler Durden: Fuck Martha Stewart. Martha's polishing the brass on the Titanic. It's all going down, man. So fuck off with your sofa units and Strinne green stripe patterns. 

And why? Because they've got a closet full of designer rags, a kitchen filled with stainless steel Braun mini-peemers, and nightstand draw filled with Viagra. When I worked at Bear Stearns I noticed a secret handshake. Rather than reach for your hand, the other guy would reach to your tie, turn it around and look to see who the designer was... and you call yourself a man? (I swear to freaking Moses.)

Tyler Durden: Do you know what a duvet is?
Narrator: It's a comforter...
Tyler Durden: It's a blanket. Just a blanket. Now why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is? Is this essential to our survival, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word? No. What are we then?
 Narrator: ...Consumers?
 Tyler Durden: Right. We are consumers. We're the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession. 
This is what working on Wall Street does to a human being, but:
Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.
There is still time... to be you.


kathy said...

EXCELLENT POST!!! I have just been reading (and you know I'm your everyday small-time farming mamma and not an economist-my only degree is in early childhood eduacation but I do read a lot)and it seems that the Greek mess is not a default. Now clue me in here. If it isn't a default then the default swaps don't kick in and a lot of people are going to lose a lot of money. If that's the case, wouldn't you dump those things like and ugly blind date, especially swaps on Italy, Portugal or Spain because if they don't pay then what's the point. Could this lead to a problem? I'm just not sure what the problem is. It feels deflationary but that's a total guess on my part. I probably have very little money compared to a lot of people but I don't have any debt and I do own some real estate and I have some money socked away and I need to be able to figure out what to do with it. Deflation makes a difference.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


I can offer you no investment advice.

What little if any life advice could you possibly need from me? You have a home, family, skills, food production, no debt... and you possess a first rate thinker. Seems to me all the pieces are in place.

The Wall Street guys... and not just the $350k per year guys, but lots and lots of guys that made $20 million over their career are coming to the realization that they have very, very little to show for it... ergo, I don't think you have "very little money compared to a lot of people". Only a very few actually HAVE money. Making money and having money are 2 very different things.

kathy said...

I'm not looking for advice. I just want to figure this stuff out. It doesn't come naturally to me but I can get it if I try.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

It comes ever so much more naturally to you than to these guys. And you figured it out LONG BEFORE everybody else.

But there is something else going on here... that these guys are starting to do a cost/benefit analysis... and that analysis is coming up short... does not do much to support the system as currently constructed.

I made some friends here in the immigrant Mexican community. Know what several of them told me? They have enough of this lifestyle and pace. They want to go home and "enjoy a slower life".

When the 1% and the immigrants have come to the same conclusion... something is gonna give.

PioneerPreppy said...

Very Good Post Greg. I must read the book it sounds much more appealing than the movie was.

In a sense I did exactly what you recommend BUT I have one problem that I still for the life of me cannot over come.

Health Care

With Military benefits I paid off the small farm. The wife and I have enough invested that even in partial collapse we would have enough cash to live. I make enough in other endeavors to survive as well and pay the taxes but health care could wipe us out quickly if we didn't have it.

If we attempted to get it on our own the cost would eventually eat us down and even getting it through the wife's employer would kill us. Only by working for the large slavepit I work for can we really afford it.

I watched the lack of health care destroy my father's fortune when my step mother got cancer. Not having any scares the hell outta me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy,

The whole mess with Greece is to transfer the losses on Greek bonds to taxpayers and keep the big commercial and investment banks that hold all that debt whole. If the CDSs paid off, the banks that sold them would be back on the hook. THAT IS JUST NOT ALLOWED TO HAPPEN in a world where the banks control the governments. Someday the electorate will catch on. Look for it in one of the PIIGS first.


Coal Guy

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