| 1089 words

Working in tech is one of the most lucrative career paths in terms of money made vs. effort put in. There's plenty of ways to make more money, but most of them involve dedicating a lot more time to more qualifications or entrepreneurship or just grinding in general. It's not like tech is a golden ticket to riches, but generally you can start making decent money right out of college, and more than decent money if you're lucky.

Money is a funny thing. For a large part of many people's lives, their only goal is to make more money, and it rightfully should be. When you're a kid, sometimes it feels like approximately 100% of problems could be solved with money. As you grow older and become a poor student and then a poor adult at the start of your career, that number doesn't go down very much. On a first impression, there's almost no scenarios where more money wouldn't help and a lot of decision making, from career choice to where you live and even hobbies are based on this economic calculus.

Too much of a focus on this can distract people from what comes after. Some day, the most pressing concerns won't be solved by getting a raise or filling your bank account. Then what? I like to ask people "what would you do if you were a billionaire?", or even better, "if you could do literally anything you wanted as a job, what would it be?". A lot of uninteresting answers boil down to some combination of luxury travel, relaxation, or just pure hedonism.

I like the second version of my question because there's an emphasis on doing something as a job. Humans aren't meant to sit around and grow old all day - they're meant to do things. I've found it takes a lot of introspection to have a solid idea of what goals you might have in life beyond money, especially if you feel you may want something more than the standard path of starting a family. Lots of this is tied up in ideas like meaning or identity, and the answer is always changing, growing as you do.

There are a number of very standard and safe answers. Investing it, saving up for big purchases like a home, paying off debt, buying shiny toys. People with answers like these aren't really at the stage I'm talking about, where they're actually confronted with the infinite possibilities of what they could do with their lives. All of those are safe, if boring, options that are hard to criticize.

I've found it very enlighting, discussing these topics with some of my peers in the tech industry. Like I said, a combination of high salaries along with being relatively young means that they have to confront some of these decisions earlier than many. It's always fascinating to learn, broadly speaking, what people do with their money.

Eventually, after people reach the point where debts are paid off and savings accounts are saturated, these discussions become more interesting. And people in tech reach this point sooner than most. Then what? There are some obvious choices. Many people continue to treat money as their ultimate objective; their net worth becomes less useful for it's ability to spend on things, and more like a high score that must keep going up. There are some very rich people who have this mindset, because their main hobby is making that number go up.

Some people don't aim for more money directly, but their main interests are expensive things. Cars or boats or mansions. I guess there's no limit of expensive things to yearn for, so this can last quite a while. I wonder if this will continue to feel satisfying though. Surely there's only so much pleasure one can get from expensive things before it all starts to feel a bit hollow.

I also think this is often the default thing many people imagine when they think of being rich. Living the same basic life, but with bigger houses and nicer cars. Not to be mean, but I feel like that vision is a little bit basic. It's lacking soul. I think it distracts from what living that life would actually be like, hour to hour and minute to minute. What you'd actually be doing every day.

I've asked some of my peers in tech this directly, and honestly I haven't gotten great answers considering the fact that this topic comes up relatively often. There's the usual stuff, wanted to live large or travel in luxury or party like crazy, but I find it hard to get a read on what they truly want, deep down. Of course, before I cast too much skepticism on what they say I fully admit I deserve some skepticism too.

What's my plan. Basically more of what I'm doing now. I always liked adventuring and learning and making things, and now that I've gotten a job I essentially just do more expensive versions of that same hobby. Especially learning; there's a lot of things that it costs a lot to learn, because you're paying for the time and patience of an expert to teach you.

Will this last me forever? Will it even last me a decade before my soul is nourished and I yearn for more? Who knows. At least I can confidently say it's doing a fantastic job of keeping me occupied for now.

To some extent I wonder how much of this comes down to following the standard path of a wife and kids. How often is this question left unanswered because people know it doesn't really need to be thought about; having a family is all the guidance they'll ever need, for how to spend both time and money. It's certainly an alluring answer because it solves both of those problems very neatly. If there's anything to worry about, it's that it doesn't really seem like the ones I know who emphatically avoid that path don't seem to have a great answer of their own.

I guess this is a question that can only really be answered with time. I look forward to looking back on this in 5 or 10 years and seeing what, if anything, has changed.