One of the “benefits” that comes with working for a startup is stock options. I put benefits in quotation marks because stock options end up being worth nothing, or in the case of NSOs that you exercise early, end up costing you money. But along with the risk comes that little glimmer of hope that as the months go by, you’re quietly collecting what, in the future will be worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.
At the same time, I’m still living in my $600 a month shared apartment, feeling depressed looking at basic homes in the area that cost $1M, and feeling like I’ll never come near to affording a home and stable life until my 50s or 60s. I’ve managed to save $170k thanks to the stock market returning and a weighted investment in Apple, but that still is a long way away from the type of money you need to live a comfortable life in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile my boyfriend has saved absolutely nothing and will likely be enrolling in graduate school and taking on debt before we get married in a couple of years. Saving enough money to lead my dream life is all on me.
The possibilities of what stock options could be worth are exciting, but the reality of life is a bit of a mindfuck. It feels like all my chips are on red and the roulette is spinning for a half decade before I see where the ball lands. Luckily there aren’t too many great sacrifices because my life is pretty simple now. But in a few years when I want to have a family, that changes. I’m absolutely terrified of the future, and spend everyday wondering what if, or what if not.
At least there’s a tiny chance that my reality could be my dream reality — one where I reach financial independence before I have a family, where I can go back to school for art or film, and not worry about the financial implications of creative failure. I have so many dreams for this life, and with a little bit of luck, patience, tenacity, and hard work, maybe dreams can come true.