Fantasy Millionaire: How Far From Reality is It?

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.

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10 thoughts on “Fantasy Millionaire: How Far From Reality is It?”

  1. "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."

    This is going to be a problem. You will resent him in ten years.

    1. I totally agree. Part of me thinks that your partner is going to grad school because he knows you'll semi-support him.

      I'm not saying to dump him. But protect your assets, make him pay half and get a pre-nup.

      1. I will comment on that too as I think that it might be problematic. I think it is perfectly ok for a couple to be together and not having the same views on their personal finance but I think one shouldn't be naive about it, you should talk about it and make things clear. I am saying this because I had to learn that the hard way. I have been in a relationship with a guy who was spending his money everywhere and not saving anything where I was the one earning less but taking responsibility for the "holes" in our finances. After we broke up I realized the reason I had no savings because of all the money I spent covering his spender tendencies. I know, I know, I was stupid! But I learned my lesson, now with my new boyfriend we share absolutely all expenses 50/50 and I am much more in control of my finances. Sharing all the expenses makes both of us responsible for our decisions concerning our career, going back to school etc…

        Well my best advice is share expenses equally whatever your boyfriend decides to do, that's the only way to be sure that he is not with you for financial reasons….
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      2. I've been with my husband for almost a decade, and my observation has been that a marriage requires each partner to support the other. Some people bring money to a marriage, and others bring emotional support, which you can't put a price tag on. My husband brings the latter, so while I pay his way a lot of the time, he more than makes up for it with emotional support. It can be difficult to get that level of support from a spouse who's half of a a dual-career couple, in my experience. You have to decide what your priorities are.

        In the same vein, prioritizing is important when choosing where to live. The market for what Joy (the author) does for a living doesn't get any better than her current city. Everyone has a different style, but if I wanted to buy in the Bay area, I might start thinking about Oakland or Hayward rather than Silicon Valley or the city proper. Or, I might look for work at a big company in the Valley with a multi-city presence, and then transfer to a low-COL branch of the company eventually, like Austin.

        Location does matter, and will continue to matter until telecommuting jobs become the norm and not the exception. That won't happen in my working lifetime, as a Gen-Xer, because so many members of my generation inherited the insistence on "face time" from the Baby Boomers. (Gen-Z, the first generation of digital natives *could* make it happen.) Anyway, I live in a part of the Midwest where you can buy a house and work a low-wage unskilled job, but if Joy comes out here, she may have to work such a job. She truly won't be able to have the career she has out here – no matter how strongly Midwesterners believe otherwise. (Most of the Midwesterners who insist that various cities out here are poised to become the next Silicon Valley are products of wishful thinking – and I've found that 99 times out of 100, they have no experience working for start-ups. Angel investors are loath to invest in this market, for one.)

  2. That is a thought, though: When you want to settle down and start a family, hop to a company that offers some 100% telecommuting positions. Nielsen is one of them, if you don't mind leaving the start-up environment. Then you could take the high salary to a low-cost market and buy a house/save for retirement very easily. 100% telecommute jobs are rare, but they do exist, especially in technology.

    No matter what you decide, you should relax a bit. You may not feel it, but you're really well off – not just for your age, but compared to Americans across the board.

  3. Investing in start up stock is like playing Russian Roulette, one bad choice and the invest,ment is gone. The best advice that I can give you is to do your research and spread your savings over several stock, thereby improving your chnces of success.
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  4. Whoa there, this sounds like one truly sad situation. Or rather a tricky situation. But I guess this is something more and more Americans are going through today. Especially in this crappy economy we live in. But there is always escape am I right? Escape into fantasy. I myself am no rich man, I actually work in the startup industry, but damnit if i haven't seen any success! Not a slice of it. I guess I just came late to the party. But I had the bright idea of making a game, a millionaire game actually. Let's people live as though they were rich and famous, even if they are just an average joe, or rather an average jeff like me.

    Anyways I hope you hang in there pal. And know that you aren't alone out there. Good luck mam.


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