Wealth and Soul: Living Amongst the 1% in Silicon Valley

TeslaAnother day, another dozen $100k Tesla Roadsters passing by on 101. You hike the same hills as millionaires and billionaires, and share the same views during a relaxing day trip to the coast. You work amongst executives and entrepreneurs who have enough to retire on tenfold in the bank, yet are working and building something because they have something to prove to the world and their own egos.

But you are not the 1%. You drive a Honda. Or a Toyota. You work for the 1%. You have a life built on a dream that maybe your stock options will one day get you to that echelon of the Valley. Or make it so you can afford a nice $1.4M home in the Belmont hills (forget Hillsborough or Los Altos.) The older you get, the more you realize that the only way to make it outside of getting extremely lucky is to marry engineering talent or entrepreneurial genius. Or share a common bloodline with tech royalty.

That isn’t my life. I watch with envy as an acquaintances’ husband hits the jackpot in an IPO, their family likely set for life. Another friend of a friend, also married to an engineer, can afford to be a mother and work part time. I look around me at the women I know and they are either struggling to make ends meet or their husbands have impressive, stable, well-paid jobs at F1000s and startups where they are some of the most valued and thus retained-with-benefits employees.

Jealousy adds no value to life. But it is what it is. I’ve built my own career up and now make just over $100k per year (about $5900 per month) which is a lot, except it isn’t. I’d like to be able to afford a nice 1br rental but that would be $2.5k – $3k around here. Half my salary. Instead, I live with two roommates, and hate being at home. I try to save, but my future wealth entirely depends on the stock market. It seems so much smarter to just make it a business to marry into fiscal stability. Find a 40-something man who hasn’t been married or got out of a marriage without kids, and be his 30-something wife. Work still, of course, but don’t have such a huge gap between my networth today and what is necessary for the life I want to live here.

That’s a joke, to much extent. I’m not going to marry for money and I certainly don’t want to set any expectations for myself that I could be happy in that type of situation. But I also don’t know how long I can last in Silicon Valley without wealth. It’s been fine and wonderful in my 20s, I just don’t think I can survive here in my 30s and especially with a family.

It can be frustrating because I see the executives who make $200k+ per year, likely even more, and that will never be me. I see the woman who are married to their engineer husbands who don’t have to worry. And I see myself, not poor by any means, but not on a solid track to financial stability. My $230k of stocks and cash is a lot but not a lot. I could spend that all on an MBA tomorrow. I need to hit $1M to really feel like I’m on the base of the financial independence mountain, ready to climb. $5M is when I can stop worrying. The only way it seems to get there is to marry into wealth. And I’m not doing that. Am I stupid?









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7 thoughts on “Wealth and Soul: Living Amongst the 1% in Silicon Valley”

  1. Voice of experience from someone a decade down the road ahead of you.

    You want great income and healthy savings? Find a big company, build a nest for yourself in it, and move up as quickly as possible. You can hit $200K annual if you’re good. The odds of winning the IPO lottery are very very low. Switching jobs every 3 years just sets your salary, vesting, etc. back.

    All the rich successful people running those startups? They’re either overfunded 20-somethings who know the right people, or folks who climbed the corporate ladder before jumping off into their own company. Working for a startup at your career stage is just wasting your time gambling on the IPO payoff.

    1. Hi Jack & HECC,
      I think this really sums it up for me. I suffer from the same green-eye monster in my head and it can be all consuming. But I have to realise that these people have class and money on their side. One day, I looked around and NONE of my friends have been successful in their entrepreneurship ventures. And it’s because a) I don’t come from a money, and neither do my friends. b) it is riskier for people with less money to start up a venture c) if you do not run in those circles, it is harder for find people to invest in your ideas.
      It really speaks to the differences in wealth and the opportunities it can afford you. It’s just harder for people of lower class who have to worry about building our nest eggs first.

      1. I agree with Jack and GPS. Although you could truly become very wealthy if your startup hits it big. The odds of that happening are next to nothing. If you get in for a good company like Google or Facebook, you’ll make a lot of money and have good benefits with good job security. Have you considered working there?

  2. Great post! You are doing great. I also feel like that I am not on a solid track to financial stability. I think this sort of feelings are natural.

  3. You have an interesting blog. You sound addicted to money. I can relate as I’m similar to you when it comes to money. I’m in my late 40s now, but I saved and invested as much as I could in my 20s and 30s. I told myself, when I get to a million, I’ll be fine. I wasn’t happy with one mil and when I achieved two million, I still wasn’t happy about money. I have over $5 million now, but still am chasing making more money, because I know people who are much better off than I am. I live on the peninsula in Silicon Valley, so I know envy all too well.

    1. Maybe I am addicted to money, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I want to get to a point where I can have enough money to live off the interest. I think that will take $2 million minimum. I’m not the type to be jealous of other people. I live a fairly simple life. I drive a used car and I’m fine driving a used basic car all my life. I also live on the Peninsula so I know how expensive it is to live here, but I’m not that envious, despite driving by the Tesla dealership often.

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