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Hardship and Opportunity: Gods of the Silicon Valley

By mattw in Culture
Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 02:27:59 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

There is a mystique to the Silicon Valley. It is a land of excess and of extremes, a land of quick wealth and of untold hardship. As the machinations of ruthless CEOs and starry-eyed technological visionaries play out, many a hapless worker can only boggle at the speed and devastating impact brought when the winds of change blow. Some are there for the challenge, some for the money, others because it is simply all they know. Here, the Gods of Hardship and Opportunity giveth, and they taketh away, and no one can know for sure when their turn is coming.

So many stories of the Silicon Valley read like a Po Bronson book: wide-eyed immigrants fascinated with the 101 as they get their first glimpse at the 'Promised Land', fast-moving overmonied techies paying millions for a house they haven't even seen because it will be sold in the next 20 minutes, and other true tales of excess and insanity. Even to this day, the God of Opportunity still frequently holds sway. But Hardship, never unknown, has come to take back what is his.

Do not be deceived: Hardship in the Valley has never been absent. Over a year ago, there were stories of the high-tech homeless, tales of men with three degrees who speak five languages sleeping in their cars or seeking out shelters, amazed that with so much Opportunity, Hardship held sway in their lives. But that was February of 2000; 15 months later, May unemployment in San Francisco bounced up to 4.2% from 2.6% a year ago. Many more high-tech workers have gone from six-figure salaries to unemployed Hardship. Worse yet, as they paid their obeisance to the God of Opportunity, many of these techies worked more than a hundred hours a week, and now they lack even a basic social net to fall back on for assistance.

In the wake of layoffs and cutbacks, stock downturns and dead startups, there are questions. Who is to blame? Is it the workers, who should have saved more? The personal savings rate had been falling for a decade, dropping negative in the year 2000 as people collectively spent more money than they earned. Or perhaps congress is to blame, for bringing in more H1B workers, when critics claimed that the tech worker shortage was a fabrication. Could it be the legion of day traders sending the stock market to record highs, in an irrational tulip-buying frenzy? That certainly had its impact, as the resulting crash has left a great deal of money on the sidelines, afraid to invest. The capital markets are dry, and funding for new startups, even good startups, can be hard to come by.

For the vast majority in the middle, disciples to neither Opportunity nor Hardship, but somewhere in the middle, subject to both their pulls, this is a chance for reflection. What drives you, and what price will you pay? Those who are struck down chasing the almighty dollar seem more apt to renounce their materialistic folly, and even those who become the next tycoon will claim the money was "just a way of keeping score". But the mass in the middle, they often have other reasons for being there. Sure, stock options were fun, and it is better to make more than less, but techies will still tell you the reason they won't ever pack it in is the camaraderie. They want to be involved in the next big thing; to say they were there, dabbling in the fate of the computing world. They want to be on the bleeding edge of technology, and this is where first blood is drawn, over and over.

With the spectre of failure and homelessness looming over more people each day of the downward spiral, one has to ask: why were these people the first to go? Many people have said: the work is still there. Many talented engineers still have a half-dozen places they know they can go if their current job disappeared. Are they better networkers? Those in the dire straits brought on by the slowdown have been portrayed by some technological elitists as the HTML-monkeys of the 90s, talentless nobodies whose time had come, yet there sometimes seems to be no rhyme or reason to who is touched by cruel fate.

Finally, where has all the progress gone? The Internet era is not over. Despite the rapacious press feeding on dot-com misery like a pack of vultures, the Internet has changed the world, and some growth is still happening. Businesses are making money on the Internet. Where is the investment in tomorrow's technology? How long will venture capitalists let the fields lay fallow? Like all cycles, this one has a beginning and an end, and the new beginning may be near. When the cycle begins again, will we be any wiser the next time?


Voxel dot net
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The tech slowdown...
o is a myth. I haven't slowed down one bit. 5%
o hurts a lot 9%
o is overhyped, just like the tech boom 29%
o is the fault of stupid dot-com CEOs 16%
o is the fault of greedy job-hopping overpaid workers 8%
o is the fault of insane daytraders inflating and crashing the market 14%
o is Inoshiro's fault 7%
o is great, because layoffs mean more time for K5! 8%

Votes: 71
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Po Bronson
o high-tech homeless
o unemployed Hardship
o falling for a decade
o bringing in more H1B workers
o irrational tulip-buying
o Also by mattw

Display: Sort:
Hardship and Opportunity: Gods of the Silicon Valley | 39 comments (36 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
I figured it out (3.80 / 5) (#3)
by John Milton on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 02:35:36 AM EST

I just remembered what this reminded me of. Silicon Valley is Las Vegas for technophiles. They can leave and live a normal life, but the perpetual gamble is sitting right there in front of them.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

poll (3.33 / 3) (#5)
by Delirium on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 03:14:16 AM EST

You forgot "I don't work in the tech industry and thus do not care."

Callous and short-sighted (4.00 / 4) (#8)
by cunt on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 04:38:30 AM EST

Various sectors of the economy are not segregated and isolated from each other such that a down-turn in one does not affect the others. Indeed, an economy functions much like a macroscopic organism, in which the individual components contribute to a whole that is unachievable by any part alone. If one sector of the economy suffers, the rest will be negatively affected to some degree.

[ Parent ]
my ass they will (4.50 / 2) (#13)
by alprazolam on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 01:21:08 PM EST

you've managed to over hype the valley even more than most can. when it all goes to shit, the rest of the economy will take a hit yes, but it won't fall apart. buysocksonline.com isn't really a big fucking deal.

[ Parent ]
tech companies (4.75 / 4) (#14)
by Delirium on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 02:29:45 PM EST

That's only correct if you're talking about the actually important portions of the tech economy. The majority of this tech downturn was the bankruptcy of completely worthless companies, who had never turned a profit or even received any significant amount of revenue. The removal of these companies could arguably have a positive effect on the rest of the economy, as it frees up venture capitalist money for more useful ventures. So if IBM had problems, it'd affect everyone else too, but when eFront went bankrupt, I doubt anybody else cared.

[ Parent ]
Another poll option (4.00 / 5) (#10)
by RangerBob on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 09:38:39 AM EST

"Silicon Valley have been covered so many times in the past 15 years that there's no way I can bring myself to care."

[ Parent ]
hum.. (3.90 / 11) (#6)
by rebelcool on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 03:20:12 AM EST

if you're making a 6 figure salary, then homeless, you're a goddamn fool. Who the hell makes that much money and doesnt save it for when that money dries up? Fools. I have no pity for such obviously stupid (and thus overvalued) people.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Wealth is relative (3.00 / 6) (#7)
by cunt on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 04:33:36 AM EST

What may seem like a large salary to you may, in another part of the world, merely be enough to live decently. While I do not know that this is in fact the case, it is not very charitable - or even reasonable - to assume that these highly-trained professionals are idiots.

Admittedly, it is foolish to not save for the future, but it is also a common mistake to not do so. When caught up in the pressures of daily expenses, it is easy to forget or ignore what may happen later.

[ Parent ]
"Need the salary to live decently" (4.20 / 5) (#11)
by ucblockhead on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 11:09:00 AM EST

Did you ever wonder how those who live in Silicon Valley but don't make six figures live? You know, the janitors, the secrataries, the cops, etc...

"Live decently" is a nebulous concept.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Pretty badly (4.00 / 3) (#18)
by fluffy grue on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 06:45:41 PM EST

School teachers in San Francisco make $50K or less. They often live in homeless shelters or run-down inner-city apartments which are a several hour drive away from the school they teach at. I'm sure support staff is even worse off.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Cost of living (none / 0) (#20)
by cafeman on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 01:05:54 AM EST

So what does it cost to live a comfortable life in SF? As in reasonably close to work, nice place (not over the top), etc?

"No Silicon heaven? But where would all the calculators go?"

[ Parent ]
A fuckload (none / 0) (#21)
by fluffy grue on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 01:43:16 AM EST

Okay, let's use a conservative estimate and say that a decent, non-rotting one-bedroom apartment in an area close to where you work is $3000/month (which is actually somewhat low for those criteria), which translates to $36,000/year. Most apartment complexes require that you make at least 3x the monthly rent, which means you need to make over $100K/year to comfortably afford living in a decent one-bedroom apartment. If you have a family, then $3000/month will be enough for a rotting, decrepit 3-bedroom apartment if you're really lucky and want to commute over an hour each way in non-rush-hour traffic.

Or you can live out in Mountain View or one of the other suburbs and rent a 3-bedroom house for about that much and have a two- to three-hour commute. And you still have to make 3x what a schoolteacher makes.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

FYI (none / 0) (#22)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 10:55:35 AM EST

My mortgage is $2000/month, and it only takes me an hour to get to my job in downtown San Francisco...

If Mountain View is a 2 to 3 hour commute, where on earth are you commuting to!?!?
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

This info (none / 0) (#23)
by fluffy grue on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 01:24:36 PM EST

This was according to a friend of mine who was living in Mountain View and works for Concentric.net up in Santa Clara. He finally found a 2-bedroom house near Santa Clara for "only" $3000/month.

It sounds like you were lucky in finding a house which you could buy for so cheap. From what I understand, that is most decidedly the exception, and not the norm - instead of selling, owners are renting their houses out for rather exorbitant prices, and being somewhat arbitrary about terminating leases when they suddenly realize they could be making shitloads more off of some other sucker. The real estate market is, basically, whacked.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Those days are almost gone (none / 0) (#24)
by rusty on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 08:30:48 PM EST

I'm moving in a month, for example, and I doubt the landlord will find anyone to pay what we paid for this place.

Rates for a livable one-bedroom in a decent area of SF are still around $2K/month though, and the market has been so short for so long I doubt that'll ease anytime soon.

Basically, folks, this is an excellent time to be moving far away from the Bay area. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Cost of living (none / 0) (#25)
by cafeman on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 09:04:05 PM EST

My god ... that's unbelievable. Does purchasing power parity remain constant (in that wages are proportionately higher in the bay area), or is the cost of living just unbeliveably high there? ie, would you end up with the same standard of living after earning and costs whether you lived in the bay area or in downtown Utah?

For comparison, I live in Melbourne, Australia. I rent an ok (not great, about average) two bedroom house 15 min from the CBD in a major cafe area with a backyard. I pay $805 a month Australian ($400 a month US, which is pretty cheap, but I would get an expensive two bedroom for no more than $1,200 AUS a month, $600 US). Wages here are pretty good in comparison to the cost of living (in that it's realistic to earn 4 to 14 times what I pay in rent, depending on your skills and experience ... anything above that and you're either in a niche market or pretty hot shit). For example, a good cafe meal will cost you about $7 - $20 Australian ($3.50 - $10 US), and a movie costs $8 - $13 Australian ($4 - $7.50 US).

Of course, with the Australian dollar (or peso, given the exchange rate), it makes going overseas on vacation pretty expensive. But, the cost of living is pretty good, as is the quality of life.

"No Silicon heaven? But where would all the calculators go?"

[ Parent ]
Not really (none / 0) (#26)
by rusty on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 12:04:17 AM EST

For tech jobs, it used to be that there were relatively few good people for the staggering number of jobs available, so wages were definitely better. I got a nearly 100% raise for moving here. But my cost of living jumped probably 300% as well. So, IMO, it's just not worth it. I know we've struggled with money a lot more out here than we did in DC. And Christina didn't make much more out here for comparable admin assistant work as she was doing in DC. I don't think most jobs pay any better here than most other major metropolitan areas of the US.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
despite the article, I'm now in austin :P (none / 0) (#27)
by mattw on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 04:28:54 AM EST

The only thing I miss about CA is the weather. Austin gets hot, although not nearly as humid as Houston or Dallas, in the summer. But in the bay area, you get horrendous traffic, crowds everywhere (fear the AMC 20 in santa clara on the weekend), and CA taxes.

I miss the area -- primarily because the Internet world totally revolves around Santa Clara. Nonetheless, I just sold my house in Livermore, and I won't be back.

I wouldn't agree with the general cost-of-living being that much higher, however. The cost of housing is pretty insane, but movies and food were only marginally higher (say, 20% higher, as opposed to double or more for housing). Why high-tech companies, who could employ people anyhwere, would want to have anyone but salespeople in the valley, is beyond me, when they could relocate to a friendlier business climate and cut office space costs to a fraction of what they are there.

[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]
there's a concentration of talent in the valley. (none / 0) (#32)
by coffee17 on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 03:31:01 PM EST

who could employ people anyhwere, would want to have anyone but salespeople in the valley, is beyond me, when they could relocate to a friendlier business climate and cut office space costs to a fraction of what they are there.

Part of the issue is that the valley has (or had) a concentrated amount of tech workers, and this occured when things were not insanely expensive. Once this was realized, space became insanely expensive, but it was someone smart to be in the Valley, because there's a lot of people to recruit. And while one could recruit from SF and then move them to someplace cheap, not everyone wants to relocate, and some might actively not want to do that because the place you'll be moving to won't have a lot of employers for them to choose from if they don't stay at said company forever. I guess the tech industry kinda painted itself into a corner.

Personally, I would love it if my company would relocate someplace cheaper (and as we're looking for a new building (we're actually growing)), however no one seems to actually take me seriously. Heck, they promised that they wouldn't move further than 5 miles from our current location and a lot of people are grumbling about that.


[ Parent ]

places to work (none / 0) (#33)
by cafeman on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 07:47:15 PM EST

Ok, seeing as we're talking about jobs and standards of living, I might piggy-back to try and get some answers for a question I have. I'm thinking of heading back over to the US in the next few years to live and work. I've mainly been around the west coast (California, Nevada, etc), but have little knowledge of any of the other states. Basically, I'm trying to narrow down which of the states I want to live in.

What are your perspectives on where the opportunities are / where a good place to live is? I've worked as a sys-admin and small-scale developer, but I probably wouldn't be looking for a front-line developer / administrator position, so a heavily tech-oriented place probably wouldn't do much for me (ie Silicon Valley). My current job is as a generalist consultant for a big five firm (mainly process reengineering and economic policy for government clients), so I'd probably be looking for a location with a large corporate / government presence. In other words, I probably wouldn't enjoy a regional town in Arkansas ;)

Weather isn't a biggie for me. I'd prefer warm, but cold is fine as long as I've got heating. Quality of life is big for me, to the extent that I like culture and stuff to do ... I used to live in Brisbane, and after a few years, there's not much new left to do. Any recommendations?

"No Silicon heaven? But where would all the calculators go?"

[ Parent ]
Where to live. (none / 0) (#34)
by coffee17 on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 09:29:56 PM EST

First, a quick rundown of my locations so I can give a bit of perspective. Grew up in Milwaukee, WI went to school in LA, California, interned once in Austin, TX (you'll not I never returned to TX), worked in Seattle for a year, hitchhiked back down to LA to visit a friend, went to Milwaukke again for a bit, and ended up here in Silicon Valley. Also as a bit of bias, I tend to try to be in metropolitan areas... the main city should be at least 500K people, so I'm inexperienced in smaller towns.

I've also always been in frontline tech areas, either Chip design, Programming and now sysadmining, so I'm not too sure how great me advice will be. If you want culture, I'd say look on one of the coasts, in the Midwest, everything is vanilla. In the South, things would be considered anti-cultural to many.

If you like hot, than california could be for you, and if you hit an area like LA they'll be a good mix of things without only Tech. But then NY is also probably similar, but much colder in the winter. Admitedly I only have experience with one coast, however while the east coast has more history, I think that it's a bit more set in it's ways. However, despite new-age feelings in cali, it's fairly repressive and law heavy. I liked seattle (especailly the weather, I'm a clouds and rain person (which means the summer sucks pretty much everywhere for me)), however it seems kinda unreal. Someone else there mentioned it had a theme park feel to it. Also, seattle is experieincing growing pains with horrible traffic and a poor public transit system. If you would like to live sans car, I think NY then chicago are the best options. My current target is Portland, Oregon; as it has weather similar to Seattle's is west coast, has some tech companies (altho it's not real heavy), and is large enough that there should be a variety of things to do. Hope that helps.


[ Parent ]

places to work cont (none / 0) (#36)
by cafeman on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:14:39 AM EST

Funny you should mention DC and Chicago ... they were two I was considering. Something I don't get though is from what I've read the population of DC and Seattle is around 500,000 each. Is this indicative, as in that's pretty much how many people live there? Or is this because of the way they define the city limits, where the 500,000 people are those considered in DC proper, regardless of how much urbdan sprawl exists?

For example, Melbourne as defined by the census has around 3.4 million people. However, urban sprawl goes out beyond that, so if you draw the line at where people still say they live in Melbourne, the population goes up to around 4.2 million. But, the 3.4 million is more indicative, as the people on the outskirts barely have anything to do with the CBD (central business district) or inner city area.

Is 500,000 people indicative? Does it feel that way when you're there? Here in Australia, Canberra (our capital and equivalent of DC) has about 400,000 people, and it feels that way after a year or two. If you don't love your neighbour, you run the risk of going out of your mind in a few years.

Thanks for the advice by the way, it's really helpful. You can read census and business data all you want, but it doesn't compare to talking to someone who actually lived there.

"No Silicon heaven? But where would all the calculators go?"

[ Parent ]
That's just the metro area I'm pretty sure. (none / 0) (#37)
by coffee17 on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:11:27 AM EST

at least for seattle, that's just the city proper area I'm 90% sure. I'm don't know how much might be in the surronding areas, but if milwaukee is similar, the city proper just has like 650K,but the total area has like 1.1M or so.

In any city I think that one will eventually go crazy if one doesn't love they neighbor... or at least try to ignore them. Odd mix; I like to be in cities but hate people. Well, maybe not quite so much odd as self-destructive.


[ Parent ]

You'll be wanting DC (none / 0) (#35)
by rusty on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 09:59:12 PM EST

Seriously, DC is the place for you, no question.
  • Warm: yep.
  • Government presence: you'll have trouble finding a job that isn't government related! :-)
  • Sysadmin/general techie work: There's infinite positions open for someone who's good, but doesn't want all the hassle of a "cutting edge" Silicon Valley job. Especially with consulting/gov't experience. You're golden. Also, economic policy and process analysis are big fields in DC.
  • Coming from "elsewhere": Everyone in DC is from somewhere else, pretty much. You'll fit right in. It's a fantastic city to live in.
  • Culture and stuff: DC's got way too much of that. Many of the best museums in the world, and they're all free. Lots of cool people from all over, plenty of stuff to do. It's the center of the world right now, really. All of DC's local news is national news, which you don't realize until you leave. Suddenly the rest of the US feels like the boonies. :-)
Drawbacks? Well, a few...
  • DO NOT live in a suburb. The DC suburbs suck. The city itself is really a very livable one. Don't let them talk you into moving to Arlington.
  • It's somewhat expensive. Not like New York or SF expensive, but it's up there. The cost of living is much more in line with earnings though. You may not be able to buy a Dupont rowhouse, but you can certainly find an apartment with reasonable rent.
Good luck. And don't let the lies and preconceptions of a lot of people throw you off about DC. It's not the murder capital of the world, it's not the least bit dangerous to live in, and the new mayor does not smoke crack. In fact, I lived there for three years, and frequently did stupid things like ask drug dealers for directions and wander around drunk at 3AM, and never even got so much as mugged. Plus the crazy homeless people are great when you get to know them.

Good luck! :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#31)
by coffee17 on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 03:22:09 PM EST

Sure, there are stories about the people earning $100k a year, and there are even a few people, but I think that's the minority. As a relatively green sysadmin, I was getting offers between 45K-65K. In milwaukee the "offers" (well, offers for people without long dyed hair and piercings) were about $45K-60K. The cost of living in Milwaukee was dirt cheap. I have about as much disposable income here taking home 3K a month as I would if I lived in Milwaukee and took home 2K/month.

Part of the problem is that while you might actually be making more gross, you don't make nearly as much more net, and certainly not enough to counteract the cost of living.


[ Parent ]

I saw this happen when I moved... (none / 0) (#30)
by coffee17 on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 03:15:09 PM EST

I moved from sharing a (rather small) house with someone to living alone (at incresed rent, sigh). But unfortunately for my housemate, the lease was for $1900 a month for the two of us, not $950 for her and $950 for me, which means that she had to find someone who would pay that for about the same amount of space that I've now got, while still having to co-habitate... but then, some people like co-habitating; I'm just not one of them. Oddly enough, the landlord had recently raised rent by $300 right when the .com crunch was happening in Feb, then should have been the time for me to move... the place was worth it at $800, but not for $950.

But I figure that a lot of people are leaving the area right now (when I came here a year ago, not only were rents for single dwelling places a little higher than now, but I had issues with actually finding vacancies (well we don't currently have any, but if you give us a $1000 deposit and first and last months rent up front, fill out this very invasive form, sign away your first born (OK, I'll never have a first born), and sign a year lease we'll put you on a list, and we expect to have a vacancy for you within the next few months (bwahahaha ... oh shit, you're serious?!)). This year, it was pretty much a piece of cake to find vacancies, altho the rents are still pretty exorbant. I had a better place in seattle with twice the space, 5 blocks from the space needle (I.E. a much better location than "downtown" sunnyvale (it still strikes me as funny to here someone say downtown sunnyvale or downtown los altos. WTF, there is no downtown there)), for a "mere" $900 a month. Anyways, since a lot of people are leaving SF, some of the more prime alternatives might be seeing a sudden influx of occupants, thus the job markets might be a bit picky, and rentals might be artificially higher. I'm thinking that either Oct or Nov this year, or Jan/Feb next year will be good (because of stupid paper tricks in accounting it's usually hard to find jobs in Dec, and not too many people are moving out so it's harder to find vacancies). Of course, that's assuming that one still has a job in the Valley. If you're already unemployed, I'd say flee as quick as one can so that you can make one's savings (of course everyond here has savings, right) last as long as possible.


[ Parent ]

My case (none / 0) (#29)
by coffee17 on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 02:36:31 PM EST

Well, actually I just moved to a more expensive place, but I'll say what I was doing.

$800 a month when I moved in to share a house with one other person (it was a small house, I had about 150 square feet as "my space" and we shared the kitchen/living room, but as it was kept tidy, that meant little of my stuff was there), and the rent recently went up to $950. I chose to live there partly because there was a direct bus to work near there, so for $40 a month I could get a bus pass. My half of the utilities was about $100 when I moved in a year ago, but came down up to $150-200 a month. Add in cell phone (it's about the same cost as a land phone, and one more or less needs a phone line these days), food and what not and it would cost have cost me at least $1200 a month to survive, but with eating out at lunch with other employees (bah, sysadmins: they get paid crappy, but typically socialize with the better paid developers), and money for pot, the occaisional movie rentals or actually watching at a cinema, as well as all my college loans, and my credit card payments (I had recently come off of being homeless for awhile) and I was actually spending about $2400 a month.

But, if you look hard, you can find a place living with 3-5 people for $500-$600 and then add an extra hundred or so (I'm unsure of the cost) for caltrain, and maybe the extra $40 for a bus ticket on top of that and you might be able to get by on $900 a month.

When I lived in milwaukee, I shared a house with one other person. total of 1200 sq ft, not counting the 1200 sq ft attic for $200 each. Bus pas was also about $40 a month, but food and bills were much cheaper. I think I lived for on about $500-600 a month without trying hard and getting some frills. Certainly the valley is not where I want to live long term, mainly because if I wanted to attempt low-cost early retirement, it's simply not an option in the valley. San Francisco is even more expensive if one wants to actually live in a city, and the rest of the valley is just horrible urban sprawl. I'll spend another 6 month and then start looking at job perspectives elsewhere, probably in the milwaukee/chicago area, or portland, all three of which are decent cities (altho I'm a bit hesitant about returning once again to the midwest), but not as horribly expensive as silly con valley.


[ Parent ]

ignorance is no excuse. (4.00 / 3) (#16)
by rebelcool on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 03:14:15 PM EST

Would I want someone running my network when they are so absentminded they 'forget' to put away money? What does this say about a person's risk assessment capabilities?

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Nobody is perfect (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by cunt on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 06:25:06 PM EST

I know a great many excellent system administrators who often forget to bathe. The point is, when hiring people to manage a network, you consider their network management skills, not their finance skills.

[ Parent ]
It's easy to do X... so? (none / 0) (#28)
by coffee17 on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 01:47:29 PM EST

Yes, it's easy to spend spend spend without thinking about no tomorrow, but why should I have compassion for those who do? It would also probably be easy for me to kidnap and rape a young girl, does that mean that I should? Ok, granted that this is not a great metaphor, as most of society encourages wanton consuming and most of society discourages rape, however the point is still "just because it is easy to do something does that make it right?"

Looking at a less extreme case: I notice that someone at some store while putting their money back in their purse/pocket/backpack accidentally drops a few 20's on the ground and they fall right by my feet and I don't think that anyone other than me saw it. It's easy to pick up the money and claim it. However, is it "right" to do so?

Right and wrong are pretty nebulous concepts and pretty much everyone has their own ideas of right and wrong. Add to that, that some things might just be "good idea" vs. "bad idea" instead of "right" vs. "wrong" ... in this case, keeping *some* savings is a good idea, and spending recklessly is a bad idea, at least in my personal opinion. I claim that I do not have to feel pity when someone chooses a "bad idea" and it comes back to haunt them. Heck, I actually appreciate when I get an "I told you so" thrown at me; perhaps the embarassment will help me choose more intelligently in the future.

With that being said, if one has surplus money, one should aim to keep enough money that one could go for at least 6 months if you walked into work tomorrow to find that you were fired. That being said I will admit that after having just moved to a single dwelling apartment (and near dubbling my rent) I no longer can say that I can go 6 months, however I've rather dramatically lessened my spending so that given the increased rent I can get as much extra money into savings as I previously did, and then cutting back some more so that I can quickly get my savings level to the 6 month area that I like to aim for... oh well, I've got enough books stockpiled that I won't need to order more for awhile, and I can survive without more DVD's and PS games. Heck, I've even started living on relatively cheap food that I prepare myself instead of going out to eat.

Of course this is all relative, some people might think that 3 months is a better number to aim for, some might think that a year is better. The problem is when you don't plan for any savings and are buying a lot of unnecessary shit. In that case, I'm a cold hearted enough bastard that I can actually smile fondly thinking of such people getting a dose of living homeless (hint: I've done it before, it sucks. It sucks sweaty, infected, pus oozing donkey gonads; and I don't plan to be homeless again (I actually did it by choice, rather than accidentally as a result of stupid actions)).


[ Parent ]

regular incomes or good luck? (2.66 / 3) (#9)
by svampa on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 06:42:50 AM EST

When you are earning 1000, you chose your house, your car, etc. assuming that your regular incomes are 1000, or 1100 or 900.

You don't think your regular incomes are 50 and 950 are just part of good times that won't last. Something like a lot of sport and music stars.

Besides, they make a big mistake:

They don't realize that they don't generate such money, they are just workers payed for a company. They have no control about their incomes, their skills and talents are usefull for companies, not for themselves. They don't see themselves as workers that can be fired, they think they are indipensable

Sport, music, actor stars have learnt the lesson. If they earn 1000, they live with 200 and invest 800. Most of them own succesfull bussines.

Hi tech stars haven't learnt the lesson yet.

[ Parent ]
Good advice (3.80 / 5) (#12)
by slaytanic killer on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 12:32:39 PM EST

What you wrote sounds cold, but reality can be colder. If you can't completely control your destiny, make sure there's something for you during those situations you can't control.

If people spend less, maybe there won't be such a huge boom again, but banks are there to keep the money flowing...

[ Parent ]
Didja see today's Foxtrot? (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by cable on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:53:32 PM EST

The guy who was a member of the DotCom Billionare Boys Club is now working at a MegaPlex Cinema.

Uh you know that those millions were in stock options and stock, worth about as much as toliet paper now for companies that died? They should have cashed them in before the crash, and sold them to "Day Traders"? ;)

Only you, can help prevent Neb Rage!
[ Parent ]

the emotional origin of the boom and bust cycle (4.50 / 6) (#15)
by mattw on Sun Jun 17, 2001 at 02:50:48 PM EST

I think part of the reason the boom/bust cycle happens in the first place is actually that people get too emotionally subdued by their surroundings. As the 'good times' lasted longer, personal savings fell. It was an indicator that people thought the times would last forever. It was, on a personal finance level, the same as the Nasdaq runup -- the more momentum you have, the harder it is to imagine changing course. Call it emotional inertia, if you will.

The same is true the other way around. When a bust cycle ends, people continue to live conservatively and save. In fact, people who take the long view often make a great deal of money off this flux. The book The Millionaire Next Door and its sequel describe how millionaires (which are, by and large, either professionals like doctors and lawyers, or small business owners, and the vast majority are first-generation) tend to buy their houses and land when the values are depressed, and sell high.

Anyhow, the upside of the bust cycle is that individuals are more nimble than corporations. Smaller enterprises spawn and innovate during the bust cycle. When layoffs became popular in the 80s, I recall reading about how many people were taking to home business, aided by the personal computer, for the first time. That was the era that spawned desktop publishing.

One thing I wonder about, though, is with all the money sitting around, uninvested, how long will people-- as a society-- wait, before taking steps to encourage/force investment in new endeavors. When money is spent OR invested, it works, but what of when it just sits idle? Of course, almost all money is likely to be saved up, at least, earning interest -- which means that it is being slowly redistributed through loans, probably garnering additional returns as the risks increases. If one thing has been shown time and again, it is that risk carries a huge premium in terms of making money.

I hope everyone stops for a minute to consider the cycles they are in, whether in tech or not, and looks beyond them; when you see beyond the cycles, you gain power over them.

[Scrapbooking Supplies]
the magic is long gone (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by core10k on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 12:59:10 AM EST

I don't think anyone is in high tech for the comraderie or to be on the bleeding edge; the fun is over, and the army of standardization has moved in. The magic of computing is almost dead; let it die, already.

Not yet, my friend, (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by cable on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:57:08 PM EST

the magic is not yet over. That is what they said in the late 1980's when computer companies took a soaking. The computer craze was over, and would not come back, right? Wrong! It came back in spades!

All we need to do is ride it out, find the next big thing, and ride that wave back to the top!

Oh yeah, one more thing, get out of Silicon Valley, create the technology somewhere else like Saint Louis, Chicago, Columbus, Kansas City, a place away from the ones who can spy on you easily because you are all so close together.

Only you, can help prevent Neb Rage!
[ Parent ]

Hardship and Opportunity: Gods of the Silicon Valley | 39 comments (36 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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