Silicon Valley Is Messed Up: Single Digit Millionaires Feel Insecure

August 4, 2007

Sheez. There’s definitely a bubble going on when I read a New York Times article about how Silicon Valley types with under $10 million feel insecure. Sure, a million bucks isn’t what it once was with the dropping dollar and gas and home prices rising, but seriously. You can still do the Dr. Evil thing with $3 million… can’t you?

Not from the picture this article paints. We have mutli-millionaires fretting about how their $700K homes (well, more like shacks compared to the rest of the country) need remodeling and how they were able to take only one year off work but felt like they had to return to a 70 hour work week with only a few million in the bank. In today’s world where hedge fund folks make hundreds of millions and twenty-somethings billions selling Web 2.0 companies to Google, these relative “poor” feel broke – and strangely trapped.

“You’re nobody here at $10 million,” Mr. Kremen said earnestly over a glass of pinot noir at an upscale wine bar here.

And another:

Ms. Baranski — who was briefly worth as much as $200 million in 2000 but cashed out only $1 million before the collapse of the tech bubble — returned to work in March.

Along with two partners, she founded a software company, Vitamin D, and already she is resigned to the sleepless nights and other stresses that await her. “I ask myself all the time,” Ms. Baranski confessed, “why I do this.”

BloggingStocks asks a question I have:

Why can’t the Silicon Valley rat racers just kick back and enjoy their lives? As the article points out, many have contemplated moving… but the need to reach the top of the wealth pyramid drives them to stay in their small houses, commute long hours to and from work, and put in 70 hour work weeks.

Is the Silicon Valley rat race good for America? Are these people a little nuts? Would you stay in the Silicon Valley rat race if you had “only” $3 million to $5 million in net worth?

Well, there’s no question what I’d do with that much money. How about buy two (or three homes) in cheaper parts of the country (a winter and summer home), give a crap load to charity… and find a job you really want to do. My wife and I combined make “only” six figures, and feel comfortable in the Bay Area – maybe it’s because we both enjoy our jobs.

But what perspective I can lend from my relative “pauper” existence, is if you have a million bucks in the bank and still feel stressed, wouldn’t that be a big sign indicating that more money isn’t going to fix anything? And what’s the point of a huge house and piles of cash if you’re overworked to the point where you’re obviously not enjoying any of it? Oh, call me ignorant with my rags and little tin cup.

Has it become fashionable to complain about how much money you don’t have – when you already have more than enough – hence justifying the quest for more, more, and more?

That’s why I think this is a bubbly sign. These Bay Area denizens are cut off from reality. Silicon Valley is so screwed up that it’s more similar to a virtual world like Second Life. For when someone with a net worth of several million thinks that figure is chump change, $6 billion for Facebook suddenly seems like a reasonable valuation.

Update: Some amusing (as always) comments are appearing on Metafilter.

Additional Reading: Dave Winer, Mathew Ingram, WinExtra


  1. I think it’s a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ type of thing. People report being happy with their income when they earn just as much or more than what their friends earn. I see it here in NY too. My husband doesn’t feed rich, I do. It’s because he’s comparing our income with his friends’ incomes instead of with average people’s incomes.

  2. webomatica says:

    Elaine I’m sure New York can be just as (if not more) money-crazy as the Bay Area.

    It would be nice if people put more emphasis on happiness rather than net worth. There is the assumption in our society that more money should mean more happiness. I think the Times article shows the diminishing returns of more money once your basic needs are met.

    As for keeping up with the joneses – I think personally we realized it’s a losing game. There is no way in heck we will ever be “rich” in terms of monetary value what with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet out there. There’s something to be said for realizing you’ll never be super wealthy and therefore, learn to be thankful with what you have.

    I’m no financial guru but as long as we can pay the bills, save a little, support what we believe in, and have the free time to enjoy life, what the heck else is all the rest for? Buying a Hummer would just make me feel guilty…

  3. Shawn S. Wilson says:

    It is my sincere hope that all those involved in producing the material quoted herein eat a copious quantity of shit and die, only to burn in the worst Hell one could pull from the sick imagination of a Judeochristian zealot.


  4. webomatica says:

    I think the suitable hell for the person trapped in “keeping up with the joneses” land involve their lives as it is now – except for every material possession they acquire (say a new car) their neighbor immediately appears, gloating over the better model they just bought.