Wealth Is An Illusion Of Happiness

Net Worth Illusion

Wealth is an illusion of happiness. If you are not aware of the illusion, then you might suffer from delusion.

One of my happiest memories was studying abroad in Chile for an entire semester.  I lived off beans and rice, and slept on a wooden plank bed.  At night, sweat would bead up on my forehead until it dripped down across my temple and into my ears.  It was that hot.  Yet, despite having no money, I was so happy.  Life was simple and the greatest pleasure I got was learning from others.

At the time, I told myself that if I could just earn $1,000/month and have my trusty camera, I'd be happy.  Well, I lost my way when McKinsey gave me a job offer.  Nobody turns down McKinsey, partly because nobody gets into McKinsey.  The curiosity of the job compelled me to take it rather than pursue my interests.

I recognize I've been blessed with the opportunity to work for a respectable company that may one day allow me to retire comfortably.  Yet, I wonder about that semester abroad in Chile all the time.  A couple years ago I went down to Chile and revisited the old AC-less dorm room where I used to live.  It brought back so many good memories.  Afterwards, my friend and I went back to our 4-star hotel, sipped on a Mojito and ate some ceviche.

It was then that I realized that despite living in a much nicer place on 100X the budget, my happiness compass pointed towards the dorm room of the past.


One of Sam's lines that hits me most is, “Ironically, it is the sympathy that Lyndon seeks, which makes him only hang out with people of his same socio-economic class.  He understands that most of America won’t understand him so he shuns most people.

It's hard to read, but it's true. Many won't empathize with me, simply because only a minority of people in America make $300,000 a year. I expect people to throw mud and make fun of the situation while calling me a cry-baby. 

Further, I realize it is equally ridiculous to try and garner sympathy, hence I don't try. As a result, I keep quiet. I keep to myself because otherwise, you'll think I'm arrogant when I discuss buying a European automobile, or discuss last night's symphony.

Yes, most of my friends are all working stiffs who make six figures and lead relatively decent lives.  We don't expect anybody outside of our circle to understand the grueling hours required to make our income. We don't expect people to understand that ever since we were kids, we were told we better succeed or else. 

Many of our parents are doctors and lawyers and politicians. Yet, how many people on earth can become successful doctors, lawyers, and politicians?  Not many, and that is why the pressure is immense.  We are not our parents nor do we live in our parents' generation!

You'll have to forgive me, and people like me for seeming callous and insensitive towards others.  The truth is, we fear backlash and insensitivity by you, which is why we keep so closed off. 

In fact, perhaps this is why there are so many congregations of ethnic communities in big cities, the Chinatowns, the Little Italy's and Harlems, etc. Maybe we all fear a certain type of backlash, and just want to feel safe. The feeling of security is why investing in real estate is so common for minorities.

The Wealth Just Came

I didn't ask to make the money I make. Income growth just comes with longevity. Longevity is due to performance, which ultimately means value creation for a company.  A person makes $1 million a year because he probably generates $10 million a year in revenue for the firm.  There's nothing really fancy about income.

What I don't quite understand is if people want to make more money, why not just join an industry that pays well?  Why not be a banker, lawyer, doctor, consultant, trader, engineer, Internet guru, Brittany Spears, professional athlete, or politician?  OK, it's hard to become successful at one of these professions, but that doesn't mean you can't try.

Photography is my passion, but I realize that I'd have a better chance at becoming the President of the United States than making a living doing what I love. Yet, I still long for it, and practice every chance I get. 

On weekends I scout locations for my next photo shoot. I've got a website where I'm actively selling my services.  I've even planned out my next three vacations to remote locations so I can capture that rare brilliant shot.  I won't stop trying.

The Decision To Leave It All Behind

The bonus check hit the bank account the other day and I've made up my mind.  I cannot leave McKinsey to follow my dreams.  Someone in the comments section wrote so aptly, “Once your hobby becomes your job, it stops becoming your hobby!”  I'm afraid that if I become a professional photographer, I'll begin to hate the entire industry.  I'll start being overly critical about my own work, and scoff at others who've been accepted.

I love photography too much to risk not loving it anymore. When Sam wrote about my situation, I was at the darkest stage of the year where I worked for 11 months without knowing what my bonus would be.  Now I'm in the brightest stage of the year where I've worked for only one month and have the year ahead of me.  I'm under no illusion that come March next year, I'll have a part of me that will wonder whether I made the right choice.

As of right now, I'm happy again because I know what I must do. It's important I create a realistic exit strategy and live below my means.  You're right.  A $4,000/month two bedroom apartment is fixable.  I'll be looking to get a more “reasonable” 1-bedroom $2,500-$3,000/month apartment in Manhattan instead.  A spreadsheet is open right now pro-forming my financial life over the next 10 years.  All I know is I want to be done by the time I'm 40.  Knowing this, means figuring out a financial plan to get there.

Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate every single one of them. Thank you Sam for letting me gain more perspective and finding a solution!  Wealth is an illusion of happiness, but don't let me stop you from trying.

For happiness!



* This post is a response to the community after writing, “The Curse Of Making Too Much Money And Not Pursuing Your Dreams“.


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99 thoughts on “Wealth Is An Illusion Of Happiness”

  1. Wealth is a social tool and hardly any value comes from it personally beyond the social power it provides. Consider if you were the only person on earth and you had all the wealth of the entire planet at your disposal. It would not mean so much to you at that point and I am sure you’d be willing to give it all up to have another person to talk to. A person who values wealth above those they share it with is delusional. Once a person’s needs are met, life is about people, friendship, and shared moments. These are the things that matter most. Wealth is one way of attracting highly interesting people into our lives so that our experience of living is sweeter. The most valuable thing is a real friendship and real love. How many people have sacrificed that which matters most, in order to attain money, only to find they already had the means to be happy before they became wealthy? It’s our friends and family we value most. We might be upset about losing several thousand dollars but we can make more. We are devastated when we lose a friend or family member because they cannot be replaced. The loss is very great. I am certain that by living in a world of competitive money making and consumerism, we have lost sight of this simple and obvious truth and have begun to work against our own happiness and joy. The irony of this is humiliating.

  2. Lyndon I can sympathize with you. In reading your post I was in the same mental state. I always dreamed of being FI and traveling and set out to do just that. I want to warn you about something that many don’t think of. I always wanted to travel and we are in the position, DH retired, I could do my job anywhere (own business) but that dream came to an screeching halt one day when my mother had a stroke. Now she needs 24/7 supervision and who is in the position to do it and pay for it. You guessed it, me. She does not have the finances to support her needs nor do my brothers and if you have money the family looks to you. I know they don’t prefer to and she never took a dime from me before but we don’t have a choice. So I pay out the *** in taxes, take care of two households and my dreams are put on hold. That said, I’m glad she is still with us but I just wanted to warn you. Make sure there is a plan for your parents because this can be in your future.

  3. Sam, great site! I’m a big fan.

    Hard to believe it’s been 5 years since Lyndon wrote this. It’d be very interesting to see an update halfway through his 10 year plan. Think that could happen?

    1. Hi Paul,

      Time flies huh? I know that Lyndon remains independent, and no longer working for corporate America, just like me.

      Taking a leap is much less scary in reality!

      Best, Sam

  4. “What I don’t quite understand is if people want to make more money, why not just join an industry that pays well? Why not be a banker, lawyer, doctor, consultant, trader, engineer, Internet guru, Brittany Spears, professional athlete, or politician? OK, it’s hard to become successful at one of these professions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try.”

    Good grief–does this not sound like the asinine thoughts of Romney? Remember the debate recommendation to just have your parents mortgage their home so you can go to college? This sounds quite comparable on the out-of-touch meter.

    I’m sympathetic to the fact that you don’t like your job but perhaps you could resist the urge to condescend to those many many “lucky” Americans who do not make six figures because they could not figure out how to pay for a university education in a country that offered them the option of taking out exorbitant loans, taking up arms for military actions they may or may not agree with or not getting an education. Not everyone is the child of a doctor, lawyer or politician, so maybe you could come down to earth and realize that the ticket for someone to try his hand at being a “banker, lawyer, doctor, consultant, trader, engineer, Internet guru” as you so flippantly recommend is simply not within everyone’s reach.

    As you wallow, try to avoid being so asinine and out of touch. Perhaps if you were a little more realistic toward and sympathetic to the situation faced by those lucky people who don’t make a lot of money, they would be a little more gracious to you as well.

    1. Have you lived in an emerging market? We are very lucky in American compared to 90% of the world.

      You have to believe in yourself Leah. Stop blaming other people for your misfortune. I decided to make no money in 2012, 2013 to work on my writing. Now after A LOT of sweat and effort, I’ve finally started to make more money than my job as a Director in finance in 2012. But it wasn’t easy. It took heart.

      I’ll add “writer” to the list that you don’t believe in. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. Being out of touch with reality is not seeing the world and the suffering all around us. Being out of touch with reality is only speaking one language and thinking it’s only your way and no other way.

      Take control in 2015!

  5. nice read. wonder what Lyndon is doing now.

    I graduated from a good state university top of my class and used a recruiting service to land my first job. First at a prestigious asset management company ($200bn AUM) and then as a professsional sports agent. It didnt work out because I was not prepared to be yoked like an ox.

    spent my 20s traveling the world…60 countries and counting. then met my wife and had kids and ended up doing a bunch of weird jobs in strange parts of the world.

    i found my way in the end. not quite the mckinsey way but financially i probably didnt take all that much of a hit compared to if i had stuck to my blue chip career…howeever, in terms of overall happiness, all the sights i have seen, the books i have read, and the quality of friendships i got…the road less travelled, while being far riskier, is indeed the one with the higher upside

  6. Yeah – great “plan”, but what if you die today or tomorrow? You’ll have toiled your life away doing something you don’t enjoy, never having truly “lived”. While it’s true that we can’t live with the assumption that we’ll die today or tomorrow, it will happen sooner or later. Then what? Will you look down from heaven (or above or wherever you might go) and say, “I wish I’d worked even more hours”? I don’t think so. Instead, you’ll realize how you selfishly wasted what a great opportunity “life” is in pursuit of the all mighty dollar. How pathetic!!

  7. I understand that this isn’t a new piece, but great post. I just came across it and my own last blog entry ran along similar themes, just not quite as eloquently put.

  8. Wow, this is a great post, I appreciate your sharing.

    I don’t make remotely close to what you make. I make a modest salary that is comfortable for a single person to live on (in an average size town) and spend a little. The job comes with good benefits (good job security, medical, dental and a defined benefit pension plan). I have been with my current employer for ten years. I started off at a very entry level position and worked my way up to where I am today and there are still opportunities for progression. This past year I have been feeling very unhappy about my job. I dream of moving back to my home town permanently one day, become a teacher teaching subjects I enjoy and travel in the summer when school is out. The issue is I need more financial security before I do that. Though I have been working at my current company for ten years, I was never good with saving money before and my dream life style has only formalized recently (I thought about becoming a teacher for a long time but have never visualized the lifestyle I want to live). The biggest issue is I have aging parents that I want to help out with financially so I need to have financial security before I pursue a job I think I might like a lot more.

    Regardless it’s inspiring to hear your story!

  9. That was a really good post- I remember the original post but I hadn’t seen this reply.

    Lyndon- are you taking pictures? Why don’t you show us some of them!

    Life is short- live it the way you want. Don’t live behind a mask, don’t live behind your riches. Do what you enjoy and be authentic.

  10. It’s been a really long time since I read the original post, but what hit me in this follow up post is that you’re happy because you received your bonus. I realize this post was written almost a year ago. Are you still happy, Lyndon?

    1. I think it’s pretty standard these mood cycles as his industry along with many others have a huge percentage of their total compensation in a form of a bonus.

      November, Dec, January are generally the most dark months as a result bc one could get fired and get nothing! Ouch.

  11. Lyndon, I know it’s been ages since the original post – and reading through it, I think it’s not a black and white situation…It’s a matter of inspiration. DO you believe you can make as much money as you would like, doing something that inspires you?
    Is there a way to have the work at McKinsey be inspiring? Selling the clients that inspire you?
    As the new year approaches, it might be good to reconsider some of these beliefs… Best of luck! M

  12. I only just commented the previous post, and this responded to many questions I had. I wish you all the best. And I do think you might want to think about the sabbatical, just to see what you’re aiming for. Remember: retiring does not mean stopping the motion ;) Good luck!

  13. Hey, that was so nice. I couldn’t stop reading. Thanks for sharing your story.I know, it’s difficult to leave your job, but you should follow your dreams somehow, this is the most important thing, otherwise obtaining happiness is impossible. good luck.

  14. Glad to see you’ve come to terms with your decision Lyndon. Time will fly and before you know it you’ll have hung up the skates by 40 and you can let loose with your photography. High income earners such as you aren’t always given a whole lot of sympathy, but we’re all only human and trying to better ourselves; some people just get better cards dealt to them.

  15. My parents are entrepreneurs and small business owners. They put in long, long hours in the office, and especially for my dad, on the road abroad, to make their business successful. They have a nice income. They were able to put me through college, buy a nice house, and have many of the other nice things a sizable income can provide.

    But growing up with workaholic parents I totally understand where you are coming from. As I begin my career I am trying to plan so that I can do whatever I want without having to worry about money. I’m 27 and I don’t make much, but I’m not chasing a paycheck, I’m chasing an independent lifestyle.

    I also understand the anxiety for when a hobby or passion becomes a job. If photography ever becomes a grind, where a photograph stands between you and rent or grocery money, resentment can easily take the place of passion. I think you need to be in that place of independence, where you can take six months and not take a single photograph, or take photographs that you don’t need to sell, or photographs that may not be what the market wants because you are pushing your artistic boundaries, so that you can own your craft and not vice versa.

    Thanks for sharing and keep in touch with the blog.

  16. Lydon,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply to everyones posts.

    I’m sure your story here and in the original thread will impact numerous lives. Your not quitting your job, however, I would not be surprised to read that others have decided to quit their jobs or make other big decisions in their lives because of the threads about your life.

    Maybe you will update us in a few months or a years time?


    David M

  17. I can believe what people say about when your hobby becomes work it doesn’t feel like a hobby anymore. When money comes into play it can take a lot of fun out of things. Granted there definitely are people out there that do what they love for a living and make decent money doing it. I would say it takes an incredible amount of patience though and an endless amount of drive and endurance. Props to those of you who are working in your dream job.

  18. Hi Jeremy, I’m not married and have no kids, therefore my responsibilities are a little different. As a 30 year old man, I’d rather not share a place and have roommates. If I move far enough away, then yes not only will my cost of living go down, but so will the quality of my life due to a longer commute. My company offers generous health benefits.

    I hope I live to a healthy 100, but I’m just planning on around 80 myself!


  19. Wow, Lyndon’s really getting into this since this morning, cavorting with all these posters who no doubt earn less than he does. No real backlash was there, now?

    Originally I didn’t feel a lot of sympathy towards Lyndon, because I did think as Sam described him he was portraying himself as a victim and misunderstood. Now I can warm up a bit to him, but I still don’t think he recognizes how fortunate he is. I’m disturbed by the remark that $300K is “not that much” in Manhattan, even after taxes. I know people who work and live in Manhattan who I strongly suspect aren’t earning nearly that much. I worked in Manhattan for a few years in the early 90s, commuted from Long Island, didn’t have anything like that salary (adjusted down for inflation), and I survived just fine. I’m sure Lyndon’s hours are long and the work grueling, but bottom line is for me: be grateful, and don’t rub it in how much you are earning. It’s enough to say to people that you’re doing well, but if you’re vague on the specifics, there won’t be any resentment. I assure you I have friends who are (I suspect) both earning less and more than I do.

    The important thing is to find people who are intellectually and personally stimulating, regardless of their income. You write for instance, “I keep to myself because otherwise, you’ll think I’m arrogant when I discuss buying a European automobile, or discuss last night’s symphony.” Speaking for myself, I couldn’t discuss your automobile because cars don’t interest me; but I have a thorough education in classical music, and I could talk to you for hours on end about symphony, opera, chamber music, what have you, and you might just find you’re the one humbled in the end.

    That’s all I want to say for now. I hope, however, you’ll link to your website so we can see some of your photography.

    1. Hi Larry, what is your salary adjusted for inflation nowadays? I can sense your sensitivity, and I’m sorry you find that revealing my income is rubbing it in. My income is a dime a dozen in New York City and I’m trying to be as authentic as possible.

      In real life, don’t worry, I don’t mention the salary to anybody specifically for fear of offending people. I try and be anonymous in the crowd, so people have no idea. You’ll have to admit that the cost of living in NYC has gotten much more expensive over the past 20 years than wage growth, or maybe not?

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      1. Lyndon, there are two things a gentleman never reveals: the size of his you-know-what, and his salary. You say you’re trying to be “authentic,” and then in the same breath you say your income is a “dime a dozen” in NYC. If you look at my earlier response today, I noted that average gross income in Manhattan, the highest paid county in the US, was variously estimated at $80,000 and $127,000. There are lots of people living and working in Manhattan who earn considerably less. Do you think the ushers at the Philharmonic, the gallery assistants in Chelsea, the security guards at MoMA or the Met, the waiters in Chinatown, the cabbies, the motormen on the #2 line, the sanitation workers, the public school teachers, the cop on the street are all earning $300K or so?

        However, since that was 20 years ago, I will let you know that when I worked for a couple of years for a non-profit in Rockefeller Center, I started at $40,000, which would be $65,000 today. And $300K would be about $185K in 1991 dollars. That was during a recession and it was the best offer I had after having been laid off for six months. I’m doing considerably better than that now, but as I say, there are two things . . .

        I just want you to recognize the fortunate position you’re in. You may well merit what you’re earning, but I think your comments suggest an unawareness of just how many people are struggling these days.

        That said, I don’t count income alone as an indicator of how someone is doing financially. It’s also a matter of your debt, your expenses, your saving, your investing. There are many high earners who are living beyond their means and saving nothing, and while I have no idea where you stand, I consider such people to be in worse financial help than the person of modest income who lives frugally and saves well for the future.

        OK, anyhow, lecture over. But to shift gears, once again I hope you’ll be wiling to link us to your website so we can see your photos.

  20. Credit Card Chaser

    I love the point you make about people who want to make more money but yet are unwilling to even try to do the things necessary to achieve success. It really grates on me to hear people whine about not making enough money or to criticize those who do and act as if there is some kind of secret formula to which they do not have access.

    Sure, some people are born with certain inherent advantages but the beautiful thing about America is that everyone CAN succeed but not everyone SHOULD succeed.

    If someone wants to spend their nights scratching off lottery tickets while watching American Idol and throwing down cold ones then that is well within their rights as an American but please don’t act as if they deserve the same level of success as those who work long hours, study hard, and take the necessary risks for success.

    It can make for an amusing/irritating discourse at times though:

    Them: “I want to make more money”

    Me: “What do you do?”

    Them: “Dig ditches”

    Me: “Why not do something that has more income potential?”

    Them: “I only have a high school degree. This is the only job I can get.”

    Me: “Why don’t you start your own business or go to college/graduate school?”

    Them: “That’s too hard. I don’t have the time.”

    Me: “How many hours of TV do you watch each night?”

    Them: “Just 4 hours. Why?”

    Me: “Umm OK – never mind.”


    Although of course we could all just pretend that everyone in America DESERVES equal success regardless of effort or ability ala certain politicians that rhyme with “Bromama” “Melosi” and “Bead” :)

    1. Hi Credit Card Chaser – Thanks for pointing that portion of the article out. You bring up some funny conversations in your comment. Maybe it’s the entitlement generation, or our addiction to quick fixes such as the magic diet pill? Don’t know.

      It’s hard work making money and finding financial security. I’m glad America has allowed me to create a correlation between hard work and income. If not, I’d happily drink a cerveza on the coach, watching 24 instead.

  21. There’s a stylized difference in the writings, so I don’t think Lyndon is a personification of Sam, but how are responses being handled? Is Lyndon channeling through you? Inquiring minds would like to know. ;)

    It doesn’t appear that anyone else has brought this up, but I think Lyndon is over-looking the romanticized element of his experience in Chile. While I don’t doubt (or want to trivialize) the time had, a key component was that it occurred during college.

    That age marks a distinct time when adult pleasures (not xxx, think globally) are high and adult responsibilities are low. Having the freedom to explore the world, carouse at all hours of the night, being engaged all the time by other young people, and on and on can be very invigorating. And there’s nothing to counter that high. No complicating taxes, demanding bosses/spouses, nagging children, and all those other things that tie us down and make adulthood “fun”. I would bet many others have had a similar experience from a more carefree time, and you don’t necessarily have to attend college to experience it.

    Definitely the opposite of his intentions, if Lyndon really loves photography then he should embrace the McKinsey job. Although work confines him most of the year, it also affords him experiences he might not have had otherwise. He even notes 3 planned “remote” destination vacations. In terms of transportation and expense, remote usually means more expensive. This could be summarized as: many people can’t “do what they love”, but everyone can “do what they do to afford what they love”.
    .-= FinEngr´s last blog ..Yakezie Weekly Round-up: Round Two! =-.

        1. Okay – got it. Yes, that was the point.

          Essentially, you’re only responsibility is studying and not getting in trouble. The reason you wouldn’t consider childhood in the same regard is you’re probably not of the mental capacity to appreciate your “freedom” and you’re still under “the man” (in this case, your parents).

        2. Sorry, that last line was too flippant. Meaning, your parents still control most of your actions and dictate what can/cannot be done.

    1. You’re right in the photography and traveling is expensive. My camera alone, excluding lense cost over $2,000. Each lense ranges from $800-$2,000 as well. Planes, trains, automobiles.. they all add up. It’s the price to pay for doing what I love to do. Thankfully, I have a job to support my interests.

      It’s true that frankly my entire college life was a blast. That said, there was pressure to do very well in school in order to get a job. Tests were stressful, as were taking on leadership roles. The responsibility of being an independent adult is weighing, but we get over it.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      1. Lyndon:

        It was very honorable of you respect each commentator by replying individually. I am going to try my luck twice and add a few more notes.

        College Pressures: Very true, but as you note above – much can be self-imposed.

        Income Reality: Short story – after graduation, I was frothing with my friends’ iBanking gigs. Partly out of competitive nature, partly out of salary, I eventually realized despite their overall annual income, their hourly wage was meager.

        Taxes: Various talk, have you looked into Franklin Templeton NY Munis or another firm? Sure you already know, but these funds are yielding around 3% and are exempt from federal & state income taxes.

        Lifestyle Decisions: Like Simple in France shared, check out her site or others like Early Retirement Extreme or Ending the Rat Race. These are all examples of those who’ve chosen lifestyles which removes them from the system while allowing a life untethered. Ultimately it should have more to do with these choices versus actually earnings (more of a starting point to make future decisions). With a few adjustments, why wait 10 years to retire when you could do it in 7 years?

        **Sorry for the long reply. I get wordy and infrequent with my comments.
        .-= FinEngr´s last blog ..Yakezie Weekly Round-up: Round Two! =-.

    1. Hi Oilandgarlic, I will definitely endeavor to take more vacations in the future. Maybe I’ll even try to take all of them one year, who knows! It depends how busy work is. I like taking vacation when it’s not busy, so I don’t have to come back to a lot of stuff. Quite the opposite as when I was younger. Thanks for your thoughts.

  22. Great to hear back from you Lyndon! I congratulate you on your bonus and your decision to stay at McKinsey. I know your plan is to be done at 40 and focus on photography then. I don’t know what it’s like to be in your position, but if I can share something with you that I recently learned…

    We create our lives, whatever it is, by whatever we focus on. I believe that if photography is your passion and love, and you focus on that passion and love…you can’t not love it anymore! I commend you on your efforts to continue photography on the side! So I wish you the best and hope that you create the life that you love today and tomorrow!
    .-= Kristine´s last blog ..Lost Opportunity Cost – The Wealth Killer =-.

    1. Hi Kristine! Thanks, and I believe in what you say. I do truly believe I will love photography forever, and not just some side hobby I’ll get tired of. Hoping the best for you too!

  23. It’s great to hear your side of the story, Lyndon. However, since you do make a lot of money (you even admit you are the minority of America), why don’t you plan on an early retirement? Then, you can focus on being a professional photographer in your mid-40’s. That’s still really young. You can end up living a life that granted you two professions. Just a thought, especially considering that you may end up in that “dark” place again in a few months, after the excitement of your bonus has worn off.

    Good luck to you, whatever you may choose.
    .-= Little House´s last blog ..Charming Craftsmans =-.

    1. Hi Little House, I do plan on an early retirement, it’s in 10 years at the age of 40 :)

      I’m sure my excitement of the bonus check will wear off by June, and it’s back to the salt mines. That’s hopefully when my vacation kicks in and allows me to travel freely again.


  24. Lydon,

    Thanks for posting – it was GREAT to hear from you.

    Great that you have realized that you do not need to leave your job to be happy.

    I love the part about your happiness in Chile. I’ve been to Laos twice and the people of Laos are very poor, however, they are also very happy.

    The children of Laos, with almost no possessions are generally, much happier and satified than the children of the US that have so much more.

    1. Hi David, I’ve never been to Laos but I can imagine. I’ve been on a photo excursion to Thailand and Malaysia before, and they are wonderful countries that I hear are similar to Laos.

      So nice to hear from you and your story!

      1. Lyndon,

        I live in Thailand and earn $250k per year. Taxes here are 37% for the top bracket and you can live on little and save a lot… much better than Manhattan!


  25. I didn’t read your initial post but I understand that happiness is relative to each person. Good luck in finding and doing what makes you happy. Good food for thought.

  26. Told you so Sam. Have seen 100 Lyndons.

    Still good luck Lyndon, here’s to not feeling the same thing in eleven months, and good on you for confronting the issue in a public forum.

  27. Lyndon, thanks for sharing your story. I’d like to share my thoughts if you don’t mind. You say that photography is your passion, but you’re not sure at the moment that you can make a living doing it. Yet, you still long for it and won’t stop trying to do it.

    I would just encourage you to build up your photography business on the side, while keeping your day job. That way, you still have your job security, but are also engaged in your passions. You say that you’ve created a plan to get out of consulting by the age of 40, so if it’s a sound plan, then that should give you a glimpse of hope. As you focus more on the photography business, and reduce your living expenses to a more moderate level, I believe that you should see even more hope in your situation. Good luck!

    1. Hi Darren, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I do have my own website up now, and I’m trying to slowly get know. I’ve got to believe that if I put in consistently good work for 10 years, I’ll be able to make a living through photography. It seems like it just takes persistence, and building up a network of people who recommend my work to others.


  28. Thank you for sharing your story. There’s nothing bad about earning a high income. Perhaps there was a time when you enjoyed your current career. What makes our country successful are people who strive for more, strive for a better life (whatever it means to them), and doing their best. Nothing comes free; of course you have to put in hard work and time to achieve what you have. Even movie stars have to put in much effort; we only see their glamorous side when they appear on the red carpet.

    Since you’re getting tired of your current job and want to pursue your lifelong dream, it is very smart to have a plan to achieve financial independence. By that time, you’ll have more flexibility to do what you want to do and spend your time according to how you want to spend it. Good luck!
    .-= Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom´s last blog ..Brain is Like a Muscle =-.

    1. Thanks for your well wishes. With the current administration, it honestly does feel bad making a decent living. People don’t realize that making $300,000 in NYC is like making $90,000 in Idaho. It really can’t compare!

      I admit, I get anxious at times, but it is what it is.

  29. Great post!

    Coming from experience and after playing music shows and weddings all around the mid-west my hobby (music) became my job. That moment is when it hit me. It is the process of creating something rather than the process of repeating.

    Repetition in my mind is what kills dreams not the dream.

    Great read…

    Shane Mac

    1. Thanks Shane. Repetition hasn’t killed me yet, b/c unlike playing the same song over and over again, no too shots are the same, literally. But, I hear where you are coming from! Thanks.

  30. So everyone has their price eh? Once the bonus came in you are happy right now?

    I understand your struggle and actually been there myself. It is possible to have your cake and eat too. At least you are creating a plan. It’s more than what most people do.

    I agree about being quiet about your NW and how much you make to others. It seems everyone is out to get the “rich”, especially this administration. Make it appear to everyone you are poor. No one will question you.
    .-= Investor Junkie´s last blog ..When Should A Late Customer Get Cut Off? =-.

    1. If as I infer you’re talking about taxes, that’s simply not true. Taxes today especially for the very rich are relatively low, and our overall tax burden is considerable lower than in many developed countries. As for tax rates on the rich, between 1940-81 the top marginal rate for individuals was between 70-92%, with 1953 seeing the highest rate. Even if Obama were to raise the highest rate to 40%, he’d still be lower than Reagan’s cut in 1982 to 50%.

      1. Actually I wasn’t directly but Ok I’ll discuss your point.

        Overall tax rates are low, yes. No question there and will/are going higher.
        At least IMHO not good for growth. For Lyndon’s case right now he pays around
        45% currently. With next few years it will increase to 55%-65%. That’s not even
        including indirectly the high rates it costs to live in NYC because of high taxes.

        The better question is who pays what percent in society. Bottom 50% only pay 2%
        of the taxes collected. The top 10% pay 70% of the taxes.
        I suspect this will be even worse in the next few years.

        Right now there are many more people that pay a higher rate than the 1950’s.

        Eventually the rich will “go Galt” it’s a matter of when not if.
        .-= Investor Junkie´s last blog ..When Should A Late Customer Get Cut Off? =-.

        1. Well, yes to some of that. But the income disparity between the top and bottom is getting ever wider, with 88% of AGI in 2007 going to the top 50%, 23% to the top 1%, and 12% to the bottom 50%. So longer as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the rich wll inevitably pay more taxes. I really don’t feel badly for them.

      2. Previous history has shown the rich will always get richer.

        Who suffers with tax increases? The middle class and the poor.
        Who suffers from inflation? The middle class and the poor.

        The poor get extremely hit hard.

        The rich either know how to invest, protect their assets, or minimize their taxes

        There are many Obama is calling “rich” when really they are upper middle class
        (especially in NYC) Trickle down taxes (like the HC 3.8% on passive incomes will
        increase rental rates) indirectly affecting the middle class and poor.


        I don’t wanna overtake the comments as it’s about Lyndon and not
        taxes. To stay on target with the comments I was suggesting Lyndon makes
        himself look poor as possible. I suspect the gap between the rich/poor will be
        getting much wider in the next 10 years. If you don’t act the part you’ll be left

        Either way I wish him success to quit in 10 years!
        .-= Investor Junkie´s last blog ..When Should A Late Customer Get Cut Off? =-.

        1. I have the very problem you are talking about. I’m a HENRY, High Income Not Rich Yet. Taxes kick me in the *** and knocked the bejesus / drive out of me. Now my goal is to build wealth and get out. Hey at least it stopped me from spending and having the good times that making a good income is supposed to give us. Instead it made me focus on building wealth and that’s a good thing.

    2. Yes, everything definitely has a price…. I would say most people would do anything for enough money. That’s why we have movies such as “Indecent proposal”.

      $300,000/year living in Manhattan is not exactly rich. If I was living in Florida, or frankly anywhere in America, I think I’d consider myself rich. But with 45% taxes taking a bite out of my paycheck, there’s not as much left as people believe. NYC 4% tax!

        1. North Nassau isn’t that cheap either LOL! I live in a townhouse, and I am looking at $5k in property taxes alone – for a townhouse! I have buddies that pay upwards of $10 to $12K JUST for property taxes. That doesn’t include federal and NY’s crazy state income taxes. North NJ isn’t much better.

          To get that gap you are looking for you have to go south nassau or cross the border into suffolk, a decision The Wife and I have made for our next home.
          .-= Evan´s last blog ..What is Valuable May not be Worth Anything – Which Do you Want? =-.

        2. I assume the less 4% tax would make up in the needing a car and
          LIRR or other transportation.
          .-= Investor Junkie´s last blog ..When Should A Late Customer Get Cut Off? =-.

        3. I understand all those things and I was just teasing him a little. I myself live in southwestern Suffolk and obviously need a car, which is also obviously a big expense when you factor in gas, insurance, and maintenance. And when I commuted to Manhattan in the early 90s, my monthly ticket was $180; now it’s $306.

          But again, although Lyndon may think himself “a dime a dozen” and “not exactly rich,” he is earning well above average for Manhattan resident workers, and I’m sure he can find ways to cut expenses. It’s not necessarily to dine out every week at Boulud or PerSe; the sound in the 2nd tier at Carnegie Hall is just as good as in the parquet.

          Manhattan may have the highest salaries in the nation, but according to one source, in 2007 was $127,000 the average salary; according to another, the average in 2010 was $80,000. Lyndon may not think he’s “rich,” but certainly he’s very well off especially for someone his age.


    1. It would be nice to save up enough money so that I can earn $100,000 a year in interest income risk free at a 3-5% rate of return. So I guess the amount of cash I need is roughly $2-$3.3 million. I don’t live a lavish lifestyle, so I’m leaving like a $30,000/year cushion.

      How about yourself?

      1. Lyndon,

        I currently need about $35k a year to live, I’m looking to have 200 – 300 years of living expenses at this level, to adjust for inflation and lifestyle contingencies, so need about $7 – 10 million dollars as I’m 36 years old. Have about $1.5 million so far so more work is needed.


        1. You need $7-10 million to live on $35K/yr? Pray tell more details pls i.e. what age you plan to retire and die.

          A 4% risk free rate of return on $10 mil is $400,000/yr.

          thnx Mike.

        2. Yes I am being conservative. Current expenses are $35k per year but I can expect this to go up drastically if I move out of SE Asia. Age is 36 now, and as a male I have on average 41 more years to live from this point. If I expect to live longer than average I should plan for 50 years. Because of inflation and concern with expenses rising (I’m married but no children yet) my target is to have 200 – 300 years of current expenses saved up before I retire, or stop working completely. 4% is not my risk free rate, it’s more like 1%.

          Given the record amounts of debt I suspect real return on investments will be 0% of thereabouts so I’m going more conservative.

          Basically my $1.8 M net worth as of today is not enough to retire on at this point, so I was putting in a more realistic target of where I need to be before hanging it up. Hopefully I can get there before age 50.


        3. Aaron @ Clarifinancial

          Mike, have you looked at immediate annuities? On $800k, you could generate a little more than $1600 a month for the life of the two of you, 100% survivor benefit (inputing Jan 01, 1974 as DOB for you both with normal health) and an inflation option.

          To get the best rates, it’s usually a good idea to keep less than $1 million with any single company. To keep it really safe, put less than state guaranteed amount with any single company (usually $300k but sometimes more for annuities).

          Given that you are so conservative, this might be something worth exploring. It looks like you could generate the income you want now (or in a month anyway) and still have plenty of other assets left over. Even at your young ages.

        4. Aaron @ Clarifinancial

          This one was linked to the US CPI-U. But more commonly, they let you pick a percentage increase from 1% to 5%. My point is that it seems possible whenever you’re ready to pull the trigger. Since safety seems to be a top concern, it should at least be relieving to know you could “retire” if you wanted to.

        5. Aaron and Sam,

          Those are some good ideas, thanks for that.

          Aaron, for the annuity option how is the inflation rate calculated?

          The other reason I’m sitting on cash is I’m looking for a good ROI (could be buying into a business or good ROI on commercial or residential real estate.)

          Also with my job I can save up $150k per year with some multiples of that based on successfully merging the business with another investor – that is taking all my focus at the moment and I’m letting the cash stay parked for now earning a minimal 1.5%.

        6. Sam,

          One more thing- I saw that in Australiia you can get a one year CD at 7% return, only risk is the currency fluctuations of the Australian dollar, which I expect to weaken just because those same banks are issuing mortgages at 6.4% so there should be a banking crisis coming up in a few months.

  31. Simple in France

    Thanks for sharing this. Although I never earned what you do now, I can understand how you feel. A few years ago I was working ‘the job that you don’t turn down’ and making more money than I’d ever thought I would. Yet I was completely miserable and couldn’t stop thinking about happier times when I’d lived in France on 700 euros a month and slept on the floor. Those two admittedly low-income years were happy ones, and that’s when I met my husband.

    We ultimately decided to pack it up and move back to France, giving up the higher salaries that we both realized had not made us happy–quite the contrary. But you face a lot of pressure when you decide to make a move like that AND the consumer lifestyle you build up when you are unhappy but have lots of money is rather addictive. So I understand how hard it is to take a leap. . .and strongly advise it anyway.
    .-= Simple in France´s last blog ..Sustainable, recession-proof restaurants near you? =-.

  32. Simple in France

    Thanks for sharing! I never earned as much as you but I had a very similar moment to the one you describe as you thought back of life in Chile.

    I was making the best salary I’d ever made (and perhaps ever will make) at a job that was very difficult to ‘land.’ The kind of thing you don’t say ‘no’ to. And All I could think about was how miserable I was working in that way and how I’d been so much happier the years when I’d worked in France for 700 euros a month and slept in a sleeping bag on the floor.

    Since that’s when I’d met my husband, he agreed with my assessment. In fact, we were both suddenly making more money than we needed and were incredibly miserable. I also knew a lot of other people who lived lives like the one you described who were just as miserable as we were. It is so alienating and weird.

    We packed it up to move back to France. People think we’re weird as well and it drives us not to discuss our life’s decisions with others sometimes. So I do understand how you feel. There is a lot of pressure to stay where you are. (Although I still think that ignoring that pressure is worth it.)

    1. Great story! So neat you two decided to move to France and live a simple life! I think I’d totally enjoy your lifestyle, and could take a lot of country side pictures!

      Yes there’s a lot of pressure, but a lot of it is self-imposed. I hope I can push through it.

  33. Nice post, and thank you for sharing your story. I really enjoyed hearing about your Chile experience as I had a similar one living in North Philly. Of course it pales in comparison to living in Chile, but I think the point stands.

    Also I somewhat agree with the statement: “Once your hobby becomes your job, it stops becoming your hobby!“ This may be true in some cases, though certinly not all.

    1. Do tell about your experience in North Philly! Is it an adventurous place? The quote you write was a quote from another commenter. I really enjoyed it!

      1. myfinancialobjectives

        North Philly was great, or maybe Temple, and Philly were great, North Philly is a bit dangerous. The time I spent there was part of a “cross cultural” expereince. I went to a small relatively rural school in PA, so a year in North Philly would absolutely count as a “cross cultural”.

        Temple is an excellent school BTW, great business program.

  34. Aaron @ Clarifinancial

    Even if some of us can’t relate to the scale of your dilemma, we’ve all had similar decisions to make. And maybe it’s through the hyperbole of your situation that others can learn more about their own life and priorities. So thanks.

    BTW, that rocky cliff looks exactly like a horse’s head at this angle.

    1. “rocky cliff looks exactly like a horse’s head at this angle.” I assume that was the idea since “WEALTH IS AN ILLUSION OF HAPPINESS”
      .-= Investor Junkie´s last blog ..When Should A Late Customer Get Cut Off? =-.

    2. No problem Aaron. It was a pleasure to share my story, and I’m just happy that I was able to use this platform to generate so much wonderful discussion!

  35. I think money is a catalyst. The more you have the more it makes you what you are. You seem like a free spirit and you make good money so it makes you want to be free even more. Of course without the good money you might not be able to pursue that as soon as age 40. It’s a means to what you want. Are you going to be a photographer at age 40? If so, would that ever be possible without making good money?
    My point is money itself is not going to make you happy. However, it can provide the means to change your life or figure out how to be happy.

    1. I think I’m a free spirit, and I will always be a photographer at 40, 50, and hopefully 80!

      I realize money alone isn’t going to make me happy, hence why I titled the post “Wealth Is An Illusion Of Happiness.” I feel I’ve figured out the happy road, b/c at the very least, I’m smiling right now! :)

  36. Money Reasons

    Thanks for sharing your problem.

    Too often, it seems that nobody realizes that people like you (high income earners), have sacrifices that they make too.

    Besides, if you are retiring at 40, you can always try photography at that time. Especially if you keep doing it semi-part time as you are doing so now…

    Good luck and thanks!

    1. Hi Money Reasons, most definitely. I find that if one has a time goal to achieve, it makes things much more palatable. One extreme analogy is 10 years of ‘jail time’. Once I compare my work service to jail time I start really loving my job b/c a job is paradise compared to jail!

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  37. Thanks Lyndon for updating us. I hope you can slowly incorporate more time for photography as you work towards your retirement. If it’s your passion, you deserve to include it in your life now and hopefully build towards a 2nd career on your own terms.

    1. Hi Elle, photography is definitely included in so much I do. Why just this weekend, I went on a 4 hour photography hike excursion. All my vacations are planned around relaxation and hoping to capture that rare magical shot! It’ll be exciting to start my 2nd career, I can’t wait. Thanks.

  38. I kinda agree happiness is a mental state, not a money state, but all freedom begins with financial freedom.

  39. The bottom line on all this is that we are all going to die in not all that long a time. Awareness of that reality should be the motivator for those on both sides, in my view.

    It’s a motivator we don’t like to talk about. So we tend to drift along with what we’ve got and hope that something better turns up on the next deal.


    1. We will die one day, hence why I was so desperately seeking for some advice. Now that I know what to do, I’m satisfied with the plan and don’t plan to just wait until something better comes along. Thanks for your opinion.

  40. TheDebtHawk.com

    Thanks for sharing you thoughts Lyndon. I think that a lot of people face your dilemma.

    The biggest piece of advice that I can give you is to 1) not allow lifestyle inflation destroy your wealth building and 2) find hobbies that you do after work that you can’t wait to do. Don’t stop living your life waiting for the day you hit 40 and retire.

    1. Sounds like good advice Debt Hawk. It’s hard not to allow some more luxuries in my life living in NYC and being surrounded by very, very rich people. My first step will be to downsize my apartment and eat out a little less. I’ll try and save $15-20K/yr more in the process, which adds up over 10 years.

      Thanks for reading.

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