No, not my retirement… not to worry. I’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. I’m here to stay now. But this week let’s talk about “retirement” more broadly!
Before we get to the illusory state-sponsored version of “retirement”, let’s dig into the potentially more curious case of the self-funded version. If we were to believe the prevalent western cultural mythology, self-funded retirement should be the just fruits for a life (or even just a few years if you’re super-duper-lucky) of hard work and bold risk-taking. And yet if we look out at the world of bananas Balajis, maverick Musks, cashmere’d Chamaths, and kooky Kanyes, that’s not what we see at all. In fact we see the exact opposite: a world of hyper-successful giga-brains who seem to get off on little more than dopamine-fueled follower counts and cosmic bets against the Universe.i
So why is it that some of us who have all the means in the world to “retire” just can’t seem to switch it “off”? (Spoiler alert: the world doesn’t run on narrow materialism, but you knew that already). Without further ado, let’s quote from the forum:
Zeentraland: I long to see people in the space who would retire and stay retired
Jiran: I mean some do they just were never really loud on Twitter. I know a few great quiet traders that made bank and just rolled off into the sunset. The ones the loudest are usually the most down bad or have some sort ego validation they need.
Zeentraland: Yeah ego plays a good role for sure. There’s some like Pranksy who has seem to taken a vow of losing it all
Jiran: Only way in crypto. Martyr or nothing.
Pete: The kind of ambitious person who can make a killing in this space (or any space) doesn’t have an OFF switch. Maybe 1% can just make bank and move to Tahiti or whatever drinking mai tais but 99% of the multi-gazillionaires aren’t even in it for the money. They’re drug addicts chasing the next high. The money is just a perk, or a score-keeping tally. But resetting to zero isn’t even a bad thing in their minds because then they get to start the Hero Journey all over again. The American Dream is predicated on people who started from nothing, worked their nuts off, and made it big, sometimes cycling through giga-peaks and homelessness a few times in between. Just makes for better stories in the old folks homes
NFTier: Pete I get this take but I’m definitely not one who does it for the thrill. For me, stability is the greatest asset and anything counter to that causes stress and a lower quality of life. Almost impossible to have an off switch but I’m surprised many don’t have a pivot switch. For me, retiring simply means transitioning to a passion that keeps the mind active. Many ‘retire’ but return to the same place to seek more and more.
Pete: You’re exceptional in too many ways to count my man. I don’t mean to discount the idea that many born-risk-takers WANT to go find something else after “winning” that they’re equally as passionate about, but the deeper they (we?) get into the waters and the more of a high-cash-flow lifestyle we become accustomed to, the more the former want evolves into a NEED. We’re all incredibly status conscious whether we like it or not, and it’s much easier to socially justify our personal extravagances (wine, cars, trips, etc.) when we go to a place of business every day so that other people can see us “earning” that, even if we’re past the point of “needing” to make more money. Wants are also infinite and the hedonic treadmill of capitalism is ferocious, so I don’t blame people who can’t seem to get off. Getting off the treadmill requires pretty insane levels of self-confidence, security, discipline, and probably advanced age (with corresponding declines in health, testosterone, etc.). Staying in the game is the path of least resistance for most of us as social creatures. To the extent that we’re good at the game to begin with, staying in it allows us to feel seen, validated, and socially rewarded. What’s not to like about that? And really what else could be better? What good are material goods, comforts, and luxuries if we’re alone in enjoying them on our desert islands? Remember, we’d ALL rather make $10,000/year in a world where our neighbours make $5,000/year than live in a world where we make $100,000/year and our neighbours make $95,000/year. It’s all relative and it’s all relational.ii
NFTier: Ah yes makes sense. The social aspect you mention is really at the root of why people continue to ‘grind’ even if they might not need to. What good is a mansion if you’re the only one in the world? Profession and money serve as a signaling mechanism to others which then defines one’s confidence and worth. I often think in isolationist terms so the social clout doesn’t make sense to me. Especially given what my religion preaches, this life is but a test for what is to come. And success is least defined by numbers and social validation. Not to say ambition is discouraged, in fact it is promoted in Islam, but only if one can use it to overcome the need to impress anyone and break the hedonic treadmill.
Pete: Having a strong religious community is something almost certainly lacking in most of these guys who just can’t switch off and who define themselves by their professional and financial standings. You’ve got a few aces up your sleeves my friend! Use them wisely.
NFTier: A decline in one’s health is the most powerful factor in changing one’s life course and breaking the cycle. And given that it is bound to happen, why not front run and live more holistically now, especially if you’ve ‘made it’.
Pete: This is definitely the aspiration, but you might also liken it to skipping dinner and going straight for desert. Some things have to be earned! A life of meditative leisure and repose is arguably one of them.
Zeentraland: Yeah not an off switch per se, obviously people would keep on doing something and working on stuff, building things gives a high and satisfaction. But many seem to be just in it for purely the money aspect of it, like the literal goal is make more money not essentially for being part of the process of building, growing things which would give you a sense of satisfaction and achievement.
Pete: Some people are just plain grifters.iii
Zeentraland: But as you said status plays a big role, people don’t only need to have lots of money, they need every other person to know that they have that. The ego boost in looking down on others by being at a certain position of power attained through money gives a high to most I guess.Genuinely appreciate what people like Myspace’s founder did, sold company for $500m and literally fucked off, no pretense and obligations. Obviously keeps on doing stuff, but you can see it’s more out of curiosity and joy than the need to attain a position of influence and power again.
Pete: Or like Larva Labs! I think this type of behaviour is more typical of introverted curious nerdy types for whom the money is just a windfall but not part of their core identity as “successful people”
The second that money and success become core aspects of your self-identity, you’re trapped on the treadmill.
All of which is to say that my 2015 post on this very same topic of retirement has aged like goddam wine (unlike it’s author, it must be said). “Some people can retire and some people can’t: A story about carrots” is very well worth a quick read. If only every 8-year-old article read so well today. Have ever tried reading NYT or The Economist from that era? My suggestion is that you spare yourself and spend a little more time in the 1.25 mn word archives here.
But before we go down that rabbit hole, let’s take a moment to also touch on state-sponsored “retirement.” Now recall that the whole “retirement” illusioniv only came about in the first place because late 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck needed to strengthen his newly unified nation state, co-opt the emergent socialist agenda, and improve the industrial-military output of his country as a means of maintaining security. He also set the “retirement” age at 70(!) because that was pretty damn well the same as the life expectancy, so he could appear all generous and loving of the working man when in fact he’d rigged the game so that their only rewards would be in the next life. And y’know what, the state-sponsored “retirement” game only works as long as it works thusly! Of course it also “works” when it pays out for the 15+ years it currently has to, but only by jeapordising and ultimately dismantling the entire banking, credit, and financial system.v
Anyways, enjoy these productive years, dear reader. They’re magical times. And really the only ones we’ve got.
- The peak of Mircea’s Hierarchy of Needs is the controlling point. “Mystical Domination Or Bust” would be only too appropriate a hitchhiker’s sign for these self-styled Masters of the Universe. ↩
- Which obviously calls to mind my 4-year-old by the same title, which comes recommended: “It’s all relative, and it’s all relational.” ↩
- Like Usagi, SBF, etc. etc. It might even seem like “everyone” in crypto is turns to grifting at some point, but that only goes to provide proof for MP‘s thesis that “everyone becomes a scammer eventually.” He certainly did. ↩
- “Illusion Michael, a trick is something a whore does for money.” ~Gob Bluth. ↩
- If the overhang of boomer generation entitlements isn’t the primary contributor to our current state of banking and currency precarity, I’m not sure what is. ↩