Lion of the Blogosphere

Comment from a computer programmer type

Following copied from commenter:

Whenever LOTB posts yet another blog entry about the supposedly pathetic world of computer programming, he unleashes a veritable avalanche of some of the most mean-spirited and/or self-loathing comments available on the web. Give it a rest, haters! What do you expect young folks to do nowadays? Go to law school? Join the army and get their balls blown off in some useless war in the Middle East? Go back to their alma mater to take organic chemistry, and then spend ten years in med school, an internship and a residency, up to their elbows in blood and gore? And then what about all that sky-high malpractice insurance and those gigantic debts on their student loans that they’ll have to face afterwards? Or maybe they should qualify as plumbers and dunk those self-same elbows in feces all day long? I graduated magna cum laude with a humanities degree from a top 30 national university. I did well enough that my advisor told me I should apply to Harvard and Yale for graduate school. I even remember walking down the hall in the humanities building one day and heard a professor extolling a brilliant paper which, as I found out to my delight after listening a little while longer, I myself had written. But heterosexual WASP males had no chance of finding a teaching position, either then or now, so after floundering around for a few years, I spent five grand on a quickie six month programming course that I completed in two months – and I have been continuously employed ever since. And that was thirty years ago. I’ve spent more than half that time as a contractor, a few years here and there in management gigs, but otherwise working as a lead analyst/designer/programmer/technical writer & debugger with an income over $100,000 for the last twenty years. I work only 40 hours a week, interfacing with many bright people in a clean and quiet place, leaving plenty of time for my numerous hobbies and interests, not to mention communing with my splendid wife, and giving me enough money to pay off my mortgage on a Victorian house in a leafy Boston suburb, to indulge regularly in restaurant dining, and to have visited Europe four times in the last twelve years. (And, yes, I have no kids. If you have kids, fine – but some of us prefer not to commit ourselves to the grim cottage industry of family life to produce a commodity with which the world is already excessively well-supplied.) Back in the early nineties I DID consider graduate school for a while, scored triple 800’s on the GRE’s at a time when that was super hard to do, but relented at the last moment. I realized I might as well stay the course, and have not regretted it since. So go call me an “idiot” or an “Aspergery beta” if you want, but just look in the mirror first.

* * *

Lion’s commentary:

Give the commenter a break regarding his choice not to have children. No one has a responsibility to devote their lives to an abstract principle of eugenics that mainstream society has rejected anyway.

Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn are having eight children per married couple, so let’s hope they have better-than-average genes because there are going to be a lot of them in a few decades.

Regarding the $100K salary: it’s better than digging ditches certainly but it’s not that impressive compared to what upper-middle-class people are making. Although I admit that we live in a cruel extreme-capitalist society where many good and smart people make a lot less than that while many dumb people make a lot more.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 3, 2016 at 11:40 am

Posted in Labor Markets

89 Responses

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  1. “(And, yes, I have no kids. If you have kids, fine – but some of us prefer not to commit ourselves to the grim cottage industry of family life to produce a commodity with which the world is already excessively well-supplied.)”

    All indications are that future generations will be dangerously deficient in high IQ, responsible individuals. Your choices should be condemned.


    February 3, 2016 at 11:47 am

    • The commenter is not personally responsible for any of that. We live in a society that doesn’t place any value on eugenics.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 3, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      • Why should profit driven capitalists put value on eugenics in a consumption addled society?


        February 3, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      • He’s responsible for his part. Who cares if society doesn’t value eugenics? He’s obviously a thinking person, he reads this blog, so he should personally value eugenics. And when he’s no longer attracted to his wife, he’s probably going to be happier with a few kids in the long run.


        February 3, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    • Kids or no kids is probably worth a separate post

      Mike Street Station

      February 3, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      • Great post except for “but some of us prefer not to commit ourselves to the grim cottage industry of family life to produce a commodity with which the world is already excessively well-supplied.”

        He’s wrong and Lion is too. I am also waiting for a separate Lion post about this to comment at length.


        February 3, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    • Exactly. The world is NOT well supplied with intelligent white children. It is abundantly supplied with stupid and non-white children. Now get in there and do your duty to your ancestors and your race!


      February 3, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      • The world is well supplied with intelligent people — there are more around than society can properly utilize. Rather the problem is too many unintelligent people — increasing the numbers of more intelligent people will no necessarily counter-act this. Too many dumb people is not the same scenario as too few smart people.


        February 3, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    • Rather the problem is a surplus of low IQ people rather than a deficit of high IQ people. More high IQ people won’t necessarily help counteract more low IQ people. There are already more than enough unemployed and underemployed high IQ people around along with the problem of “elite overproduction”.


      February 3, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      • I disagree that we have enough smart people. We have a severe genius deficit. And in any event, the problems associated too many dumb people will not be solved by themselves, but by smart people. Ergo, the more dumb people there are, the more smart people we need.


        February 4, 2016 at 2:12 am

  2. I really appreciate his comment, and his points are well taken.

    I do have something to say about this: “(And, yes, I have no kids. If you have kids, fine – but some of us prefer not to commit ourselves to the grim cottage industry of family life to produce a commodity with which the world is already excessively well-supplied.)”

    I would urge you to reconsider, assuming you still have time. Having kids is one of the great joys (and struggles) of life. I feel as though childless couples are missing out on the purpose of coupling. I don’t mean this to sound judgmental; I simply think that anyone who is the least bit inclined to have children should go for it.

    Speaking from experience, it has made me a better person on a variety of levels. I also take comfort in leaving legacy. Lastly, you reach a point in middle age where you become jaded about every day life. Raising kids opens your eyes to the beauty so many things you take for granted. And the sheer joy of hearing your children call you “daddy” cannot be replicated by any drug.

    Again, it’s not for everyone – it’s a HUGE amount of work and the cost is a significant burden – but I urge you to be open to the possibility of starting a family if either you or your wife is even the least bit interested!


    February 3, 2016 at 11:54 am

    • Agreed, mostly. My son turned two last month and the one thing that’s surprised me most about parenting is how easy it is. He’s been a good sleeper since he’s been born, though: about 12 hours every night straight through with the exception of when he was younger and needed to wake up to eat.

      I’ve never felt much when he calls me “dad,” but it’s hard to describe how good I feel when he reaches a milestone like crawling or walking. On Monday he read his name for the first time.

      “Speaking from experience, it has made me a better person on a variety of levels.”

      That’s the downside for me. Before having my kid, I didn’t think it was possible to have this much empathy and just wish that the world was a better place in general. It’s no fun.


      February 3, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      • Going from one child to two is very, very (very) hard. That’s been my experience. Also, if you have a good sleeper, you have been blessed. I have two bad sleepers and it is akin to living in Gitmo.

        The scary thing is putting enough money away for them. You realize that the world is a creepy, brutal place. As a parent, you need to make sacrifices to ensure they can go to “good” schools (and we know what “good” means),


        February 3, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      • “Going from one child to two is very, very (very) hard.”

        Disagree. Going from zero to one was the big change in lifestyle, difficulty, and expense. From one to two was easy.


        February 3, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    • Strongly agree, and well said.

      February 3, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    • I don’t have kids, but I would have liked to have them. Aside from what you mention here, it would be nice to have someone help you out when you are old. I take my mother to medical appointments sometimes, and help her out with various things.

      Without kids, life becomes mostly a series of funerals, family gatherings get smaller, etc. With kids, you have positive milestones: births, religious confirmations, graduations, marriages, grand kids, etc.

      Dave Pinsen

      February 3, 2016 at 6:48 pm

  3. It’s too bad the commenter didn’t perform his biological duty and replicate his high IQ genes a few times.


    February 3, 2016 at 11:57 am

  4. Some people are not cut out to be computer programmers. I am not. I am not capable of advanced math without titanic struggle, and I don’t think logically enough to be able to code well, and my memory for coding rules is horrendous. I could barely make a terminal spit out “Hello World”, when friends I deemed much dumber than I were doing advanced coding projects.

    You have to play to your strengths, or you risk end up being a mediocrity. I’m better at medicine where caring about people and a high level of conscientiousness are rewared. The training is physically challenging, though.


    February 3, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    • Understood, but it should be said that programming is pretty high up there on the conscientiousness-demanding ladder.


      February 4, 2016 at 1:54 pm

  5. Today’s hot STEM field that can be learned through seminars or “bootcamps” is data science. I’ve watched as this field has been transformed from a niche area requiring a Ph.D to one where anyone with merely a data science certificate can enter in. There literally are startups and existing companies who are screaming for data scientists. The field in of itself is fascinating as you work with datasets that are in the range of Gigabytes along with hot machine learning algorithms (if you are a math geek like me).

    The field generally combines computer programming with statistics. Bootcamps will cover all these basics, plus distributed computing and other areas required for it. There are various bootcamps in the New York City or San Francisco area that have various intensities: lightweight ones for people with degrees and are already versed in a mathematics/comp sci/statistics background to heavyweight ones that start from the ground up. The lightweight ones cost $1500 while the heavyweight ones cost $16000.

    The heavyweight ones claim to network heavily in helping you to find a job. I’m not sure what their success rate is, but I do know an entry level position starts at minimum of $130000. That’s a nice tradeoff for a mere $16000, especially when colleges are charging $100K+ and have diminishing returns.


    February 3, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    • As someone with zero background in IT, CS, or programming, do you know of any online resources to learn the basics of data science? My understanding is that you need a better-than-layman’s grasp of these subjects before you can gain entrance to these sort of bootcamps.


      February 3, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    • Many IT training centers with their “bootcamps” in NYC are scams. They promise more than they deliver. It’s a symbiotic-parasitic process – gov’t approved programs, that sponsor training for the welfare/underclass NAMs at the expense of taxpayers’ dollars. Non-NAMs, who attend these bootcamps, are usually those with delusional hopes in earning loads of easy money, unlike those who attend hands-on trade schools championed by Yakov, because they want a real lasting job.

      Pure profit driven – learning programs, for both the provider and the mass consumer, are inferior products that bring out the money junkie attitude, a characteristic of our nation’s priorities.


      February 3, 2016 at 5:37 pm

  6. Good for you.

    Will say that if the 135+ IQ’s had ten kids while the under 100’s only one for 3 generations, why that would solve a lot of problems right there.


    February 3, 2016 at 12:44 pm

  7. This is kinda my story. I’m not as smart as this guy but I needed a career and there was nothing out there for me besides programming/web development. I mean seriously, what else is there?

    The choices are either doctor or web developer, unless you are a super genius and can become a physicist or something.

    Otis the Sweaty

    February 3, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    • From what I read the job market for STEM PhDs, even from good schools, is not a good pathway to a reliable job. Let alone a good research job where one can produce original material.


      February 3, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      • Especially when Microsoft and many others are replacing Americans with Indians and Pakistanis, and candidates like Cruz want even more.


        February 3, 2016 at 4:45 pm

  8. The comment confirms many of the complaints people have about computer programming as a career. This guy has a much higher IQ than is typical of people contemplating a career in programming, entered it years ago when the going was much easier, and assumes, despite the abundance of evidence to the contrary, that his personal experience not only was typical in the past, but also will be typical for new entrants. Even then, his results, which he seems quite satisfied with, do not sound particularly amazing. What he is basically saying is that if you are smart, lucky, and have a time machine, computer programming can be a decent career. He might as well have said the lottery is a great investment if you know the winning numbers.


    February 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    • I got into programming 3 years ago and I managed to land a job. This is despite the fact that I am stupid and had no connections in the industry.

      Otis the Sweaty

      February 3, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    • I’m doing very well in a developer position starting out with an associate’s degree 5 years ago with no connections as well. People who work hard and are intelligent have more luck. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a technical field you’re basically guaranteed a good middle to upper middle class job right out of university.

      Sure it can suck from time to time but what job can’t. I don’t think there are any better jobs for high IQ, introverted people, none that I’ve seen first or second hand. Computer programmer jobs consistently rank as the jobs with the highest satisfaction.

      Concerning H1B’s taking our jobs, I’m sorry but my experience with H1B employees (Indians) is that they are half as effective as natives. If India were filled with enough high IQ people that they could destroy the demand for IT workers in the US it wouldn’t be the crap hole that it is. Hiring H1B’s is a desperate move by a management that has no idea how IT works and it will bite them in the long run (especially replacing your entire internal IT department with H1B’s).


      February 3, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      • Computer programming seems just fine when you’re in your 20s and early 30s, but you hit a brick wall in your 40s.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        February 3, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      • Just turned 46 … recently got back into hard core coding and enjoy it. But you have to be learning *constantly*; skills get stale fast. Maintaining the enthusiasm is probably the hardest (and most critical skill) overall.


        February 3, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    • That post was mine. I am not remotely dazzled by my “career”, but I have sure as hell survived. I studied Basic, Fortran and Cobol at Control Data Institute (which no longer exists) and did not get a computer science or any other sort of engineering degree. The only route available to me was business IT – not commercial software development, like Silicon Valley. I did as well as I could with what I was allowed to do (and, of course, have learned many, oh so many, other languages and platforms since). I never hung out with software developers socially, never met anyone I considered worth going into business with, and have never had the entrepreneurial temperament to begin with. I grew up in an academic family and was never materialistic. Not everybody wants a yacht and a fleet of Lamborghinis. Nor was I ever attracted by the Uriah Heepish world of middle management, with its need to suck up to every asshole in sight and to attend tiresome meetings ad nauseam. I work to live, not live to work. And computer programming is nothing if not honest work, a true venue for craftsmen and artisans. But I am certainly not complacent. Otherwise I would not read this blog.

      The Whale

      February 4, 2016 at 10:26 pm

  9. “And, yes, I have no kids. If you have kids, fine – but some of us prefer not to commit ourselves to the grim cottage industry of family life to produce a commodity with which the world is already excessively well-supplied”

    I wanted to highlight this line, but I see the earlier commentators beat me too it.

    I actually have a child, but the evangelism for having children I see on red statish blogs continues to amaze me. I don’t have much to say beyond this comment. The world produces something like 200,000 children a day! Isn’t that enough? If not, what production goal exactly are we shooting for? And do you really think your pet eugenics program can get off the ground with these numbers?


    February 3, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    • Children aren’t interchangeable. The raw number is not that important.


      February 3, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    • With all due respect, this is the conventional wisdom and it is wrong. The only region where people are still reproducing like flies is Africa, and that continent doesn’t count for much (unless stupid countries let them migrate en masse). Europe and Asia are literally dying.


      February 3, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    • ” The world produces something like 200,000 children a day! Isn’t that enough?”


      Not enough smart ones.


      February 3, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    • All children are not equal and not a single country with a median IQ in the three digit range has above replacement fertility with the single exception of Israel and maybe Chechnya though I suspect Chechen IQ’S are in the high 90’s not 100+ . Israeli fertility is mostly among the ultra-orthodox

      This means globally only the stupid and the highly religious are breeding. This is not a good situation for civilization as a whole. The world needs smart people, maybe somewhat secular not more low IQ/High Time preference types or people descended from lines of religious zealots

      That said I have no children nor real plans for them, can’t afford them or more accurately won’t raise them on what I make. Don’t have or want a wife either so I’m no example to follow.

      A.B Prosper

      February 4, 2016 at 12:18 am

      • Isreal’s median IQ is below 100. Less than half of the population is Ashkenazi Jewish. Average IQ among the Mizrahi Jews and Arabs is much lower than the average Ashkenazi IQ.


        February 7, 2016 at 1:37 am

  10. I get where this guy is coming from. But it’s a shame he wasn’t able to turn his obvious intelligence into a more lucrative career. “Over 100K” is just not that great. Sorry. You wouldn’t have enough to live comfortably while raising a family. Which is your choice, of course, but not a path many successful people want to follow.

    Computer-related fields are dull and have a shallow income curve. That’s why I tell people with a lot on the ball to avoid them like the plague.

    But, of course, it beats digging ditches. Sure.


    February 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    • He is making 100k because he is not that ambitious, not because there are no paths in the industry to make more. For people of his intelligence there are jobs in money generating tech fields which pay much more. You guys always compare this industry to finance, forgetting that in finance only a small amount of people coming from very specific schools in very specific roles are making this kind of money. Bank tellers are also working in finance.


      February 3, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      • Again, that guy is me. Actually I make over $100,000, but not nearly as much as in the past. That’s because, after a long and pretty lucrative consulting career, I am working at salary at a university, which is a congenial environment for me – plus it’s hard to get laid off at universities. As for ambition, do the math – I’ve been in this for 30 years and am ipso facto no spring chicken. I may be lucky to be still working at all.

        The Whale

        February 4, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    • That guy is me. Some years my income was closer to $200,000, and I bought the house in ’98 when it went for less than half of what it would go for now. Plus my wife works. And, by the way, computer programming is dull only if you are a dull computer programmer.

      The Whale

      February 4, 2016 at 10:33 pm

  11. I like this guy’s contribution. He outlines what his circumstances were, explains his criteria for success, and then shows how his chosen path has allowed him to realize these.

    The American myths of economic and social mobility promise an awful lot but what they deliver is probably also a great deal of disappointment and unexpected consequences. Sure many of us can strive to rise to the top of society, but who is there to welcome us when we get there? Are we strivers really cut out for the cutthroat game of social climbing? Do we really care about all the other phony social x-rays that inhabit the world of philanthropy, art, fashion and social galas?

    I remember a few of my middle class peers who had gone to HYPS college said as they entered the world of elite value transference on wall street. Before we lost touch because of different personal, professional and social trajectories they admitted that they could see the future. They may have come from down-to-earth basic middle-class immigrant families led by patriarchs who were engineers, doctors or small business owners (eg dry cleaning). However based on the lifestyles of their peers in NY or London banking they predicted for themselves a miserable future in which they’re divorced with ex-wives and kids hate them but at least they’ll be earning well enough to pay for that and the endless cycle of drugs, addiction, rehab and therapy that’ll go along with it.

    OK perhaps some of you in value transference professions can disabuse me of my negative estimation of the lifestyles enjoyed by those working in them?

    Contrast this vision of social mobility with the example in this.:

    Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

    February 3, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    • I think the writer of that Onion story is trying a little too hard. More subtlety would have made it a better parody.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 3, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      • This ain’t Britain where subtlety works.

        This is Yankee-Doodle Land. We so dim we need it coming from a 2×4 back and forth to the head.

        Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

        February 3, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    • “The American myths of economic and social mobility promise an awful lot but what they deliver is probably also a great deal of disappointment and unexpected consequences. ”

      The guy’s at the 96-98th percentile of income.

      That’s *hardly* terrible, and more then enough to have a very good apartment, especially if his wife also works.
      Its enough for a decent car, good house, and life in a good, but perhaps not great suburb with a good public school.

      There’s a difference between intelligence and hard work leading to one have a good life, and one being a billionare that’s the envy of hollywood type of life like people on this blog seems to think is the only criteria of success.


      February 3, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      • That site is of little value without adjusting for zip code or some other cost of living metric. $100k in DC or NY is peanuts compared to someone in rural KY, etc.

        But yeah, I agree with the point that it’s a far cry from terrible


        February 4, 2016 at 10:19 am

  12. This is an inspiring story. As someone with an advanced humanities degree who makes much less than $100k — I have only ever had one job, and the standard pay progression here will never take me that high — it is heartening to know that a programming bootcamp could catapult someone like me into that world.

    Not a week ago I defended my PhD thesis and the professors were immediately talking about making it into a book. I’m flattered, but it would be one of those $100+ academic books that few people ever read, and I’m not quitting my day job (finance back-office work). I knew going in that academia would never bring me riches and did it for (1) the personal satisfaction of making a contribution to the world’s knowledge, and (2) an emergency escape hatch in case I ever lost my job and had no chance of being re-employed in the same field.

    I’m seriously thinking of making programming my next self-improvement hobby so that I will have another alternative path — a lucrative one, this time.


    February 3, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    • I used to work at university on a nobody thinktank.

      Worst idea ever.

      Get into business. Any business. If you’re smart you’ll make it.


      February 3, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    • You did it right. When you put all your eggs in the grad school basket, you’re screwed. See here:

      There are 40-something academics making 4-digit incomes desperately waiting for their “big break” and a 5-digit salary. Seriously.


      February 3, 2016 at 5:38 pm

  13. Sorry to go off on a tangent but I have to say that plumbers get a bad rep on this blog. Most plumbers are not in feces all day. Plumbing involves sprinkler installations, gas line installations, steam pipes, boilers, and even some mechanical systems. A licensed plumber hires people to do the work and then he finishes it off and inspects to make sure its been done properly.

    When plumbers get involved with toilets its usually new installations of toilet and plumbing lines. Very rarely does a plumber get called to fix a overflowing toilet. Those are things handymen, supers, porters, and janitors do.


    February 3, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    • I thought it’s the opposite, commenters are always saying how awesome it is to work as a plumber or some other blue-collar trade.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 3, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      • True. But usually someone sneers that they don’t want to work in feces or sewage. Clueless about what plumbing is about.


        February 4, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    • +1
      I worked as a plumber during college, and never touched any feces. Most plumbers will have some funny story about it happening at one point or another, but it’s not even a risk for most of what they do.


      February 3, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      • It’s like joining the Army or Navy. Sure, some guys sometimes have to stick a bayonet in a jihadi’s belly or throw a grenade into a trench full of commies, but it’s not like it happens to every guy every day. Mostly you get Marines that do that shit.


        February 3, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    • Yeah, I’m renovating my house and I’ll be spending quite a bit on plumbing, electrical and carpentry installation. It’s not clean office work, but there’s no feces to be wrangled.

      What these guys get (probably in tax free cash in hand) for a couple weeks work would be a half year’s salary for the average cube-drone.

      Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

      February 3, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    • That was my post. I apologize for that. In fact, I have a cousin who is a plumber. I am just not a guy who is too into dirt, and plumbing sure has plenty of that. Keep in mind that I was hyperbolizing a little about the medical profession, too.

      The Whale

      February 4, 2016 at 10:49 pm

  14. It’s a great post, but he’s wrong about kids. Kids might not be for 100% of people, but 95% are better off with kids.

    I have a son and it’s fantastic. I want more for sure.

    On his salary he could have 4 kids.


    February 3, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    • That was my post. One of my main reasons for not having kids was that I grew up in a dysfunctional family setting and had a difficult youth on top of that. I did not want to bring back all of the pain I felt in those days by plunging into the family scene once again. Plus there are some serious genetic problems in my family (e.g., depression, alcoholism and schizophrenia) that I’d rather not pass on. For most folks, of course, kids are fine.

      The Whale

      February 4, 2016 at 10:46 pm

  15. “with an income over $100,000 for the last twenty years”

    One must keep in mind that this is a strategy which worked out well several decades ago. The world has since changed. I don’t think someone coming out of college right now (most likely with significant debt) would wind up living a decent lifestyle in a leafy Boston suburb on this kind of income. The costs of housing and college has skyrocketed. As have health care costs (I suspect young people pay a disproportionate share of health care costs when you take into account the fact that many employers have two tiered health care plans now — one for newer hires and one for the old guard).

    If you are a young twenty something, don’t expect to live a middle class lifestyle in a major population center on less than 250K/year.


    February 3, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    • Not even Portland, Seattle, Bahston, or Sh*tcagoh?


      February 3, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      • Not if you plan to retire. Expect escalating costs.


        February 3, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    • You are right about this… you’ll have a tough time finding a decent house in Brookline or Newton or similar leafy Boston suburb with $100k/year. You’ll need to live farther out, and take the commuter rail for an hour twice a day.

      February 3, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    • What percentage of young twenty somethings make 250K+ a year?


      February 4, 2016 at 5:45 am

      • A young twenty-something doesn’t need to make 250K a year. But they should aim for that sort of income by early middle age (late 30s). Obviously most people won’t make anything like that. But that is what is required to live a middle class lifestyle in a major population center. It actually doesn’t suffice for some areas — when my wife and I lived in Silicon Valley, our combined gross income was roughly 500K. We owned a 1500 square foot single story ranch-style home on a 6000 square foot lot. That was some time ago — our old house is probably valued over $2M now. In that neighborhood, 1000 square foot homes now go for ~ 1.5M.


        February 4, 2016 at 3:55 pm

  16. I double-majored in environmental science and business management, with a concentration in real estate studies, at a good, but not outstanding, state school (usually somewhere from 60 to 85 is US News Rankings). No debt, fortunately.

    I wanted to work in urban planning, but graduated in the Fall of 2008. I couldn’t land any ‘real’ job, so I worked as a bartender, and personal trainer at night and on the weekends, and for 20 or so hours a week as an admin/receptionist/accounting data entry for a local law firm.

    I was considering law school, but, fortunately, this blog persuaded me not to go. At the beginning of 2010, I found work as an entry-level analyst in public health consulting. Since then, I’ve worked as a business analyst/data analyst (my current title is programmer/analyst, and I do most of my work in R and Python).

    The salary is good ($80k in a low, low, cost of living area), good benefits.

    Ideally, I would still like to work in real estate, either in zoning/regulatory, or land development. I am taking evening classes to teach myself GIS tools…so here’s hoping.

    What I’ve found is that IT is not a bad place to be in. It isn’t great, but, then, what job is? If you want to work in something like the arts, publishing, music, you need to either be born wealthy, or bite the bullet and accept an impecunious, unstable career (which, as Lion has noted, wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for other poor people).

    Cold Body Radiation

    February 3, 2016 at 3:25 pm

  17. Here’s something that most readers on this blog forget about. Screw the private sector:

    It’s better off to work at a government post, which entails computer programming in our current economic climate, unless you want to the Manhattan/San Francisco high life, which requires an elusive six-figure Google salary.


    February 3, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    • Also, government programmer with a clearance = HUGE $$$ in the private sector after that.


      February 3, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    • Absolutely. Government jobs are highly underrated. Whatever the salary of a government job is just double it and that is the real monetary value once you factor in the pension, benefits and lack of stress.


      February 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm

  18. This guy’s commentary goes to show that you can take the boy out of the (solipsistic) humanities, but you can’t take the humanities out of the boy.

    Someone who had internalized a true STEM mindset would understand that “I’ve got mine” doesn’t refute other people’s criticisms.


    February 3, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    • Hey, that was me. I was not attempting to “refute” anyone’s criticisms. I was criticizing the tone and the sensibility of some of the comments, which is, in fact, what humanities guys are trained to do.

      The Whale

      February 4, 2016 at 10:55 pm

  19. LotB: Regarding the $100K salary: it’s better than digging ditches certainly but it’s not that impressive compared to what upper-middle-class people are making.

    CNN, Money and other various sources show that the median annual household income in the US is about $54K. IRS records show that annual income at about $120K puts one in the top 10% of income earners.

    So, I would say that the $100K per-year-earner is not very common (at least outside of NYC). Just the top three earners at my 900-employee workplace earn over $100K. I’ve never earned six figures and, due to a couple of layoffs and blown opportunities, risk aversion, and the Great Recession, my salary today is exactly what it was in 1999. Though, my former software coworkers from 25 years ago all cracked the $100K per year mark by the early ’00s at around age 40. On the other hand, living in reasonably low cost of living areas and a couple of serendipitous real estate investments, helped me to become a millionaire by age 50.

    E. Rekshun

    February 3, 2016 at 6:10 pm

  20. I’ve worked in IT for almost two decades. 2011-2014 was spent in consulting which wasn’t too bad as far as IT goes. In 2015 I went back into an IT cubicle drone position in financial services, that I walked out on 3 weeks ago (no backup job to fall back on).

    My last job I was one of two white people. It was all incompetent Indians, even the management. Other internal business groups I dealt with were jaw dropping stupid (One guy put his GMAT score in the 67th percentile on his LinkedIn profile to brag! and never even got the MBA) Instead of doing dev lead\architect tasks, I was paid $135,000 a year to provide endless status reports and check boxes for complete morons. No real work ever got done because of bureaucracy and red tape.

    At lunch the people on the floor would bring their NASCAR lunch boxes (Indians bring curry from the 1 bedroom apartment they share with 20 other people) into the lunchroom area, and discuss fast food menus with each other while watching Judge Judy on the TV. The managers had to have a big meeting because someone was pissing all over the walls and floors of the bathroom and the building management refused to clean it up.

    This is the epitome of a low status, dead end job for losers. I have an IQ of 140 so this type of work and environment does not interest me, and thus why I quit. If you have a low IQ then you may be able to stomach corporate IT work. While this place may sound like it’s on the more extreme end of the scale, it’s not. I have friends at other companies who deal with the same garbage. I saw the same things at many of my consulting clients.

    The only thing I can recommend is working for a tech company or startup that has a bit more respect for their IT staff. Otherwise you are viewed as an expendable commodity and you are on a fast track to nowhere.


    February 3, 2016 at 6:46 pm

  21. Lion,

    The question about what to do for a living could have been asked about you too. Unless you have enough money to never work again, I assume you are planning to return to the world of work. Are you going to eschew IT? If so, what are you planning to do?

    I suspect you will find the grass isn’t greener in other fields.

    Dave Pinsen

    February 3, 2016 at 6:51 pm

  22. As one of the older people reading this blog site I feel my life experience stands me in good stead if not my IQ. I’ve never really thought of myself a bright and I grew up as prole as prole can be in Spokane, Washington. My father worked as a worker bee, pouring metal. He was also an alcoholic and thrashed my mother and we kids on a regular basis. I could read before I went to school and so skipped kindergarten going right to the first grade. Something I would never suggest an one do. I was struck by a car on the way to a baseball game and as part of the settlement I was give an IQ test to see if there was any permanent damage, I scored 135. I had no clue that this was a fairly good score. I was a lot more interested in sports than school and won only two academic awards, during my school career. The first was: I read more books than any other student in my second grade class and the second was I came in first in my senior class vocabulary test in High School. Other than those I was a mediocre student at best. I wanted to be an athlete, unfortunately I never got good enough to ever be a star, plus I was only 17 when I graduated from HS. As soon as I turned 18 I enlisted in the USAF (1957). After a battery of tests I went off to accounting school in Texas. Here the first brick was laid in building my distrust of our government. I was told that if I did well in school I could be stationed where ever I liked. Everyone else except a kid from Massachusetts and myself had been to college and he’d had bookkeeping in HS. It was all new to me. Since I really have no math aptitude this may have been the most difficult academic task of my life. The difficulty of these classes was compounded when out instructor committed suicide after failing to pass his CPA exam for the third time. Anyway I finished #2 in my class and upon graduation I was marched over to the assignment office where I ask to be sent to Europe. My second and third choices were the East Coast and California. A couple of days later I was told to head to Clovis, New Mexico, which is 200 miles from any where. To say I was a malcontent is to slander malcontents. People who arrived after I did made rank of sergeant were busted and made their stipes back while I continued to war my one stripe. One of the things I was good at was test taking so when our squadron had to send someone to a class of almost any type I was the chosen one. I once had a card which said I was qualified to fly at over 35,000 feet in the air. The only thing I ever flew was my desk.
    I finished my duty in Fairbanks, Alaska where I was reunited with a guy who’d been in computer school (Those early computers were this size of my desk maybe 3′ wide, 6′ long and nearly 4′ high and all they could do in count punch cards. )while I was attending Accounting school. Joe was a smart person when had gone to Ladd AFB right out of school and began attending the U of Alaska Fairbanks as soon as he landed there. He finished with two years credits and money in the bank. I finished with no credits, very little money in my pocket, and lumps on my head. I started boxing at age 15 and continued until I got out of the service at 21. I was always a mean little SOB but once I began to box I quit fighting in the street. I won the inter-service championship while stationed at Ladd. I also go my second stripe, thanks to Sergeant Collins, Who said to me “You’re a dumb shit but no one deserves to carry only one stipe as you have.” Boo, I’ve run on far too long. Let me say that I have waltzed through life without plan and done quite well. I’ve been married to the same woman for 52 years and still find her as exciting as the day I first saw her. We have three children all of whom are great and 5 grandchildren who are even better. I recommend children and think that childless couples are missing out. I taught HS English for 36 years, while coaching Cross country, Track, and Soccer. I retired in 2006 and got tired of doing very little and so returned to my daughters classroom last year as a volunteer and assisted in coaching our school soccer team. It is and ideal situation, she does all the heavy lifting and des all the grunt work of planning, meetings etc, while I get to teach the kids and play grandpa to them. I too travel quite a bit having also been to Europe nearly every summer since I retired(My wife still works as a nurse in a Doctors office) OK, I quit, now you all know more about me that you care to.


    February 3, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    • Who you are married to is the most important part of being happy. That’s what my parents tell me. Most everything else, you just tough it out.


      February 3, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      • @Goalkeeper – sounds like you done fine.

        A lot of ppl here are posers & don’t make much money.

        @Lion – I worked on Wall St for a consultancy (admin job). There really are a lot of open positions as software engineers. Dunno what the background is. You make about $150K per year, maybe $200K. That’s good money if you manage it well. Don’t knock it. You seem to compare everything to major wealth. Do you want to be rich? How are you going to pull this off?


        February 3, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    • Just so you know, a lot of people will just ignore comments that aren’t broken into paragraphs.


      February 3, 2016 at 11:53 pm

      • @onetwothree: good advice. I break my comments into lots of grafs, even extra ones.


        February 4, 2016 at 9:56 am

  23. Lion says:

    I thought it’s the opposite, commenters are always saying how awesome it is to work as a plumber or some other blue-collar trade.

    Lion’s right. Commenters here and at similar blogs are always saying how awesome being a plumber, HVAC guy, etc. is. How awesome are these jobs really? Don’t they drive around all day in those big white vans making house calls? And do they really make a lot of money? When you pay these junior plumbers who actually come out to your house to fix your plumbing, most of that money is going to his plumbing company and boss. Unless he’s an independent contractor, in which case he’ll have to be constantly hustling to drum up business, driving around in his big white van.


    February 3, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    • I think the earnings of tradesmen depend a lot on whether they’re unionized. In non-union Florida, I’ve hired several licensed plumbers and electricians over the past 20+ years to work on my residence and rental properties. I’ve hired guys that work for themselves and others that work for an established firm. Most have told me that, yes, they can make good money when the economy is good and new homes are being built and people are renovating. (By “good money,” that’s according to their standard, and that’s less than $100K.)

      On the other hand, they say that competition for customers is crushing. Just look in the phone book, there are hundreds of plumbers and electricians, and they undercut each other on rates. They’ve told me that there are weeks where there are 80 hours of work and large paychecks followed by a week at home on the couch w/o work. Though I think they can sometimes collect unemployment compensation for days when there is no work. My employer just hired an in-house licensed master electrician for $45K per year. He told me he could earn a little more as an electrician out in the field but he’s happy to have the steady job w/ benefits. I suspect that he supplements his earnings w/ side jobs on the weekend (and on days when he calls in “sick”).

      On the other hand, two childhood friends worked in MA as unionized sheet metal workers right out of high school and regularly made $100K by their late ’20s and retired with gold-plated lifetime pensions and health benefits before age 40. On top of their 3-weeks of paid vacation plus sick leave, they regularly enjoyed another three weeks per year collecting unemployment when there was no work.

      I’ve heard from reliable sources in the trades that the apprenticeship period and required night classes is serious and the journeyman and master level certification tests are tough.

      E. Rekshun

      February 4, 2016 at 4:14 am

      • If you can stand sticking needles into people, being a phlebotomist is a good job. Most of the time the work is very routine. You just have to learn how to fill out LOTS of forms.


        February 4, 2016 at 9:58 am

    • Independent contractors can often make in a day what most office workers make in a week or two. They take the rest of the week off

      Derk Durk

      February 4, 2016 at 7:50 am

  24. This guy is who we should ALL be following! He’s got it made! Who is the smartest person in society–the miserable underemployed jillion-worthless-advanced-degrees guy (or the highfalutin professional who has zero time for the things in life that matter and is working himself to an early grave) or this savvy, brilliant person who’s managed to take care of himself very well?

    As for not having kids–I’m guessing that most of the hate he gets comes from people that regret not making his choice. It doesn’t take much analysis to demonstrate that usually one’s offspring are of lower quality than oneself, often by a considerable margin. It also doesn’t take much to demonstrate that a lack of replacement rate is *not* what is dooming economies all over the world (the youth unemployment rate in Europe proves that quite nicely). Kudos to this guy.

    Martin L.

    February 4, 2016 at 8:30 am

  25. “And, yes, I have no kids. If you have kids, fine – but some of us prefer not to commit ourselves to the grim cottage industry of family life to produce a commodity with which the world is already excessively well-supplied.”

    I thought I’d address this, from my own, slightly different perspective.
    I had kids late. It is nice. Its not the nicest thing to ever happen to me, I am enjoying some of it, not enjoying some of it, but overall I’m glad I did.

    When I was in high school, I did not do sports. I wasn’t especially athletic, but I suspect I could have been a benchburner in a few sports. But I really didn’t have the drive or confidence, and my parents didn’t push me, so I never did it.

    I think that was a mistake. I missed out on alot by not doing sports-male cameraderie, easier access to girls, physical self-confidence, sense of being a member of a team, the habit of exercise, and many others. Even though I wouldn’t have been especially good at sports, and would never ‘get anything’ out of it (college scholarship or career), sports and athletics are a valuable activity in an of themselves. My life experience in high school was poorer for my lack of sports participation. I am pushing my kids a bit to be athletic.

    And having kids is like doing sports in high school. Its not for everybody, but just about everybody benefits from the experience. You don’t have to love the idea of having kids (or playing football or running track), but your life will be more complete if you do it. It is simply one of life’s experiences that you really need to do in order to have a complete and fulfilling life.



    February 4, 2016 at 10:47 am

  26. Obviously he feels like his life would be less complete with kids. Why does he “need to do” them to have a fulfilled life? The fact that you *must* respond to this shows that you’re not really a tolerant, accepting person who wants the best for everyone.

    Also, the consequences of childbirth can be fatal, and not just for the woman:

    Martin L.

    February 4, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    • “The fact that you *must* respond to this shows that you’re not really a tolerant, accepting person…”

      I never claimed to be a tolerant, accepting person. In fact, I’m the opposite. I think there are good things and bad things, and people who choose good have made good choices, while those who choose bad have made bad choices. who wants the best for everyone. You define ‘tolerance’ as ‘accepting whatever people say.’ I am not a tolerant person under that definition.

      ‘…who wants the best for everyone.’

      I also disagree with this. As I mentioned in my own post, I chose to not do sports in high school, and in restrospect, I regret that choice. I was given absolute choice as a 16 year old (my parents were, by your definition, ‘tolerant’ people), and I think that was a mistake.

      Life is full of things like this. Kids don’t want to do their homework: we make them anyway. Kids don’t want to take piano lessons: we make them anyway (and those that aren’t forced, grow up regretting that they didn’t learn the piano growing up). We all accept that certain things are necessary for a fulfilling life: learning to read, learning a certain minimum of math, getting reasonable (B or better?) grades in school, being nice to others, etc etc. We all accept that it makes no sense to be a ‘tolerant’ person towards kids who don’t want to do these things.

      There is another collection of activities that are entirely optional (force your kids to take up bird watching? force your spouse to like football, or model airplanes, or jazz? require yourself to read and enjoy romance novels? and so on). They are ‘hobbies’ or ‘interests.’

      Based on my experience in life, there is more in the ‘necessary because it is good for you’ category than society-at-large thinks. My kids are doing sports/physical activities because I think it is good for them. They are also learning musical instruments-again, because I think it is good for them. Thus far, the pushback hasn’t been such that I will change-but I might, if they really resist.

      And having kids is like that. Since the programmer isn’t my kid, I’m not going to ‘force’ him to have children. But having children is part of experiencing a complete life. Not everybody will do it (and not everybody can). You can still live a largely fulfilling life without it (I am living a full life even though I didn’t play sports in high school), but you will miss out on something fundamental without that experience in your life.



      February 4, 2016 at 2:27 pm

  27. “Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn are having eight children per married couple, so let’s hope they have better-than-average genes[…].”

    Assuming they’re Ashkenazim, they should almost certainly have better-than-average genes even if they have a lower median IQ than the secular Jews that are so influential in the US.


    February 4, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    • Hasidic jews spend most of their time studying the Talmud which is pretty taxing on the brain. I believe their average IQ is not less than any other Ashkenazi Jew, they just don’t put this brain power into sciences or liberal studies.


      February 4, 2016 at 7:48 pm

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