If you’re in your mid-20s and anything like me, you’ve accumulated several dozen million dollars and are wondering whether you should keep working or rearrange your life around other priorities. One year ago, I decided to take the plunge. Since you’re probably in the same situation, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with you.
When I founded Vomitly, the company that extracts data from surreptitiously collected vomit and offers customers various packages to protect their vomit-data privacy (and not, no matter what some unscrupulous lawyers claim, “a company that is literally just blackmail”), I never imagined I’d retire so early. I thought I’d have to at least work into my early 30s.
Still, I do have some regrets:
1. My money pile could have been taller.
When you’re a twenty-something multimillionaire considering retirement, you think you’ll be able to live off the interest of the money you’ve already earned. That’s the folly of youth. But what you might not realize is that once you stop working, the decorative tower of cash you keep in your solarium will never grow again. There are no practical consequences to this, but you will find yourself weeping about it.
2. I fear I will be unable to conquer mortality.
While the amount of money I accumulated in my working years was sufficient to live comfortably for eight or nine more decades, which should easily take care of what we think of as the limits of a human being’s lifespan aided by even the best of modern medicine, it seems more and more like it will not allow me to fund research that would lead to my eternal life. In retrospect, I should have waited a few more years until I had the resources to open The Jonathan Zeller Institute for Life Extension for Jonathan Zeller, Specifically, and I Guess If Other People Also Want to Use the Technology They Can.
3. If I do somehow conquer mortality, I’ll still be faced with the dilemma that I haven’t saved enough money to be retired forever.
It’s a real Catch-22, which is also the title of a book that I thought I’d read with the time I have in retirement. Mostly I’ve scrolled through Twitter. I’m going to start reading a book today, though. I know it.
4. Even if I do somehow conquer mortality and accumulate enough money to retire forever, I still won’t be able to avert the heat death of the universe.
Okay. Say that, first, I get the institute running. Then suppose I find a way to monetize the resulting technology and, with my vise grip on all of humanity’s ability to stay alive, I manage to create a stream of income based on their need for my technology. Say, then, that out of this money I set some aside to exert influence on legislators who will indefinitely extend my patent rights so that even for thousands or millions of years no one else can ever make my life-extension product, and therefore I can remain retired forever thanks to revenue from the masses who are desperate to stave off their deaths.
First of all, what kind of retirement requires that type of grueling administration, medical research, and lobbying? If that’s retirement at all, it’s only in the technical sense. It’s more like a career change. But even beyond that, then what are we dealing with? Many physicists believe that the universe is continually expanding, and will someday reach what is known as heat death: a state in which all matter is so cold that it stops moving. And when everything stops moving and changing, that means time has stopped and the universe (and my retirement) is over. Perhaps you think that, by continuing to accumulate more and more wealth in my “retirement” (which I think we’ve established by now is way more stressful than it should be), I could also start an institute to research ways of postponing or preventing the universe’s heat death, but then it looks like I’m working two freakin’ jobs here. What did I even found Vomitly for? This is exhausting.
5. I’m not good enough, and no one likes me.
I can’t remember ever being happy or feeling like I was worth anything. You know what I’ve always wanted to try? Songwriting. I’m going to learn to play guitar. Maybe that will be relaxing.