More money, fewer problems
Money, airplane productivity, wanting (Stew's Letter #98)
Welcome to Stew’s Letter.
It’s been a few weeks since the last email. Whoops. I have no excuses.
I’m currently in SF preparing for our first-ever dinner series at Foster. I am giddy with excitement to finally meet many of our amazing members for the first time IRL.
To any new subscribers, welcome.
This newsletter is a niche-less exploration of various ideas. It contains ~4-5 ADHD-sized tidbits. It’s generally pretty silly and fun, though today I’ll talk about Adult Things™️.
Let’s get to it!
More money, fewer problems
My views on money are quintessentially American: I believe that having more money is better than having less money. I am old-fashioned in this way.
This perspective on money has long made me skeptical of the trope that earning more money stops positively impacting well-being past $75k/year. That has always sounded like bullshit to me (though, of course, I can imagine plenty of exceptions).
Thankfully, a researcher at Wharton took the initiative to run a new study on the relationship between household income and self-reported well-being. Sure enough, he found no evidence that well-being tops out at $75k/year.
From his paper:
There was no evidence for an experienced well-being plateau above $75,000/y, contrary to some influential past research.
There was also no evidence of an income threshold at which experienced and evaluative well-being diverged, suggesting that higher incomes are associated with both feeling better day-to-day and being more satisfied with life overall.
Another study found that no-strings-attached cash payments were more effective than psychotherapy for improving participants’ mental health.
Put another way:
This was all validating to read (“Ugh, I knew it!”), but it doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies. The global economy is ripe with inequality and exclusionary practices that make it far harder for some folks to accumulate wealth than others. I don’t generally love the idea that super-rich people might be having more fun than the rest of us.
Instead, my overall takeaway is this: when it comes to money, a healthy respect for it seems more likely to actually improve our lives than a cynical or dismissive attitude.
Money is a deeply personal topic though, so you do you.
Constraints and freedom: the paradox of airplane productivity
I’ve noticed something puzzling lately: I am unbelievably productive on airplanes.
This is shocking because I almost always fly on the cheapest airline in the cheapest seats. I’m often buried deep in the back of the plane next to elderly folks who snore like Chewbacca and babies discovering their vocal cords.
The constraints are unforgiving, too. The wifi barely works, making it difficult to find compelling distractions online. I am tethered to my seat, unable to navigate to any real-world distractions. And I can’t even sleep as the seat is usually uncomfortable.
But there is a strange freedom within these rigid constraints. The usual forces that demand my energy are figuratively and literally miles away. The crappy wifi and small cabin give me permission to turn inwards for entertainment. I have no choice but to reflect or create. I reliably tap into my least-distracted, most-productive self.
💭 Quote from somebody else
"Wanting well, like thinking clearly, is not an ability we’re born with. It’s a freedom we have to earn."
– Luke Burgis, Wanting
💭 Quote from yours truly
🏔 Rice Mountain
🔥 Fire TikTok
This guy’s answer to “what are your final words?” made me spit out my coffee.
Until next time,