Minimalism and Wall Street

Eddie Braverman's picture
Rank: The Pro | 21,111

This is going to sound pretty odd to some of you, but it's one of those macro trends that have been on my radar since roughly before the crisis started in 2008. I'm talking about the current trend toward minimalism in general and its many offshoots in particular, what long term impact that trend might have on GDP, and whether or not there are any minimalists on Wall Street.

My grandmother was born in San Francisco in 1901. By the time Prohibition was in full swing, her and her younger sister accumulated a respectable pile of money selling wine they made using a recipe from the old country. My grandmother took her share of the money and bought a bakery, which struggled mightily before going under. Her sister took her end and bought San Francisco real estate. You can guess how that ended up.

I mention this because my grandmother lived with us while I was growing up. To say that the Great Depression made an impact on her would be a vast understatement. By that time she was married with three kids, the bakery was on its way out, and her husband was a struggling delivery driver. They didn't have it as bad as some, but it was no picnic. My mother was too young to really remember anything before WWII, but the austerity affected her a great deal as well.

Needless to say there wasn't a lot of waste in my house growing up. We weren't minimalists in the modern sense of the word, but everything in the house served a purpose and there wasn't a lot of fluff (save for the "living room", which was occupied by slipcovered furniture no one was ever allowed to sit on). Growing up in that environment, you'd think it would have stuck with me.

It didn't.

If coming of age in the 1980s taught me anything, it was that he who dies with the most toys wins. The heroes of the day were Tony Montana, Gordon Gekko, and Michael Milken. For those who've read Liar's Poker, you know what I'm talking about. It didn't matter how you made your money, just that you made it and spent it conspicuously.

This accelerated through the 1990s, the decade that brought us the McMansion. Everything got bigger, and keeping up with the Joneses became the national pastime. Nowhere was this more prevalent than on Wall Street, where we felt compelled to take excess to ridiculous levels. Hookers and blow became models and bottles.

Then came the Zeroes, with the interest-only ARMs and Trader Monthly. Everyone in America was a real estate speculator, and Wall Street was printing money. Hell, even the ops guys were in on the act. Perhaps the high water mark that should have signalled that the whole house of cards was ready to come down was A.J. rolling out to Cain on a Thursday night.

The other side of the coin

I retired from trading in 1999. I hit my walkaway number and I walked away. I convinced myself that I'd make my next fortune as a novelist. That's where I first became aware of the countercultural movement that we now know as minimalism.

I joined a writer's group where we'd get together once a week and critique each other's work. One of the other writers in the group used to hand out copies of his work which were clearly typewritten, and one day I asked him about it.

"Bro, are you still using a typewriter?"

"Yeah," he answered, offering no further explanation.

"Well, isn't easier to write with a computer? And a word processor? I remember what it was like to make corrections with a typewriter. How do you keep from losing your mind?"

"It's just something we decided to do in my voluntary simplicity group."

"Your what now?"

"Voluntary simplicity. You know, leading a simple life, not spending money where you don't have to, trying not to be wasteful, that kind of thing."

Suffice it to say that in 1999, this was nothing short of revolutionary talk. The Internet was taking over the world and now I'm finding out that there are groups of people rejecting it all voluntarily because it complicates their lives needlessly? Absolute heresy.

Yet while society churned itself toward oblivion, more and more people dropped out and the movement evolved. The thirty-year binge that began in 1980 led to one of the worst hangovers in American history when everything ground to a halt in 2008. There has been a seismic shift on both Wall Street and Main Street ever since.

Enter modern Minimalism

The most obvious change on Wall Street was that conspicuous consumption was out. There were practically lynch mobs roaming the streets looking for bankers having a good time, so toning things down became a matter of survival. At one point in 2009 there was a company offering a tour bus to the hedge fund managers' mansions in Connecticut just so the hoi polloi could throw rocks.

Then Occupy Wall Street happened and anti-capitalism went mainstream. Dodd-Frank, though a poor substitute for Glass-Steagall, brought with it a bevy of new financial regulations. All of a sudden it wasn't as much fun to be a banker.

All the while, a generation of kids were coming up who experienced the whole boom-bust firsthand. Maybe their parents were over-leveraged and lost their home. Maybe they were saddled with a ton of student loan debt. Maybe they just saw all the negative things that overconsumption breeds and turned off to it. But today there exists a significant portion of the population, and a vastly more significant portion of the younger population, who are simply opting out of consumption in favor of minimalism.

This takes many different forms. There are the digital nomads who wander the globe at will, taking work online where they can find it, and paying for experiences rather than possessions. There are the tiny house people, who are opting to live in spaces 400 sq ft or less. There's the whole vanlife movement, who prefer a life on the road and living in a van down by the river. There are other offshoots of minimalist lifestyles too numerous to list.

I'll be the first to admit that they're all on to something. They've made the move from anti-capitalism to deliberate capitalism; i.e. there's nothing wrong with buying something useful or enjoyable, just don't buy more than that. As someone who was raised to believe that success meant making as much money as possible, owning a big house and fancy cars, and letting the world know that you had "made it", I find a lot to like in minimalism.

But now I wonder about the downside. Now that the bloom is off the rose of conspicuous consumption, what effect is that going to have on the economy? Our GDP is dependent upon consumer spending and, if we're being honest, having those consumers spend more than they make. What happens if an entire generation just checks out of that system?

If I were single and in my twenties or thirties, there's no way you'd catch me showing up at a job every day. There are just too many ways to make a living in your underwear these days. You're not going to get rich, but you'll keep a roof over your head and beer in the fridge, and you'll work when you want to, not when your bill collectors tell you to.

So that leads me to wonder about minimalism on Wall Street. Surely there must be minimalists in the business, right? I mean, it's the perfect career to get into, make a bunch of money, and then check out of before 30. With even $500,000 in the bank at 30, you could probably go the next 25 years without punching a clock.

Do they exist? Do any of you in the business consider yourselves minimalists? Remember, this site was basically established by digital nomads who came from banking, so there is precedence for it.

Should we be worried about more people doing more with less? Will it have a measurable effect on GDP, or is it just a fad?

Comments (62)

Oct 18, 2016

GDP will suffer, but GDP was a flawed measure of success of a society anyways

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Oct 18, 2016

i guess i'm WSO's resident digital nomad minimalist, excited to jump back in on this thread later today or tomorrow.

and no i don't do my WSO work from a typewriter, though my brother says these people called "hipsters" use them at cafes in Brooklyn. sounds like i've missed a lot in the last 6 years..

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Oct 18, 2016

Jesus, I can't even imagine the misery of lugging a typewriter around.

Oct 20, 2016

I've heard it's character building

Oct 22, 2016
Eddie Braverman:

Jesus, I can't even imagine the misery of lugging a typewriter around.

Don't worry, there's a tablet typewriter available for $1299 that can fit inside a messenger bag.

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Oct 22, 2016

I didn't read this post beyond the first few sentences, but I just wanted to say that I'd much rather have an orgy with a team of accountants at Applebee's than ever become a liberal.

Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: "To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods."

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Oct 28, 2016

You made my day

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Oct 18, 2016

short answer: there will always be movements towards minimalism, but I think what you're seeing is voluntary austerity as a result of having the global financial crisis in our formative years. for anyone who graduated during/around 2008, it's a big part of who we are.

what I think will happen is as this generation enters its late 30s/early 40s, you'll see a watered down version of post-depression, with less consumption, lower birthrates, but by no means as bad as it could be.

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Oct 18, 2016

I'm in a weak position to opine. If my lifestyle were a cathedral, it would be rococo

Oct 18, 2016

FWIW I make ~200k a year working in my underwear from home, and I honestly miss the office life sometimes. The corporate sponsored dinners, the built in social life, the sexual harassment... Can't say I miss having a woman for a boss though.

I don't know why anyone would ever be "worried" about people doing more with less - that's the definition of innovation which is always a good thing. It's about time the world did a hard reset of the Western economy, it's all smoke and mirrors; you don't advance a nation by spending and consuming, you do it by saving and investing.

I'm not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination (somehow I don't think a minimalist would spend $200 on a pair of jeans), but I have zero debt and considerable savings... What would that make me? A rationalist?

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Oct 18, 2016

Actually, from what I've learned about the new minimalists, they'd much prefer you have one pair of hand-stitched $200 jeans than five pairs made by slave labor in a sweatshop.

I get what you're saying about missing the office environment; sometimes I miss it myself. But I think if we were in there for even a week straight we'd remember pretty quickly why we bailed on it in the first place.

Oct 18, 2016

I feel like a true minimalist would buy the absolute cheapest pair of jeans that was "honestly" sourced... although maybe that's just semantics.

What of the economics? I mean, under-consumption will never take hold on any cultural/societal scale in the West, but if it did there would be some short term pain as debtors and creditors did battle in the courts, followed by an era of unprecedented prosperity as we matched investment with growth...

Oct 21, 2016

I think you're onto something there. The shrinkage of consumer spending due to a basic change in consumer preferences could be fertile grounds for innovation that will create an economy better-suited to the needs and wants of our current (and hopefully future as well) generations.

Oct 22, 2016

What I want to know is, how do you make 200k at home in your underwear?

Oct 23, 2016
Magpie47:

What I want to know is, how do you make 200k at home in your underwear?

Tech is where it's at.

Oct 23, 2016
Magpie47:

What I want to know is, how do you make 200k at home in your underwear?

Oddly enough, more and more people are throwing up numbers like this every day. They are the ouliers, of course.

That said, it's pretty easy to make $2,500/mo without ever leaving home, and if you're the average minimalist that's more than enough. If you're especially motivated, you could become a passable WordPress developer in ~90 days and then pretty easily make ~$5,000/mo on a freelance basis. WordPress powers roughly 28% of the web today, and it's one of the easiest platforms to learn.

So no, the average joe grinding it out online isn't pulling in 200k a year. Know what else he isn't pulling? All nighters.

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Oct 18, 2016

I like the minimalist movement. Hopefully it really takes off and luxury goods will fail to keep place with inflation for the next three decades. More disposable income for millennials who want to spend like it's 1998.

Oct 18, 2016

I definitely relate to that video and will probably watch the whole documentary. I think I fit under your definition of a modern minimalist. I have a finite number of things, but the things I do spend on are normally of good quality. I've splurged on nice things throughout my analyst (and now associate) days, but they also last a long time (have had same work shoes for 3+ years, high-end macbook pro I got in 2009 still works great, etc). I think I trend in the opposite direction of most consumers because as I've made more income, I've spent less and desire less material consumption. I suppose everyone has their reasons for being a minimalist but my two are:

1) Organization. There's so much on your plate at one time in banking and for me having limited things makes it less onerous to keep track of things outside of work. It helps clear my mind if a space is uncluttered and there's no wasteful items everywhere. For me the digitalization era has helped a lot; I 'have' a lot of books but all of them are on the kindle app.

2) Sense of freedom. Having fewer things makes it seem like you are less tied down to a particular location or situation. I have no mortgage, no car payments, no student loan payments, no kids, no long term subscriptions (outside of a month to month netflix and gym membership). All the things I own could be packed up in probably an hour and at 25 I already have a couple hundred thousand saved up. I think this sense of freedom is echoed by many of the minimalists in that video.

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Oct 18, 2016

I think this post is on the nose that luxury goods are out of style among the milennial crowd, but physical good minimalism != lower spending in my view. I think these minimalists are spending the money on experiences like food, travel, and social events at a rapid rate unlike previous generations.

Oct 19, 2016

.

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Oct 19, 2016

You make some great points about overconsumption and I especially liked the observation Hookers and Blow becoming models and bottles. Yet, I don't think minimalism and Models/Bottles are mutually exclusive. There's plenty of people making good money but budgeting well and living all sorts of weird, eclectic lifestyles. The "vanlife" with the one beer in the fridge or the digital nomad lifestyles you speak of is obviously sexy from the cubicle. But when its 100 degrees out and your power just went out and you've got $20 in your pocket and all you've eaten is rice and beans you aren't necessarily "free". You're still owned by that discomfort as well uncertainty where your next online gig comes from. Point is the grass is always greener and there's too many people on WSO saying quit the rat race.

My opinion on overconsumption is that it tends to be more of a problem with the less educated and/or well off. Yes it's all relative but even these people find ways to buy things at the expense of primary goods. This is one of the many reasons the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor - the later just haven't figured it out yet.

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Oct 19, 2016

I think there are a few other forces at play here that haven't been mentioned.

For one I notice some of my buddies have a bit of the Tyler Durden mindset where they don't want extra material things at all. Those friends of mine fall more into the "throwback/hardo" category. They see men who go out of their way to buy extra possessions as weak.

Another thing I've noticed, especially with the younger half of the millennial generation is their obsession with phones and living through social media. I believe that lends itself to buying experiences as mentioned above in the form of trips, expensive food, tickets etc while shunning more traditional large purchases such a car or a house.

Also, that guy AJ's insecurity was off the charts haha. I was cringing through that whole video.

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Oct 19, 2016

I mean, I don't have cable, don't own any videogames and read 8-12 books a year. Also, I don't use social media much and don't live my life on it at all..

I think I'm more a minimalist than most of my generation. And yah, working on exiting the corporate life for sure.

btw, I enjoy reading your posts!

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Best Response
Oct 20, 2016

(i really do apologize for rambling, can't sleep and I feel like writing. tl;dr experiences > stuff, duh)

If there's someone more minimalist than me on WSO, would love to hear about it. And it's funny, I didnt realize I'd become a minimalist until about a year ago when a friend mentioned something about it. It's been my lifestyle choice, not a fad I read about in GQ magazine. Anyways, been waiting to comment in here.

So because of my lifestyle having lived most of the last 6 years in Buenos Aires, i had no choice but to get rid most of my things (keep in mindI didn't have that much) and by default became a minimalist. I arrived here with two suitcases and a backpack, and now i own about a pickup truck's worth as i've accumulated some furniture etc. Back home i left behind about 8 boxes of things.

So how did my anti-materialism play out? So the only time I really bought things were small souvenirs, electronic necessities, basic clothes and Amazon shopping sprees while visiting back home. Most of my spending has gone towards travel & lifestyle, I really couldn't see it any other way. Because I've spent little on material consumption I really went all out on the travel and experiences. I've seen most of latin america, i've lived a life I could have only ever dreamt about, it's really been a special time.

"The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything." -- Chuck Palahniuk. I've always remembered this line from Fight Club, and is a value that sticks with me.

Re: "things owning you": So fast forward to the present and i'm preparing to leave Buenos Aires in two months, and I'm still unsure about when I'll come back. Could be 6 weeks, could be 6 months, could be a permanent move to relocate to the US / Mexico / Colombia. It's funny, even though I own so little here, i'm still stressing about what to sell, what to keep, what to bring back to home to Seattle. So for those who stress about having a ton of shit they don't need, minimalists stress too (or i'm just a easily stressed lol).... it's all relative. Another thing to add, I've probably lived in at least 15 different places in 6 years (counting 1 month airbnbs). The short term contracts are liberating but moving around is so exhausting. The longest I lived in one place was two years, 2011-2013.

Re: "after you lose everything you're free to do anything": I agree... I mean I did it, in some sense. I got rid of 90% of my material possessions before I left the US, though not that I owned that much to begin with. Did I do "anything"? - As best I could I guess, and having so few things made it so much easier. (also obviously "everything" in this sense encompasses more than just material possessions, but that's another discussion for another day.)

If I move back to the US will I be a minimalist? Yes & no... I like the words "deliberate capitalism". There will be definitely be some more Amazon shopping sprees (HTC Vive FTW) + some decent furniture, electronics, etc etc. If I make it big in SV someday I wouldn't mind a nice porsche or three.

Definitely not a tiny house person, but the vanlifestyle is actually something i've thought about, if it were done right and only a max of ~6-9 months. To work remote and travel around North/Central America would be a dream... so many places/people i'd love to visit.

Even though I'll fill up my next dwelling with a few things, i'd still want to remain somewhat liquid, as Europe and SE Asia call for an extended visit sometime in the future, unless the perfect opportunity comes my way.

To be continued...

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

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Oct 20, 2016

that's sick! I definitely agree less is more, most of technology is a distraction, helping to zombify most of our population and to stop them from inner reflection, deep self-thought and seriously finding the powers of the mind and subconscious.

the one thing that sucks about living in the city is I don't get to see enough of nature. when you go out into the nature and wildlife you realize things pretty deep. all of this stuff didn't get there by accident, universe is amazing for people that take the time to reflect and figure shit out that goes much deeper than posting your life on instagram and trying to impress people on social media...

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Oct 20, 2016

One would argue the rest of the world was already there, and America has just taken a long time to start heading in that direction. It's a paradigm shift. Flashy cars aren't 'sexy' anymore and the traditional excesses of conspicuous consumption are neither sexy or feasible for most people anyway. Many millennials graduated in the wake of the financial crisis with student debt and found themselves either underemployed or unemployed entirely.

Personally, I try to keep my debts as low as possible and I hate clutter in my house, not quite to the extent of Marie Kondo, so I rarely buy anything I won't use a lot. Less is more, and subtle displays of wealth say more than conspicuous consumption.

Oct 20, 2016

I consider myself a minimalist.

My main goal in life is to own a house boat. Serious.

"It is better to have a friendship based on business, than a business based on friendship." - Rockefeller.

"Live fast, die hard. Leave a good looking body." - Navy SEAL

Oct 20, 2016

I started reading about minimalism last year. I actually just posted about this in another thread. But I trimmed down everything I owned. I stopped buying random junk that I don't need and have become much more deliberate in my consumption. I still own more than what a minimalist would and I don't think I fall into the category of a minimalist but I think that it's a healthy trend environmentally and socially that I am definitely moving more towards. The biggest change I made in my lifestyle from minimalism was reducing wasted time in front of the TV. There would be days that I'd get off work, go to the gym, and then watch TV/play video games for 4 hours before bed. Not anymore. Now I volunteer, I read, listen to podcasts, take care of my body and skin more routinely, I have started cooking for myself, and I have more time to spend with friends and family. However, I do indulge in a good binge watch of my favorite shows once a month or so. I think everyone could stand to learn something about minimalism, whether that's going full in or just adjusting a few habits. Eddie linked a video to the guys I would recommend as a good resource, The Minimalists http://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/

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Oct 20, 2016

I have posted about this before, but I am a big believer in spending money on experiences, not material goods. Time and time again, psychologists come out and explain that trips to Bermuda or weekends camping with the family provide more happiness than that new Ferrari or that Swaine Adeney briefcase. So, I live in an apartment building that has non-stainless steel appliances, I drive an eight-year-old car, and I shop at a discount grocer, but I spend thousands on vacations. Why? Because in ten years I will remember those vacations, but those materials possessions will mean nothing (or have had to be replaced).

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Oct 20, 2016

This is a half thought:

Being a minimalist is a necessity today. We have lived through the great recession and entered the great stagnation, we have public national debt at 105% of GDP(*st. louis fed). We don't see any hope with the future, politics is rigged and corrupt, corporate culture is rigged and corrupt and it will not get any better. In the 50's annual salaries were around 3,000 and rising annually and what's more electronics and manufactured goods were getting cheaper, now the opposite has happened. Being in Wall Street doesn't necessarily mean we are smarter than the average person, but we are exposed to more ideas about business and economics and market trends.

Being a minimalist has made us focus on qualitative happiness as opposed to quantitative happiness. Instead of focusing on collecting the whole new line of Ferragamo ties, we focus on bettering ourselves and spending money on our personal betterment. Now I don't know which came first egg or chicken but I think we have had to look elsewhere for our happiness knowing, even in finance, that we will not be able to expect it from monetary happiness.

Oct 20, 2016

I spent a lot more when I first started making money but now I focus on savings and buying high quality items that are very functional.

I live slightly below my means but not to an extreme. I picked a 1000sqft condo with city views(I love watching the sunrise/set) over a McMansion full of stuff in the burbs. I would say this choice is more for experiences and convenience.

I think I am right in the middle when it comes to consumption - it is hard to gauge thought. I enjoy optimal convenience and the taste of a good wine or excellent food.

I don't have a huge love for travel probably because my family traveled by car around the US for a month during the summer. We did this for 4 years and I dislike lots of outdoor activities because of it. I would rather learn how to make furniture or read a book.

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Oct 20, 2016

Potentially naive question: running with the whole "generation checking out" thought, what would actually happen if GDP falls? How would my day to day life be any different?

Oct 20, 2016

I will echo your final comment - I entered finance with the explicit expectation of exiting before I hit 30. I don't think I'd ever fully 'retire' but there's just no need (AT ALL) to deal with the corporate bullshit in this day and age, ESPECIALLY if you can squirrel away a nest egg.

There are easier ways to make money than working in finance. Great place to start, though, of course.

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Oct 20, 2016

This is just an observation and not a value judgment of any kind, but this conversation literally could not have existed on this site 10 years ago.

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Oct 20, 2016

If that guy AJ tried those exact same moves today, he'd look like Billy Madison when he showed up at the first day of high school with Billy Squier - The Stroke blasting from the Firebird Trans Am.

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Oct 20, 2016

[nonchalantly opens flannel button down to reveal REO Speedwagon tour shirt underneath]

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Oct 20, 2016

So true. In my mind, the ratio of compensation/work in this industry has changed so meaningfully that you'd have to be intentionally delusional to think IBD analyst = baller anymore.

Now that you mention it, Patrick et. al definitely got the timing 100% right with launching this site --> if WSO were to launch today, I'm not sure there would be enough sustained interest for it to last 10 years. The content is still really high quality, but I'm not sure how many people would have stuck around long enough to read the high quality shit if there wasn't the frothing-at-the-mouth interest from college students collectively fantasizing about the 06-07 bonuses.

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Oct 20, 2016

Not sure if launching a IB community 2-3 years before the 2008 meltdown would be considered good timing, but it definitely didn't hurt that IB was/is a very competitive and "prestigious" industry.

I think the reasons it was easier back then was simply less noise, less distractions and less competition. there were a few sites that existed back then (ibtalk.com, bankersball.com, etc etc) that had a similar idea, I was just lucky enough to get enough traction and stumble my way through enough shitty iterations of ibo and wso so that just enough people stuck around...

As much as the industry has changed, I'd argue that it's still very much the same as it was 10 years ago :-)

It's still extremely hard to break in, banks are JUST starting to open up outside of OCR and broaden their reach, there is still a lot of secrecy/mystery to what the different functions/jobs are like in finance and we all still need a WSO to give us some insight (and hopefully a laugh) from time to time...

I think if WSO were to launch today, it would be too late because some other community/forum would be in its place (maybe ibtalk/nicube, bankersball, etc)...but of course, that's just a guess.

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Oct 20, 2016

Graduated college around the '08 crisis. I'm more of a traditional consumer than a minimalist, but that's because I'm a plebeian who grew up with nothing and I actually get satisfaction from things like owning a nice house and aesthetic beauty. I objectively realize that "stuff" is just that, and most of it is unimportant. But I like owning things, especially things that are nice and visually- or ergonomically-pleasing. Maybe I'll grow out of it.

There will always be more consumption-centric people in society, but I agree that American culture as a whole has seen a serious shift in mentality. I think modern minimalism among Generation Y is more prevalent in those from traditional middle or upper-middle backgrounds. They grew up with their parents swimming in the excesses of the 90's and early 00's. They've seen what conspicuous consumption looks like already, and they've seen the ugly side of it, too, when everything comes crashing down. For the classless plebs like me, though, it's worth tasting (at least for a bit).

Oct 20, 2016

It does feel like minimalism hasn't quite taken hold with the women in finance-type careers I know versus the men. At my b-school, there are still plenty of women with expensive handbags and huge diamonds, but not as many luxury cars in the parking garage versus what I expected. Ridiculous travel is definitely conspicuous consumption thanks to social media, and that's alive and well.

I guess business school itself is potentially a contrast to minimalism...

Oct 20, 2016

@Eddie Braverman thanks for the interesting post. I love the IDEA of minimalism.

Personally, I think I have seen myself go in waves...since I bought a house about ~6 months ago and now have a baby, my concern is less with minimalism and more with her future, trying to get sleep and not being in a cramped space so I can keep my office at home. But I still don't own a car (I guess you could say that I own 1/2 a car, but my wife is the only one that drives it to her work)...so there's that...I don't plan on owning one for the foreseeable future since I'm basically a hermit working on WSO all day. Other than that, I was forced to buy furniture to fill up some of my home, but I know when it comes time to move (whenever that day is), I will have no problem getting rid of it.

I do remember how good it felt to sell almost everything before moving down to Buenos Aires for a year. :-)

There is something to be said for minimalism...I'm sure that in my older years I will dramatically downsize and get back to my nomadic routes with my wife (who also loves to travel).

For the record, I think we are a long way off from any Minimalism movement actually impacting GDP in any meaningful way...we saw the savings rate tick up after the 2008 crash, but you can be sure that the materialism machine will keep churning and keep the majority of us addicted to THINGS (memories are short).

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Oct 22, 2016

I'm going to call out the fact that minimalism has become such a fad that all of the popular and rich kids are doing it now. Apparently there is even a movie trailer for it, and you can watch it on YouTube for $12.99. Suggested snacks and pairings for the movie include Thrive Sprouted Organic Popcorn ($3.99) and Jones Soda ($7.99).

I am not necessarily a minimalist. I am often a contrarian when it comes to spending money or investing. (Translation: I am an eccentric)

What I agree with the minimalists on is that a lot of people don't get the best bang for their buck when it comes to spending money and there is a lot of fiscal unsustainability going on. Where I disagree is that it's nice to have a car, nice to have several hundred square feet of living space, and there are a lot of people who fashion themselves minimalists who aren't.

If you want, you can buy a Porsche to try and impress people. But with that amount of money, I can buy a decent car, a literbike (which will go faster than the Porsche), a hang glider (and the training for it), and a boat to go diving off of not to mention a lot of high end dive gear including a DPV (an underwater scooter).

I think what I personally am done with (and perhaps this may be true of other millenials) is living life the same way each day and trying to impress people by how much money I have or how successful I am. If I'm accused of trying to impress people, it might be for having the skills to do things that most people won't experience because it's too much effort. But I'm not going to spend a lot of money doing it and I'm not going to do it because other people are watching. I'm going to do it because it's fun and exciting.

People make choices. My choice is adventure.

Back to my hang glider.

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Oct 22, 2016

I worked from home for 2 years. It was the most miserable experience of my life. It cuts you off socially from the rest of the world, it robs you of your need and will to clean up every day and to exercise and even shave. After gaining 55 lbs and having my entire life spiral out of control, I came to regard the 9-5 office job with a commute as the "simple life." I'm goddamned happy to have it.

Oct 22, 2016

Hahaha. I definitely understand this perspective, but the mere thought of working in an office makes me break out in hives.

I'm on roughly day 12 without shaving, btw.

Oct 23, 2016
Eddie Braverman:

Hahaha. I definitely understand this perspective, but the mere thought of working in an office makes me break out in hives.

I'm on roughly day 12 without shaving, btw.

Half of my office is too.

If you ever have to go back into industry, I strongly recommend a Chicago prop shop over NYC. Unless you like wearing a suit and tie and paying $4000/month for rent.

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Oct 23, 2016

You've got to love America. The minimalist documentary (which criticizes consumerism) is for sale to view on itunes for $15(!).

Oct 23, 2016

It's hard to speak of minimalism when you see the popularity of Iphones, Ipads and Mcbooks, which are supposed to be expensive as fuck for the average Joe.

A sizeable chunk of consumption has shifted towards digital things. So it's less evident materially speaking, but it doesn't mean it's there.

It doesn't mean America, or Western Europe for that matter do not have problems when it comes to having a consumption based economy, however consumerism is still there and vibrant.

The other side of the coin is that the lower classes and with this I mean 80% of the population, have seen flat real wages and positive inflation rates for the last 3-4 decades, which translates to lower purchasing power. This was partially compensated by the shift from a savings based economy to a debt fueld consumption one. And that is where the bad news start.

Oct 24, 2016

I think a lot of people / millennials that are "minimalists" are spending a lot more on experiences. I don't think savings rates are necessarily going up - not sure of certain. So in terms of economic impact maybe less than some might guess because the money is still being spent just shifting from goods/services to travel/experiences.

Oct 24, 2016

I'm a minimalist in that I would rather live in a condo than a mansion, because I just think I would get tired of having to keep up with all of the extra space. That's also because I could literally fit no more than two kids, wife, and dog into a condo. I would love to have a beach house that is rented out for the majority of the year or something like that, but I'm not looking to own in excess. I just think that there's a smart way to do everything, including from a financial standpoint, and I don't see this world getting a whole lot better. If we're lucky we'll have decades of normalcy with things similar to the past before I die from sweet old age.

Oct 25, 2016

Eddie, if I'm mistaken through history courses... I thought conspicuous consumption had already been a phenomena during the roaring 20's?

Alfred Sloan's myriad selection of models that precipitated the display of prestige through cars as opposed to the bland and boring consistent models churned out by Henry Ford.

The 20's "flapper" phenomena... the eventual rise of feminism. Fashion. Capitalism. Cheap burgers and hot dogs.
I think minimalism and conspicuous consumption has been around for quite some time. I just think that those who advocate minimalism need not influence others to do so.

I think of minimalism more like any diet. In order for a diet to be truly effective, one must consistently in an almost inhuman capacity. Not everyone can do it. So I think this is all just a fad.

Just my thoughts. Hope it contributed somewhat. Thanks for the article. Was an interesting read.

Oct 25, 2016
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