Thoughts on money

In the 1990s children’s movie “Blank Check,” the protagonist comes into possession of a blank check that he fills out for the sum of one million dollars. Somehow, he convinces the bank to give him this money in cash, which he then proceeds to spend lavishly over the span of a few days while dodging the bank’s attempt to recover the funds.

In the 2019 Netflix movie “I Care a Lot,” the antihero (played brilliantly by Rosamund Pike) runs an ongoing scam to pose as a caretaker to elderly retirees while slowly bilking them out of their bank accounts till they die. She eventually tries this scam with a gangster’s mother. The gangster can’t use the legal system to free his mother, as he knows he’ll be exposed and arrested for his own crimes. He tries to threaten Pike’s character, but she knows he’s got him legally cornered. She offers him a deal: ten million dollars and she’ll turn his mother over to his custody. Why this specific amount? “It’s nothing to you, but ten million dollars is money I can use as a weapon. I can take my scam nationwide.”

In his final years at Barcelona, Lionel Messi reportedly pocketed $80M per year in gross earnings. The club considered this a great deal. A player making a tenth of Messi’s earnings quickly tops Pike’s ask of the gangster, and most top footballers are on five year contracts.

Bill Gates owns 242,000 acres of farmland across the United States, or about fifteen Manhattan Islands. And that’s just his land holdings.

A superyacht can cost around €250M in initial outlay with annual maintenance expenses equivalent to 10-15% of the purchase price. Lionel Messi could barely afford the purchase price of such a yacht, and to afford the maintenance he’d have to continue playing football at the same annual salary well into his 50s. This assumes he lives full time on this yacht and isn’t simultaneously balancing house expenses.

If Bill Gates liquidated his farmland holdings - and nothing else - he could pay Messi’s entire historical earnings at Barcelona. Twice. This would also pay for the superyacht and its maintenance expenses.

It is said that at some comparatively low amount of salary, money is no longer a determinant factor of happiness. Basic needs and some luxuries can be predictably covered by salary. This amount tends to be cited in the range of $90,000 - $100,000 per annum, or one Messi-week, or 40 BillG-acres. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average U.S. salary is about $60,000 per year.

Shortly after HashiCorp’s IPO in late 2021, one of the two company co-founders sold $4M in stock. He had been working on HashiCorp for nine years, so that stock had gained $450,000 in value each year he worked. It started at “nothing.” It gained one Messi-month per year.

Barcelona have 85,000 season ticket holders. There are 163,000 registered members of Barcelona fan clubs around the world. HashiCorp have 2,400 customers.

There comes a point when talking about scale that it’s not useful to talk about scale any more. You have gone far beyond the realm of understanding that finding a point of reference into that new scale is nearly impossible. The brain is so wired to find a recognizable pattern that it will hook onto anything at all. Bill Gates has to periodically think about how to manage fifteen Manhattan Islands, while Eric Adams has a full time job just worrying about one.

Over the weekend I drove from Denver to Telluride, Colorado, roughly seven hours with traffic. This is approximately the distance from Paris to Marseille, which Lionel Messi will fly to with his Paris Saint-Germain teammates in a trip that will last about an hour and a half. When you’re paying someone $80M per year, you don’t want them stuck in traffic.

Both Lionel Messi and I drink yerba mate in the afternoons as a pick-me-up. We prefer the same brand: Rosamonte.