Monday, February 23, 2015

Optionality

As usual the idea for this blog post came to me in the shower;  the only salient difference is that it did so before 6am as the sun was just starting to think about coming up.  I'm an old man, you see, and routinely have trouble sleeping past 7 these days.  It's in my blood, what can I say other than "thanks, pops".  I'm super excited about this forest of ear hair, too!

As best I can tell there is a major difference between two classes of people on Earth; those who value options and those who do not.  As an aside the first group can be split once more into people who correctly value options and people who overvalue them, but for now I'm gonna leave that out and just focus on the distinction between people like myself (who love options!) and people like my ex (who place zero value on them).

It's hard for me to even see the other point of view here, as the value of options is so intrinsic to the way I think about the world on a day to day basis.  At a macroscopic level my entire life was built on having the option to return to software if/when I decided to quit poker.  A year and a half ago it came down to "go back to software or become a teacher."  Yes this happened.  You want to know what was the nail in the coffin for teaching?  I'll be just as unqualified for that in 5 years as I am now!  Not pursuing it immediately closes no doors, whereas eventually software options were going to start disappearing.  On a day to day basis as a poker player I learned to value options first hand;  if you're playing 60 you should probably be on the 40 list, cause that's an option you might want when the time comes.  If you're deciding what casino to drive to you can set it up in such a way that you have an exit ramp (for example if you goto Hustler at 10am, going to the bike at 1pm makes no sense, but if you start at the bike at 10am and the game sucks, going to Hustler mid day is completely valid).  If you live in a month to month apartment there is intrinsic value in your lease.  Every month you have the option to give 30 days and move.  If you move somewhere and sign a new lease you lose that option.  Holding on to your job keeps options open, but quitting it closes them (you can only quit your job once).  At my SES (big fancy acronym for socioeconomic status I learned from my psychiatrist friend) money is really only good for two things;  generating more money or keeping options open.  That's really all you do with it, honestly. For me the act of writing something on the calendar actually represents a giant failure, as it is the precise moment at which I have declared "At this time I will have no options;  I am going to pursue this specific activity at this specific time in this specific place!  How dreadful!"  Even if the calendar entry is "have amazing sex with Rihanna" it still causes me stress and pain, as now I'm locked in to that specific activity.

There is another class of human that views things entirely differently.  To them options are completely worthless.  I can only really discuss how I believe one of them (my ex) came to be this way, and even that is a stretch and mostly half measures and half truths.  She always viewed the world as black and white, right and wrong, success or failure.  A problem had one solution (all others were wrong), a day had one plan (if anything went off course you had failed), and mistakes had one person at fault.  The first time I really noticed this was close to a decade ago when she admonished me to put every dollar I possibly could behind the firewalls of retirement accounts.  You see to her that is the correct answer and doing anything else makes you an idiot.  There is absolutely no value whatsoever in having access to your $10k (or in her case, $500k?) before you turn 60.  None.  If you need it before then you fucked up and since she's never made a mistake in her entire life (seriously, I think she believes that...can you imagine the level of self confidence you'd have if you were sure you'd never made an error in your entire life?  you'd be invincible.  and impossible lol) and therefore will not fuck up it's absolutely correct to just lock it up.

But what if the rules change (as she complained to me about pretty much every election cycle, actually once saying "this is a game and I'm playing it perfectly they can't just change the rules") and the benefits of having that money in there decrease or disappear?  What if they cap how much you can put in your tax you on some of it or abolish the accounts all-together?  Or what if you decide you want to buy rental properties (I'm co-holder of two), or stake people (40/80 horses need 30k bankrolls)?  What if 6 years from now you get seriously into sports betting, what if a good friend needs a loan and offers you 10% interest for 3 months, what if another one falls on tough times and you just need to help him out, what if you want to play 100/200 and not worry about it?  Well these things all require folding money, and I have done or am doing all of them right now BECAUSE I didn't squirrel my entire net worth into tax advantaged accounts (about half of it is in them).  It is what it is.

So I guess my point is that no matter what you do in life, try and keep your options open because they are intrinsically valuable.  If you start a poker career make sure you have a backup plan, and get out before you get stuck.  I have seen so many friends (and just...people) get trapped in poker.  It's not pretty if you don't have an out and things stop working or you start to hate it or just plain get bored.  Try to have options, I think, at all costs.  Don't over-value them (as I probably do), but don't ignore them either.  Because for the other 99.9999% of us, things are going to go wrong, mistakes will be made, U-turns executed, and it sure is comforting to still be on some sort of road and not mired in the muck when they do.

5 comments:

RaleighRunner said...

Options aren’t intrinsically valuable; they are only valuable to the extent there is uncertainty or variation. You were a professional poker player (hard to imagine a job with more uncertainty both in terms of outcomes and preferences; your enjoyment of it changed from month to month) where as she worked for google which I imagine is pretty much at the other end of the spectrum in terms of variance. Wouldn’t it make sense that she values options less than you? Sorry if I sound like a stalker; I’ve been reading the blog for awhile, which I suppose actually does make me something of a stalker.

bravos1 said...

Instead of having amazing sex with Rihanna, just pencil into your calendar "have amazing sex with Rihanna or Nikki Minaj"

Money, as you mentioned, will bring forth many options. I have far more options in every sense of the the word than ever I had growing up at or below the poverty line. Having options is an amazingly important thing to me as well, but not utilizing those options to make you/your life better (how ever you measure it) is nothing but a waste of said options. But, having options can definitely complicate ones life. While this may seem counter-intuitive to some, I think it is pretty clear that simplicity equates to comfort for many people and having options is the opposite of simplicity.

You may not see it this way, but knowing you and talking to you, as little as it has been over the past year or so, I see you enjoying your life more now than before. I also think you see where your life can actually go, which is both exciting and depressing at the same time because you're not there yet. Keep strong and keep up the good fight and remember to explore and more importantly, ENJOY your options thoroughly!

mike l. said...

not to be nitpicking, it's a quality post, but you missed a zero here:

"(40/80 horses need 30k bankrolls)"

psych said...

If you cherish having your option so much that you avoid taking it for fear of losing it, then its value never materializes... Don't keep Rihanna waiting too long! ;-)

Unknown said...

Tax advantaged accounts? We are about to have a currency crisis and debt collapse. You need to be putting your cash into gold and silver. The banks are insolvent. Playing poker and being able to cash out in cold hard cash and you are sticking that money in the BANK and then paying taxes on it? Are you nuts? Just buy gold and silver, AKA real money.