Economy gossip open thread

Diego Caleiro writes:

It amazes me that there is no “Se­quence on how to make money in in­tel­li­gent ways” or some­thing of the sort in LessWrong.

I don’t think a se­quence is the quite the right ap­proach to this. The econ­omy is huge, com­pli­cated, and het­ero­ge­neous, and it’s chang­ing con­stantly. (Think of how com­pli­cated peo­ple are, then imag­ine how com­pli­cated their econ­omy is.) It’s hard for a sin­gle per­son to have a thor­ough un­der­stand­ing of ev­ery­thing, and even if some­one did, their un­der­stand­ing would start be­com­ing ob­so­lete im­me­di­ately.

And mak­ing money in­tel­li­gently is very closely re­lated to know­ing what’s go­ing on in the econ­omy. If you’re train­ing for a job, you want to de­velop skills that are in high de­mand. If you’re start­ing a busi­ness, you want to sell stuff for a profit. You can only go so far iden­ti­fy­ing these op­por­tu­ni­ties by think­ing things through from first prin­ci­ples.

I don’t think most use­ful knowl­edge Less Wrong can share about what’s go­ing on in the econ­omy is go­ing to ap­proach the cer­tainty of care­fully de­rived math or set­tled sci­ence. In­stead, it’ll be more like gos­sip. Since no one un­der­stands the en­tire econ­omy, we won’t get much first­hand knowl­edge. Lots of in­for­ma­tion will con­sist of hearsay and spec­u­la­tion that’s sub­ject to change at any time. (In­ci­den­tally, gath­er­ing such info and try­ing lots of stuff out may be a good prepara­tory ac­tivity for start­ing a busi­ness.)

Any­way, here’s some gos­sip from me; feel free to post yours in the com­ments.


The US Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics main­tains an Oc­cu­pa­tional Out­look Hand­book with in­for­ma­tion on salary, ed­u­ca­tion re­quire­ments, and job growth for a wide va­ri­ety of jobs. Here are a few ran­dom in­ter­est­ing ones:

  • It may be pos­si­ble to be­come an ac­tu­ary (~$90K/​yr, faster than av­er­age job growth, in­volves math) with­out a col­lege de­gree if you pass a few ac­tu­ar­ial exams

  • Di­ag­nos­tic med­i­cal sono­g­ra­pher: re­quires only a 2-year de­gree, ~$65K/​yr, much faster than av­er­age job growth

  • Michael Vas­sar was tel­ling ev­ery­one to be­come a po­lice officer a while ago. The BLS page looks only OK, maybe you can get a much higher salary in the right mu­ni­ci­pal­ity? looks pretty nice for salary info: col­lege ed­u­ca­tion re­turn on in­vest­ment data, top pay­ing ma­jors. See also: 5 ways to be mis­lead by salary rank­ings,

UC Berkeley alumni sur­veys: What can I do with a ma­jor in...

    This guy claims you can make $45-60 an hour play­ing poker af­ter a year’s prac­tice and $5000 lost. Some black­jack card count­ing guru I emailed years ago claimed you could learn to count cards in 100 hours and make 6 figures for years if you were dili­gent (cover play, trav­el­ling for new op­por­tu­ni­ties, etc.) I’m not sure how work­able these ideas are if you don’t already have a large bankroll. (See Kelly crite­rion.)

    If you’re in­ter­ested in get­ting paid to prac­tice re­jec­tion ther­apy and you’re in the SF Bay Area, PM me and I can put you in touch with some­one in Cal­ifor­nia’s bal­lot sig­na­ture col­lec­tion in­dus­try. The job con­sists of stand­ing some­where where lots of peo­ple walk by and ask­ing them to sign your pe­ti­tions. You get paid per sig­na­ture, and if you find a good spot (and keep it se­cret from other sig­na­ture gath­er­ers), it’s pos­si­ble to make a lot of money. A friend av­er­aged $300 a day; I wasn’t suffi­ciently ded­i­cated/​psy­cholog­i­cally re­silient to get any­thing like those re­sults. The busi­ness is sea­sonal; if I re­call cor­rectly, Fe­bru­ary is an es­pe­cially good month.

    It looks as though high-end, col­lege-ed­u­cated call girls can make $300/​hour.

    Tu­tor­ing web­sites: Univer­si­tyTu­tor, Tu­torSpree,, Craigslist, Wyzant. One thing to keep in mind with tu­tor­ing: Since you gen­er­ally work so few hours per gig, trans­porta­tion-time over­head per hour worked is higher.

    80,000 hours offers one-on-one ca­reer ad­vis­ing, if you’re in to effec­tive al­tru­ism.

    Salary Negotiation

    “In a study con­ducted at Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity’s busi­ness school, Pro­fes­sor Linda Bab­cock dis­cov­ered that [those MBA stu­dents who ne­go­ti­ated their start­ing salary in­stead of just ac­cept­ing their ini­tial offer] re­ceived an av­er­age of $4,053 more than those who did not.” (Bar­gain­ing for Ad­van­tage, p. 16.) Women seem much more re­luc­tant to ask for more money, which may go a ways to­wards ex­plain­ing gen­der pay gaps. The book recom­mends thor­ough prepa­ra­tion prior to any ne­go­ti­a­tion.

    Busi­ness Gossip

    Why rely on just one guru when you can draw in­fer­ences from the ex­pe­riences of many? But be­ware sam­pling effects: you’ll likely hear less from peo­ple who didn’t end up ac­com­plish­ing any­thing worth writ­ing about.

    As busi­ness gu­rus go, Paul Gra­ham is highly ra­tio­nal, has an un­match­able re­sume, and all his stuff is free.

    Pre­vi­ously on Less Wrong