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Recently I had the pleasure of meeting with an old friend. We caught up about all the stuff we'd been up to since we last saw each other several years ago and one of the things he mentioned was that he'd gone to work for Google as a programmer.
Offhandedly he remarked that 'what you read in forums about salaries at Google is not correct, I'm pushing $250k per year'. And that's for someone approaching 30 years of age, programming, not a manager or something like that.
Let me put this into perspective: this guy has a degree in CS from a good school, but definitely not MIT or something comparable, is a good programmer but in his own words: 'at Google I feel like I'm stupid most of the time' and is working on interesting stuff that involves little to no risk to him and takes home one quarter of a million dollars annually.
That's about 4 times the median salary for a Police Patrol Officer in the same region.
The United States president makes only about $150K per year more than he does!
Assuming this is true and not boasting - which I have absolutely no reason to believe, this guy is honest to a fault -, and taking into account taxes and the expenses of living in California that would still leave quite a bit of money to be saved.
The downside of receiving that much cash and/or Google stock as compensation for your time is that it is going to be very hard to let go of those golden handcuffs. Switching from that kind of income to a start-up scenario with a lot of risks and a very much reduced financial picture for the first couple of years would likely be tough.
On the other hand, if you planned it well you could...