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On the uses of (modest) wealth, re-visited

Having recently picked up some on-going work for A Little Research, I’m faced with the question of what to do with the money. Since expanding my academic role at the start of 2020, my academic salary has been more than enough to meet my day-to-day needs, entertain myself, go on holiday, and contribute to savings, leaving no obvious use for the new stream of income.

I have found that keeping the money in an account called “A Little Research” has put some distance between me and it compared to the salary that goes directly into my personal transaction account. I don’t feel compelled to add some of it to my savings every month, and spending on co-working spaces or buying research papers doesn’t feel like a personal indulgence the way spending on a restaurant or hotel room does. As a result I’ve felt strangely freer in spending that money than I’ve felt with spending my salary even though both are notionally “mine”.

I haven’t yet made so much money that I can pour it into grand projects of the sort that inspired my previous entry on this subject. Yet I have just a vague sense of how Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and the rest of them might feel when they look over what they could do with wealth that goes far beyond what they could possibly spend on themselves.

Of course another response would be to just not do the extra work, or otherwise give up some of my salaried work to make space for it. But the first option would mean giving up on the A Little Research project and losing the experience that I hope to gain from it; and in any case I don’t think I’ve been at it long enough to be making major decisions about whether I should commit more to A Little Research or retreat back into academia.

The next few months, then, ought to be time to consider (again) what to do with my modest new stock of wealth. Aside from feeling more free to actually use it, associating the money with A Little Research gives some guidance for what it might be spent on, in that the spending should be consistent with the aims of that project and not on more of those personal indulgences of which I already have enough.

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