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PayPal co-founder: Building up $100,000 in savings 'slows you down'

Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and Affirm
Contributor | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and Affirm

Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and CEO and co-founder of online financial services firm Affirm, has some frank advice for new college grads: Skip the big company and respectable salary that comes with it, he tells Adam Bryant in an interview with The New York Times.

"You might believe that going to a more established company to build up $100,000 in savings is your ticket to go take a big risk," he says. "It really isn't. It just slows you down and makes you feel like you need to get to $200,000."

It's a phenomenon known as "hedonic adaptation," in which you quickly get used to changes, great or terrible, and drift back to your original emotional state. For example, a raise or fancy new car will offer a momentary high, but you adjust to the new normal and then start taking it for granted.

Building up $100,000 in savings would be a great financial achievement, but it shouldn't be your focus when you're just getting going, Levchin says: "I always tell people go to a start-up while you're young." That's because new grads often have one real advantage over older workers.

"I tell them to take big risks," the CEO says, "because this is the one point in your life when you have nothing to lose."


Marc Lore, CEO of Jet.com, president and CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S.
Contributor | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Marc Lore, CEO of Jet.com, president and CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S.

He's not the only one to suggest that chasing money could cripple your career. Founder and CEO of e-commerce start-up Jet.com Marc Lore writes on LinkedIn, "When I graduated college, all I wanted was to get a job that looked good on my resume and would pay me a respectable salary."

He settled on the finance industry, in which "the core motivational driver was personal financial gain."

After six years in banking, and a series of promotions and bonuses, "I fell to the floor of my office, feeling an electric jolt in my chest as a result of stress," Lore writes. "Although it was not a heart attack, the message was clear. I had worked incredibly hard to get to the top but I was there alone — and it was unfulfilling."

If Lore could do it all over, he writes, he would pick a job that allowed him to develop soft skills, such as empathy and patience, rather than evaluating his first job solely based on what he could get out of it.

"I have since learned that you can achieve much greater success if you focus on what you can give," Lore says.

"Ultimately, I have realized that success is not a measure of your salary, title or degree, but the impact you have on others and the collective happiness of the people you touch."