Michael Kinsley ponders the stock option culture upon learning that Microsoft has stopped issuing them to its employees.
One of the charms of the stock-option culture is that it scrambles the usual linear relationship between status and wealth. Secretaries, if they got there in the 1980s, own big boats and second homes. Senior managers who came later have smaller bank accounts than some of their subordinates.
Honestly, I don’t find that particularly charming. On the one hand, it does promote loyalty in the company, which is very good. On the other, it turns the incentive structure upside down. I’m not sure that a secretary for Microsoft provides any more valuable a service as a secretary anywhere else–maybe less.
I wish I could reassure you that money does not buy happiness, but my impression is that on balance it does. Some of these folks retire before their parents can; some keep working as if they still had to. Many go off and start their own companies, looking for a second fortune to prove that the first one wasn’t just a fluke. More than a few pour their lives and their money into good works. Others sink both into residential real estate. The money liberates the imaginations of some. Lack of imagination protects others from realizing how badly they’ve squandered this miraculous opportunity. But one way or another, stock options do seem to have made people happy. Getting shares of stock might make people happy too, but in the slow, old-fashioned way.
Heh. As someone wise once told me, money doesn’t make you happy–but it’ll buy a lot of the things that will.