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I used to say that Vegas was the best place in the US to live (with a few caveats), as long as you didn't have to be here the whole year and could travel. And then 2020 came, I couldn't travel, and I was stuck here for the entire year. To my surprise, I love the city even more and am even more convinced it's the place to be.
When people ask why I like Vegas, the first thing that comes to my mind is that it has the highest quality of life and the lowest friction of any city I've been to. In other words, there is a huge range of great stuff to do and experience here, and all of it is very easily accessible, so you actually do it.
There is no traffic, you can park anywhere (usually for free), and almost everything that isn't on the strip is reasonably priced. Because of the city's unique geography and surplus of space, there are things you can do here that you just can't do in most cities this size.
Especially being unable to travel during this past year, I became even more grateful for the nature activities in Vegas. Tonight we're going to go out on the boat in Lake Mead, and then tomorrow we're going to go skiing on Mt. Charleston. Most people probably don't think of boating and skiing as Vegas activities, but they're some of our favorite things to do. We also have Red Rock and Valley of Fire, which are a bit too hot in the summer, but offer great hiking for the rest of the year.
Vegas is close enough to Utah that you can do a day trip to hike around Zion, which is one of the best national parks in America, or go a little further to Bryce or Grand Canyon.
Surprisingly, I've come to love the seasons of Vegas. The summer is hot, of course, but even if you don't have your own swimming pool, it's easy to get access at some of the casinos. Many houses come with pools here, all apartment complexes have them, and there are two water parks, one within 15 minutes of the strip. We moved into a house with a pool this year, and I jumped in just about every day and we went boating and swimming in Lake Mead once or twice a week.
Out of curiousity I looked to see how much houses with pools cost in Austin, and anything in any reasonable location was 1-2M. Here in Vegas a huge portion of houses in the $300-400k range have pools.
The heat in Vegas is a dry heat, which means you must drink a ton of water in the summer, but it also means that you never feel sticky and gross like you would in New York in the summer. It's very unpleasant if you're standing in direct sunlight, but if you're in shade or doing some sort of water activity, it feels great.
Spring and Fall are perfect, as you might imagine. Weather is in the 60s-80s and with so much nature around it's easy to enjoy those seasons. We also have almost no bugs, so you can eat outdoors or leave your doors open to have a nice breeze come through.
Even the winter here is great. You can see snow-capped mountains in the distance, and can drive up to them to ski, sled, or just hike through the pine trees. It's chilly for a lot of winter, but never so cold that you need to seriously bundle up and avoid being outdoors. A lot of houses here have fire places, and it's nice to get a chance to use them.
I also discovered, through researching solar, that Vegas has more sunshine per year than any other city in the US. What do you think that does for your mood?
I think Las Vegas has perhaps the best airport / airport location in the US.
Flying to LA or SF is so cheap (often $20-30) and quick (45-75 minutes) that it may as well be a more comfortable bus ride. I've actually flown to SF just to have a meal with friends before.
LAX and SFO are two major hubs, but so are DEN and PHX, meaning that within 1.5 hours you have access to four major hubs. Vegas isn't an airport hub (unless you count Allegiant), but because it's a unique tourist destination within the US it has a ton of direct flights to just about anywhere. I haven't actually checked, but I bet it has more direct flights to domestic locations than any other non-hub city.
Flights to and from Vegas are usually cheaper than from anywhere else, even when you connect through a bigger hub. This may be because it's not a common business route, but I'm not sure.
The airport is also 10-15 minutes away from where I live (and the strip), so it's trivially easy to go there and back to fly or to pick up friends. You don't even need to go on a highway. Contrast that to most cities where it can be 30+ minutes each way. Before we moved I lived 8 minutes from the airport and once didn't leave my living room until I got the alert that the flight was boarding!
Las Vegas airport also has an Amex Centurion Lounge and you can access all gates once you get behind security (a pet peeve of mine is when you have to leave security and go back in to get to a different area).
There is no housing crisis in Vegas. We bought a four bedroom 3000 square foot house with a pool and large backyard for $350k. There are quality condos in good areas available for under $150k. It always annoys me when people complain that younger generations can't afford to buy houses -- they can, they just have to move to cities where it makes sense. If you don't want to buy, rent is also very cheap with tons of good options under $1000 a month.
Having an affordable city also leads to diversity. Places like SF that consider themselves to be diverse are generally diverse in race, but dominated by wealthy liberals who all think more-or-less the same. In Vegas I find that in my regular course of activities I'm surrounded by all sorts of people across many different spectrums. I'm friends with rich people, poor people, liberals, conservatives, tech people, artists, and everything in between.
The one bad thing I'd say about housing here is that the vast majority of houses seem to be designed by people with horrible taste. I don't think I've ever seen so many horrendous interiors as when we were looking for a house, and it took a long time to find one that was good enough that we could imagine how to get it to look good.
A friend was visiting Vegas last week and he said, "With New York shut down, I think Vegas might be the best food city in the US right now". I think he might be right! Not only do we have world-class food here, but it's also largely very affordable, thanks to cheap rent and lower labor costs than many cities. What's particularly great about Vegas food is that we have everything from tiny hole-in-the-wall places all the way up to some of the fanciest restaurants in the US.
One cool trend I've noticed recently is that many restaurants established elsewhere are starting to open branches in Vegas. Din Tai Fung is among the best dim sum in the world. Before opening in Vegas they only had locations in Seattle, Oregon, and California. Giordano's deep dish Chicago pizza is only in a few states, but they're here. Taco Stand, an amazing San Diego taco place, is only in California, Miami, and Vegas.
Every celebrity chef has a top-level restaurant on the strip. We rarely go to them, but once in a while we go to Rivea by Alain Ducasse, or Bobby Flay's Mesa. It's fun being able to go eat anywhere from a tiny mom and pop hole in the wall chinese restaurant to some of the most famous restaurants in the world. Very few cities have that entire range. Best of all, they're all within about 15 minutes from our house and there are no traffic or parking issues.
Oh, and I forgot to mention all-you-can-eat restaurants. We have AYCE sushi, korean bbq, hot pot, and many other types of food. You would think the quality would be bad, but it's actually amazingly good. We took our raised-in-Japan Japanese friend to our favorite AYCE sushi place and she loved it so much she started going every week.
Besides all of the nature stuff, Vegas is a world-class entertainment city. And once you live here and figure out a few tricks, you end up being able to go to shows either for free or at a big discount. The shows have been canceled this year, but I'd say that in the past we went to 25-50 shows per year, ranging from huge concerts like Justin Timberlake and Nicki Minaj to small community theater shows, to Cirque du Soleil, to magic shows.
If you're into sports, we are the center of the UFC universe, we have a great hockey team, and a great football team. As a bonus, the T-Mobile Arena (UFC / hockey) and the Allegiant Stadium (football) were just built recently, so both are state of the art facilities where every seat is good.
And, of course, all of these shows and sporting events are 10-15 minutes away and don't require you to deal with parking or traffic.
Frankly, it just doesn't get any better. Every city and state needs revenue, and we are unique in that most of that revenue comes from tourists. We have no state income tax, and extremely low property tax. Our sales tax is 8.25%, but I'm actually happy about that because I think sales tax is the best tax.
Housing is cheap, food can be cheap, flights are cheap, and solar is so cheap here that it's a no-brainer for everyone. Nevada is always ranked as one of the most small-business friendly jurisdictions. Early into living together in Vegas my wife said, "Vegas is so good and so cheap I don't think we could ever live anywhere else". I agreed.
I don't know much about the politics (I couldn't tell you what party any of our elected officials are), but I know that we're somewhat moderate and not radicalized to either side. The way we handled COVID seemed about right to me (strong shut downs at first, reasonable reopening, easy access to testing / vaccinations), and generally the city feels well run. We don't have extreme homeless or wealth inequality issues, and I find that most people are open minded when talking about politics, no matter which side they're on. It's refreshing.
There are two major problems with Vegas. The first is that if you need a local job, you're going to have a tough time finding it here. We have higher unemployment than other similar cities, and there just aren't a ton of high paying tech jobs like other cities. The other problem is that the public schools are very bad. There are a ton of great private schools (including one that is taught in Japanese!), but obviously paying for one of those offsets some of the cost savings of living in Vegas.
Why Vegas Will Win
Part of the reason I'm always yammering about Vegas rather than just living here quietly is because it is so obvious to me that it's an amazing opportunity.
Even if you erase any financial incentives, I think the quality of life in Vegas is higher than anywhere else in the US. There are just so many things that we do regularly that we either couldn't do in any other city or that would be too much of a hassle to do regularly.
Vegas is massively underrated. No one considers moving here without a big shove from someone who is already here, because the reputation of the city is wildly divorced from the experience of living here (though it is accurate for tourism). It took a lot of convincing to get a couple of my friends to move here (they now live 3 minutes away), and even though they liked Vegas enough to move, they continued to be surprised by how great it was in the following months. I went here regularly, sometimes monthly, for a decade before moving here, and still had no idea about most of the benefits of it.
As other major cities decline (SF, maybe NY) or become overpriced (Austin), I think more and more people will realize how great Vegas is. At some point you just have to expand your search area. As more people are able to work remotely, the arbitrage opportunity becomes ever greater, and people will look for places with low taxes, high quality of life, and a cheap commute back to Silicon Valley.
In a more general sense, every city I visit in the US (and I primarily visit "good" cities) feels like a poor value. They all have great things in them, but it comes at too high of a cost. Vegas is the opposite, where it feels too good to be true.
The reason I see Vegas as a big opportunity right now is because you can actually buy a house or condo that makes financial sense. You lock in a really high quality of life and know that the taxes aren't going to force you out eventually. If you want to start a brick-and-mortar business, you can do it inexpensively here and it can grow with the city. Other cities feel like dead ends to me in a way that Vegas doesn't.
Photo is from Lake Mead. I just don't take a lot of photos in Vegas except when I'm on the lake.
When we moved from an apartment to a house recently, I saw it as an opportunity to explore energy efficiency. I knew that switching to more efficient alternatives usually doesn't pay off for a period of time, so I figured we should start immediately and reap the benefits for as long as possible.
I was very surprised to learn just how quickly some things pay for themselves and how much of a no-brainer certain things are. The government as well as local utilities also have a bunch of rebates, making things an ever better deal. Here is some of what I've learned
Solar in Las Vegas is a complete no-brainer as the city has more hours of sunshine per year than any other major city in the US. The payback period varies, but it's around 7 years. However, panels do add some value to your house for resale, so the payback period is shorter than that in reality.
I'm a white male who was born into a loving and smart middle class family with a big support network of extended family. My family prioritized good schools, even when it was a financial stretch to afford them, and as a result I had the opportunity to be around great teachers, all of whom I remember to this day, as well as peers with similar situations. I may not exactly be the poster boy of privilege, but I'm probably not that far off either.
Everything I write comes from this privileged background. There's absolutely nothing I can do about that, since it is my reality. Several people brought up privilege in my recent survey, though, so I wanted to address it and also share what I think are some productive ways to think about it.
First, I think that privilege is a great thing. My grandparents grew up dirt poor (and first generation immigrants on one side), and through two generations they were able to get where we are today. America (and the world) had MORE problems then, but even so, that sort of mobility was possible. (And yes, I understand that there are some key things that are worse today).
When thinking about privilege I think we should focus on how to get more privilege to people who don't have it rather than demonizing those who do. For example, billionaires are very unpopular these days, but I love them. My life has unambiguously become better due to many of the billionaires. Rather than pick at their faults, which they all certainly have, we should be focusing on how we can create an easier path for less privileged people to get to that same level.
Everyone always asks me for more posts about buying property with friends, but I never really knew what they wanted to know. Last week on my new YouTube Live show, Tea Time with Tynan, I asked people for their questions about buying property with friends. People asked some great questions, so I figured I'd collect the best of them and answer them here as well.
How do you choose where to buy a place?
The way we've chosen each place has been different. We chose the island because we desperately wanted to buy an island, and the Halifax, Canada area was the only place to buy a cheap island that looked good and was accessible. In retrospect I think we got really lucky here, because Halifax is great. Budapest was chosen because I went there a couple times and loved it. It was the first place in Europe that I really wanted to get to know on a deeper level. Its central location also made it an easy sell as a European home base. Hawaii came when we realized that all of our properties were better suited for the summer than the winter, so we started looking for tropical places. I originally chose San Juan, Puerto Rico, but after visiting it again I wasn't convinced it was a slam dunk. Japan has been on the list forever as it's the one place that all of my friends and I keep going back to year after year. The only reason it was the last one purchased was because it was so hard to find a good place.
Within each city (island excluded), we try to buy as centrally as possible. Budapest and Hilo (Hawaii) are right downtown. Tokyo is 4 minutes from a station that servers two major subway lines, and a 15 minute walk to Shinjuku.
One of the best compliments I ever received was when a friend told me that I was a leader of leaders. He was also a leader, so it meant a lot coming from him. I've had this topic on my "to write" list for years now, but every time I attempt to write it I'm worried that it will come off as conceited. So first, a disclaimer.
This post does not mean that I think I am THE leader of my friends. I think that most or all of my friends are leaders and that we all take turns leading or lead simultaneously in different ways. So this post is just as much from the perspective of leading friends as it is from the perspective of being led by friends.
When I talk about leading, I am mostly talking about serving. I've led my friends on many trips around the world, I've orchestrated a lot of group property purchases, and I've gotten many of my friends into things like tea, living in RVs, crypto, my style of personal finance, etc. I like to go off and figure something out that can benefit everyone, and then bring it back to the group and guide them through it. And, of course, my friends have also done the same for me countless times. My friend Nick got me into art, it was my friend Todd's idea to travel minimally (I wanted to get a huge backpack at first!), and my friend Jesse led me to love tea.
The biggest difference in leading leaders is that they don't need you. If you do a poor job leading or lead them astray, they'll just go off on their own and figure it out. For this reason, trust is the most important factor. A leader will not follow someone that they don't trust. For example, what's the point of friends following me on a 1 week trip around Japan if they think I might waste their time and they could have just gone and done their own trip? If I tell them that I've discovered a better way to manage finances, but they don't trust that I've actually done enough research, they'd be better off figuring out it out themselves.
Wow! Almost 300 people replied to the survey, most pretty thoroughly, and gave me tons to think about. I'll be digesting and acting on the feedback for a long time, but I wanted to share some of the biggest takeaways that I think readers will be most interested in.
First of all, I won't be taking a break from blogging. I was feeling a bit burnt out on it, but having read everything that you sent me totally reinvigorated my drive to blog. It reminded me of both who I'm writing for and why I'm writing. I have about ten posts ideas that I'm now very excited to write, and I'm excited about the people who will be reading them.
Maybe the biggest thing I learned was the importance of community. I built Sett from the ground up specifically because I wanted more connection with my audience, but over time the spammers became relentless and I just didn't want to spend my life fighting spammers, so I shut comments and the community section down. Many people said that they missed the community and comments, and many said that they wished they could connect more with other readers. At my live events people consistently rave about the other people they meet.
I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do, but I will create a subreddit, discord, slack, facebook group, or forum for everyone to meet in. It will either be free or very cheap and may be invite only. I'm going to think more about the best format and how to implement it, because my goal is for it to be a perpetual thing. If anyone has experience and strong suggestions, please get in touch.
I always mean to be clever and commemorate years of blogging on roughly the anniversary of me beginning blogging, but I never remember when it is, and then every year think, "Okay, Ill do it next year instead". But fifteen years is a long time, so rather than wait a year I'll just be a few months late.
I started blogging because I decided to do the polyphasic sleep schedule. I had tried twice before and failed, and all of that time was such a blur that I resolved on my third attempt to record it as it happened. I was successful, and the topic was rather trendy at the time, so about 100 people started following my blog.
After a while I gave up on polyphasic, but felt that I had an obligation to my readers. Luckily I had spent the first half of my twenties doing insane things like putting a swimming pool in my living room, climbing radio towers, breaking in to the tunnels under UT Austin, a exploring a cave, etc., so I had plenty of crazy stories.
The swimming pool post made it to the front of Digg, which was like reddit back then, and it remained one of the top ten stories on the site for a year or so. After that I had about a thousand people reading. I hate breaking streaks, and I never wanted to let readers down, so I just kept writing. I went through phases where I posted every day, two years where I wrote every single day (but posted once a week), and some phases where I didn't quite write every week. But I don't think in that time there's ever been a gap of more than two weeks, and for many years I haven't missed a single week.
One of the best things about the rise of technology is that it has enabled us to connect with people all over the world. I thought about this today when I randomly came across an "over 50 makeup" YouTube personality who was talking about Superhuman by Habit. She was talking about some specific habits that had helped her, and I felt good about myself for being able to impact someone. How interesting to be able to benefit each other across the internet.
It's also interesting that we have specific identities to each other. To her I'm "the habit guy" and to me she's "the 50+ makeup lady". Hopefully there's a lot more to each of us than that, but the internet has made it so that we come across so many different people that we are forced to distill people down to an identity.
To some extent, I think these identities have always been there, but they've been internal. In high school I thought of myself as a slacker who did crazy things. If someone suggested doing a crazy thing, like climbing a construction crane or jumping on a moving train, I would go do it. I liked doing those things, but I also felt some sort of obligation to my identity. People liked me for who I was, so on some subconscious level I wanted to reaffirm that identity.
This was also true of negative habits like slacking off. Even if I had time to do some homework and really didn't mind doing it, I might be more likely to put it off and try to do it in the morning before class, because that's who I was.
My Bentley was delivered back to me recently. It came in a tow truck and the trim was removed from the dash and piled up in the trunk along with half of the trim of some random Mercedes. Half of the windows were stuck down and the dashboard lights looked like a disco when I turned the key. The company that repaired (and frankly did an amazing job) of the bodywork managed to get the alarm out of sync and took the whole thing apart trying to fix it. They then went bankrupt and shipped the car back to me. It's so sad to see the car in this condition that I no longer care about getting it working and will just sell it for parts or as a project.
I have a 15 year old minivan, but in the Bentley's absence I found myself driving my wife's Nissan more than the van, just because it gets better gas mileage and is newer and nicer. Upon realizing that I'd never drive the Bentley again, I decided to get another car.
At this point probably 90% of the people I know would only consider buying a Tesla. And to give credit where it's due, Teslas are truly incredible cars. They're very fast and fun to drive and they have excellent range. They also have the best charger network (though any EV can easily use those chargers too). I think Elon is a genius and I think it's pretty obvious that electric cars in general would be a decade behind if it weren't for him.
That said, I think Teslas are massively overhyped and (partially as a result) a poor value unless you really need the range (or really need to go 0-60 in 2 seconds). For most people's use cases there are much better values. For example, if you care about range, you can get a 2017 Chevy Bolt which gets ~240 miles on a charge for $13k.
Most people who come to me for advice are either working too hard or not hard enough. The latter group knows that there's a problem and want to fix it, but the former group always come under the guise of wanting to work on something else. No one, except maybe your family, will criticize you for working too hard, so it's not obvious that it's a problem.
I've gone through both phases in my life. Most of my twenties was spent working not nearly hard enough, and about half of my thirties was spent working too hard, so I've seen the pros and cons of each. Those pros and cons interact with different times in our lives in different ways, so there are times when it's appropriate to work "too hard", and other times when it's appropriate to barely work at all.
Hard workers are often driven by the metric of "what percentage of my time is being spent working?" and strive for 100%. This often leads to burnout, a very narrow area of expertise and experience, and poor results relative to time invested. I noticed some of this when I was working on Sett. I eventually got burnt out, but the biggest thing I noticed was that my prodigious output of work didn't always result in better results. Sometimes I spent a month or two working feverishly on a feature that ended up being useless.
If I had really stopped to think about what I was doing and why I was doing it, I may have realized that what I was working on didn't matter and could have saved weeks of time. I had no time to stop and think, though, as all I thought about were my tasks. Once I finished a task my goal was to start another one as soon as possible.