Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Herbivore's Guide to Lifestyle Design

Social science is full of surprises.

While we do know that there are men who give up on relationships and withdraw from society (also known as herbivores in Japan), up till recently we are not too sure on how they spend their time and whether they are satisfied with their personal lives.

This is why the findings of Erik Hurst are potentially earth-shattering.

Imagine being told that it's ok to forego the academic rat race and join the workforce as a non-degree holder and face a rapidly changing economy where unemployment is happening with greater frequency.

Just make sure that you avoid unhappiness by simply refusing to start a family and enjoy yourself by playing around 12-30 hours of computer games every week instead.

The idea that this is a feasible lifestyle that results in high personal satisfaction is not an easy fact for society to swallow.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how this pans out numerically.

a) Baseline Herbivore expenses

While a herbivore is gainfully employed, his expenses are similar to ordinary working single men who live with their parents, if he needs $150 for transport, $500 for food and $200 to support parents, on a starting Poly graduate's pay of $2,000 is decent if you only have to pay for broadband and a continuous stream of games from Steam.

Let us also make a presumption that an unemployed herbivore can sustain himself on $600 if their parents can look after themselves.

b) Savings through-out sporadic unemployment

Where there is no real need to plan for future expenses, a person can save only to cover situations of occasional unemployment. Imagine a baseline situation where a person can save $300 when employed but would only need $600 a month to live on when unemployed, then this person can sustain 1 month of unemployment for every 2 months of work.

Herbivore lifestyle design equation -> 2 months work = 1 months play

With a simple back of the envelope calculations, we can design a lifestyle for the herbivore male which is distinctively different from what we are conditioned by in Singapore. Herbivores don't have to participate in the vicious rat race which men must go through. In fact, by giving up women and family completely, they earn some semblance of radical independence which men normally cannot get.

This person can seek short term contract jobs to earn about $2,000 to $3,000 a month. Every 6 month contract earned can earn at least 3 month holiday where the person can stay at home and play computer games continuously and engage in personal hobbies.

As contract jobs are the new norm where jobs are rapidly getting automated, and I expect demand for contract labour to exceed supply even in the face of rapid automation of jobs.

What if Herbivore's learn to invest ?

While I doubt a person who makes a choice like this would even find it worthwhile to seek for rents in the market but at 8% returns, a portfolio size of $90,000 can support a herbivore lifestyle. For some, this may come in he form of a an accidental windfall or inheritance.

Hard Truths about life for Singaporean Males

There is, indeed, a blue pill and a red pill.

Now I could imagine that my son having grown up in the future, after years of rejection from the System and fickle women, would seriously consider this form of withdrawal as an alternative to the kind of responsible family life that Singaporeans males were conditioned to accept.

Once you remove the moral arguments based on duty and filial piety, you will realise that there are actually no logical impediments to accept the choice of turning herbivore if you believe that your aim in life is simply just to be happy.

By that time, all I can do as a disappointed dad would be to grab him by collar and tell him that he's like this because no one has accepted him for who he, I am disappointed at the low standards he has set in his life and he needs to try harder.


  1. Regarding the last sentence, let me give a different point of view.

    Nothing wrong with living cheaply.
    And living with your parents, if everyone is happy with it.
    Hopefully people can find better things to do with their life than play computer games.
    As long as you're spending less than you're earning, you can do whatever makes you happy.

    You expect your son to be ambitious and successful so he can be happy. Or so that *you* can be happy?

  2. So that I can be happy. Of course !

  3. Hi Chris.

    Thank you for your writings. They are an engineers take on economics. Always honest, down to earth and close to heart. A unique view which strengthens whatever decisions we may take.

    I have enjoyed reading your blog. Hope you will carry on writing.

    Maybe you can try forcing your son to play video games so he will be turned off from them for the rest of his life.

  4. My son is definitely a future gamer, he is so still and quiet when I was playing XCOM 2 in front of him.

    My daughter is already infected. She cheers me on when I play Mortal Kombat X while asking me to smack the opponent's groin with a stick when I am playing Cassie Cage.

  5. Hi Chris, I would like to contact you regarding some of our referral programs. Kindly drop me an email at edna.tan.zixian@gmail.com


  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Normally I don't read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to try and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you,

    very nice post. I will share it my social media site !!!