Fuck You Money Versus Fuck This Money: Part 1

I don’t know where the concept came from, but there’s an idea called “fuck you money”. I don’t like the crudeness of the phrase but the idea has merit. It’s vaguely defined as the amount of money you need in your bank account to feel comfortable blowing off work (or whatever else ties you down). Should demands placed on your shoulders become too onerous, “fuck you money” is what lets you shrug it off.

Like this:

“Hey Smithers, get over here and fill out your TPS reports. Do it in triplicate. Also wear 13 pieces of flair, kiss my ass, grovel, and pretend to laugh at my jokes.”

Smithers checks his bank account, which holds far more than he needs.

“Nope! I’m not doing it. Take this job and shove it.”

It’s a glorious dream that’s popular in America (and probably elsewhere too). Sadly, when people ponder “fuck you money” they center on large wads of cash; millions or more. I think they’re missing the point. Because they set the bar so high, most people never get anywhere close to the kind of money they think they need (including or perhaps especially millionaires). I also suspect it’s a sliding scale. The more money you have, the more firmly you’re tied to the system that made you rich and (ironically) the more shit you’ll eat to keep up the supply. After all, money is a powerful tool but it’s only a tool. Freedom isn’t literally for sale.

Not to sound all Zen or anything, but “fuck you money” is more a state of mind than a number. You’re more likely to see Bob the trucker tell his foreman to suck it and walk off the job site during a cement pour than you are to see a filthy rich Warren Buffett analog (or virtually any politician) interrupt a board meeting with “I’m done with this shit, adios fuckers”.

I think it’s a flaw in the human mind. The more we have, the more we want.

Like anyone, I fight against this. I see it as just one more practical front in the preparedness mentality. If you fancy yourself a survivalist but shit your pants at the thought of losing your job, you ‘aint there yet. (Don’t get impatient, it’s a journey not a destination.)

With varying degrees of success, I keep nibbling away at the amount of money I “need”. There’s a lot of cool shit you can buy in modern America, it’s wise to keep it on a leash. Like any fallible human, I occasionally allow myself a fiscally unwise luxury but the overall plan is to avoid excessive entanglement. I also eat my vegetables and brush my teeth. It’s not rocket science y’all.

I don’t have “fuck you money”. I’m not there yet. But I think I’m on the right track. I inch ever closer to a life where “fuck you money” is 20 bucks in my pocket and a full freezer. I’m probably closer to the power of “fuck you money” than many very wealthy people.

More soon…

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.
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24 Responses to Fuck You Money Versus Fuck This Money: Part 1

  1. Mark Matis says:

    And let me point out that this country’s “Law Enforcement” are FAR less likely to say “I won’t do that” and walk away than ANY millionaire or anybody else. In spite of their oath to the Constitution. They will continue to do WHATEVER they are told, as long as that paycheck keeps comin’ in.

    And that applies not only to the FBI and the rest of the FedPigs who saw overwhelming corruption and treason for at least the past eight years, but this country’s “finest” at every other level as well.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      That’s a good time to segue into another concern. FU money entails risk in proportion to its power and law enforcement is the greater of many risks. When there’s an assert there’s a thief trying to get it. When it’s liquid it’s easier to steal and thus more attractive. Part of the definition of FU Money is liquidity. You can’t tell your boss to take a hike if your money is tied up in long term bonds or a real estate deal. While the average criminal may be stopped by a safe or a determined owner, thieves with badges are (in my opinion) far more invasive.

      Suppose you scrimp and save and bust your ass to amass your own level of FU money. After decades of thrift you’ve got $40K in small bills stuffed in a coffee can. You can and do feel pretty happy about that. One day work sucks too much and you use the power of FU Money to boot your job to the curb. “Fuck this, I’m going fishing instead.” En route to the fishing hole you get stopped for a minor traffic matter. Suddenly, through legal slight of hand called asset forfeiture, your coffee can is accused of drug dealing. You aren’t accused of squat… it’s your money that’s “guilty”. So is the bass boat you’re towing. It’s going to take years and a shitload of lawyer’s fees to get a fraction of your cash back (if you ever do).

      There are things you can do to protect against criminals but I’m not quite sure what one can do to protect FU money from thieves with badges. (Has anyone really figured it out?) If you stash FU Money in a bank you might get shaved in a bank problem (ask people in Cyprus). If you withdraw $10K of your own money you’re reported for unusual banking transactions. If you’ve got a wad of cash in your car it could be seized. Etc…

      By contrast, if you never have FU money you have nothing to steal. A steady paycheck or a social security check isn’t going to attract asset forfeiture (unless you’re counting garnished wages or payments to ex-wives but that’s another matter). A thousand dollar monthly retirement payout check you just cashed won’t raise an eyebrow. But a year’s worth of the same money in a wallet will bring out the worst in people. Go figure.

      It’s a conundrum. Yes, law enforcement is deadly dangerous in this sphere. No, I have no idea what to do about it.

      (Though some assets are immune because they’re not liquid or readily valued. I mentioned full freezers… venison steak isn’t a liquid asset and no cop in creation is interested in stealing that. As far as I can tell you could be Charles Manson or the Pope and either way they’re looking for cash and things that are easily assessed for value; cars, houses, guns, boats, and up to date electronic toys. Nobody will steal your pile of firewood or loyal dog.)

      • Mark Matis says:

        Yeah, but if they shut off your power, that venison steak does indeed become a “liquid asset” rather quickly…

      • Anonymous says:

        but I’m not quite sure what one can do to protect FU money from thieves with badges

        Where ever does this hazardous “government” thing get the money to pay its employees’ salaries? Is humanity under attack by aliens from another planet? Do the extraterrestrials in the round silvery spaceships deliver money? Is that why the back of the one dollar bill shows the ancient astronauts radiating their superior technological power from the top of an Egyptian pyramid? The round spaceships are the reentry and landing craft. Above the atmosphere the aliens have interplanetary spaceships shaped like Stars of David, just like renegade alien Mel Brooks’ documentary Spaceballs showed. The aliens are Jews. JooOOooOOooOO, it’s the warbling sound the spaceships make traveling through the vacuum of space.

        There is no way this currency could have come from “citizens”, who as a group voluntarily choose to obey the “elected officials” they’ve picked as “voters”, and pay “taxes” to fund the operation of “government”.

  2. Timbotoo says:

    Interesting concept. A lot of discipline or a lot of money.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      I think the defining concept is “a lot”. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

      I find the discipline thing is more under my control. This has been an expensive winter but in general I’m allergic to large purchases.

  3. Paul says:

    I prefer “FU money” to at least partially avoid the crudity.
    It is apparently a little known fact that one’s spending is almost entirely under one’s own control, with the only real limitation being how tough one is*. There’s an anecdote attributed to Diogenes about lentils and kings that seems appropriate.

    I look forward to the rest of this series. The Curmudgeonly Gems of Insight are my favorite part of your material, and this feels like you might be setting several of these up.

    *That said, an individual whose entire stash of FU money consists of $20 and a full freezer is very tough indeed, by first-world standards, or else possibly not thinking things through. Yes, I know you’re using it as a comedic device, not advocating it as sound financial planning.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Where were you when I was typing? FU Money sounds so much better!

      $20 and a full freezer is an exaggeration but I think it’s like a parable to show the way. It’s more realistic to lower your “needs” than increase your assets. The system works against you when you’re increasing assets. More income means more income tax. If you buy something you pay sales tax at the purchase. There may be cost of ownership, etc…

      Conversely, if you learn to shrug your shoulders and say “I can live without that thing I’d like” you save not only the $X that it would cost but the extra 30% that would be tacked on during the process of earning the money and subsequently spending it.

      I’m not tough enough that $20 and a freezer is enough… but it’s an aspiration. Like those dumbass motivational posters people hang up.

  4. richardcraver says:

    It’s a tantalizing thought. Pay off the house out of the retirement fund, be able to take a job I like that pays half of the current one.
    I’ve told my wife I want 15 acres with a big deep gully at one end. I want to put a single-wide at the open end of the gully so I can shoot off my back porch any time I want. I call the dream, ‘Home On The Range’. She’s not much on the single-wide idea, even after I told her she could have a ‘she shed’ for her sewing and quilting, I’d have a reloading shed and a 4 bay garage, that leaves the house for living in.
    Women lack vision to dream big I tell ya. 😉

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      I think you’ve got a fine dream. Many men want the same thing. When I was shopping for my current abode (Curmudgeon Compound) I told my real estate agent I wouldn’t touch any house with a HOA or covenant. She wouldn’t listen. Finally I said “I wanna shoot a rifle off my front porch, at midnight, while holding a bottle of tequila, and naked. So find us a place where that wont get me arrested.” My agent ignored me and politely asked if she could talk to Mrs. Curmudgeon; thinking she’d find a saner customer. Mrs. Curmudgeon just laughed “he’s not bluffing, he’ll do it”. Curmudgeon Compound is a total shithole, but I have space and privacy.

      I don’t have a gully though. I hope you find one.

      I also like the idea of a “she shed”. Nice name.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Speaking of “she shed”:

      Terry Pratchett’s last book, The Shepherd’s Crown, is a comic fantasy novel that touched briefly on sheds. (He’s English so they’re “sheds” compared to an American’s “shop” or “garage”.) One of the characters looks at a population of miserable retired old men and has an epiphany: “If you have a goat, you need a goat shed to keep the goat. These are men, they each need a man shed. That will make them happy.” It wasn’t the main part of the story but I loved the logic.

  5. Nate says:

    I’m aggressively paying down debt. I’m about 5-10 years away from FU stability.

  6. Machiavelli says:

    My main problem with having F-U money is that I don’t know when I’m gonna die.

    Medical science keeps advancing. I have enough money right now to live comfortably (I don’t want to spend my golden years eating cat food) for quite awhile. But what if I live to be 70? or 90?

    The concept of F-U money has changed, for me, from being a “sum of money” to a “steady-state income”. How much might I need, every month, to live at age 90? How do I obtain that income, every month, whilst sitting on a rocking chair on my front porch shouting at kids to get off my lawn?

    The only way I’ve been able to figure out how to make it work is to buy and rent houses. Cost of living goes up, rental prices go up, so my income should basically keep pace with the economy, where a big pile of money sitting in a bank account will not. So I built a 10-year plan to buy,rent, and pay off investment properties that will give me my F-U Income at age 54.

    Then, the only thing that really scares me about losing my job is, “Oh no, It might set back the plan!”

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      GOod thinking. You’re well on your way. I think folks who say “I’d need a million in the bank for FU money” are setting the bar too high. How about “my house & stuff is paid for and I got a few revenue streams, so why do I need a huge wad in the bank?”

      It’s a delightful first world problem to live so long. But yeah, if we all want to “retire” at 65 that’s “almost dead” in 1940 and “30 years left maybe” in 2018. Big difference.

  7. raven says:

    FU money = no debt. Without debt, and the constant need to come up with a payment, things can really slow down. It gives options.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      I agree. No debt really opens up your horizons.

    • Driftwood says:

      Raven, the largest burden was lifted off my shoulders when I was completely out of debt and only had monthly utilities and food. What a relief it was when I completed my life’s plan to be able to retire at 50 with no worries. When I eliminated the expenses of going back and forth to work I had a $600 month increase. A great contribution to FU $

  8. I am almost there. I’m gonna hire out third string to a baseball group and then beat my girlfriends. Then maybe, run to dad and take over his land and call it mine.

  9. abnormalist says:

    Fuck you money was coined I believe by Neil Stephenson in Cryptonomicon

    They had a spreadsheet that made several outside references to various market indicators to determine the current value of “Fuck You Money”

    Great read

  10. MaxDamage says:

    The basic problem is one of being tied to something. When I was 17, FU money was a tank of gas and a Po Boy sandwich, I’d get the next job at the next town and everything I needed fit in my car. When I was 30, FU money was enough to live on with the wife for six months while I found another job and we possibly sold the house. At 50, FU money has grown to all it takes to keep a family of four comfortable on one income for three months, the mortgage, car repairs, etc… Raise your living standards and the cost goes up. It won’t go down again, men, until you can live in an RV and move on when the cost of staying put gets too high, and I can assure you your family will not back you 100% in this plan. They never have. People who had steady incomes and homes didn’t pack their families onto tramp steamers or into covered wagons to head out in search of a better life because they already had one. They did it because there was nothing left to leave behind.

    Another issue is taxes. Some have mentioned the goal of having the house paid off. Big whup. That just means you’re not paying the bank any longer. The bank was your best friend. They loaned you money for a house and charged market rates for it, giving you 30 years to pay it off if you wanted. The local government, on the other hand, wants 4% of its value — which *they* determine! — every year so you can continue to live on your own land. Think about that. The bank wants their money over 30 years. The state charges you the full price of your place every 25 years just to let you live there. If you have a mortgage payment of $1000/mo, when that house is paid off you’re still going to be socking away about $400/mo for the taxes alone. It’s never yours free and clear, it’s only yours so long as you can pay the state for it.

    And that’s the problem. The old song says Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. When you have nothing holding you, you are a very dangerous individual because you cannot be controlled. There is no persuasion, no cajoling, no threatening, nothing that can prevent you from taking off and finding someplace better. If you have something holding you, you can bet your last dollar that will be used as leverage to coerce and extract tribute from you for as long as those in authority can do so. The one in authority is quite often your sense of responsibility.

    Some days I wish I was 17 again and all I owned fit in my car and all I needed fit on the motorcycle. I saw all of the lower-48 on an old HD Sportster, camping in fields or parks next to the road as needed, washing dishes for gas money at the truck stops, trading labor for money or gas or whatever I needed at the time. Those were good, carefree days.

    But as the Apostle Paul said in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, “but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

    – Max

  11. Eric Wilner says:

    When first I heard the name put to the concept of 4Q money, I pondered the situation, attempted to calculate the amount involved, and came to a disturbing conclusion: there was no amount that would allow me to walk away from my various jobs, because I had Responsibilities.
    On the other hand, looking at things from a different perspective, I’ve had 4Q money for a great many years now, in that I have enough of a liquid-asset reserve (and sufficiently low routine living expenses) that I can turn down a job here and there, even if it means going without income for a few months.
    Though, with regard to existing work, I still have Responsibilities. Ongoing technical support, and all that. Any escape plan needs to take these things into account; I can’t just vanish into the back woods and drop off the grid. Such is life.
    (And then there are family responsibilities, too, but that’s a can of worms of a different color.)

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      I think most men have responsibilities like that. Even if we had a zillion dollars we couldn’t just walk away.

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