Ever feel like standing up, flipping off your boss and pulling a Jerry Maguire?
Or firing all your pain-in-the-ass clients?
You’ve probably heard of the concept of f*ck you money—the amount of money that would put you in a position to be able to do this (theoretically, of course).
What that number is depends a lot on who you’re talking to.
Exactly How Much Money is F*ck You Money?
Most people equate f*ck you money with one of the following:
1. Retirement Nest Egg
2. Spending Power
Being able to afford anything you want. In other words, the justified use of the phrase “cuz f*ck you, that’s why” if anyone dares to question your purchase. Tim Ferriss’ Dreamline exercise is a form of radical goal-setting that helps calculate an exact daily income target for your dream lifestyle.
3. Temporary Security
Having enough money to walk away from your current job without having any short-term worries. Not enough money to stop work indefinitely, but enough to tell your boss to f*ck off in the present. Without a job you’re still able to maintain basic level of security, buying yourself time to accumulate new skills, find a new job or start a new project. Common wisdom suggests this is anywhere between 6-24 months’ expenses, depending on your risk tolerance and skill set.
Others have quipped that their f*ck you money is how much they’d need to buy a lambo, a house in the Hollywood Hills, or my personal favorite—the amount of cash they’d need to get a face tattoo:
What’s clear is that not only are the definitions subjective, but they’re also transient. Your number might be different now than it will be in five years when you have another kid, move to another part of the country, or decide to retire earlier.
And clearly skills play a big part. The guy who’s the sought-after expert on nuclear fission is going to feel a lot more secure than the McDonald’s employee who can be replaced the next hour.
But whether it’s a lifetime or a few month’s worth of money is unimportant. Really what we’re talking about is equating a dollar amount with a feeling of freedom, and that’s going to be different for every person.
And there’s one other tiny problem with this equation: chasing a fluctuating future dollar figure won’t make you happy—even if you achieve it.
Chasing F*ck You Money: What The Research Shows
Ok, so you’ve done the calculation. You’ve figured out how much it costs you to live and how many months of freedom you’re able to purchase. Then, it’s just about setting out the achieve that number right?
Research would suggest this is not the healthiest of goals from a psychological perspective. You’re chasing money, which is just a means to an end. You want the money because it buys you the freedom.
Extrinsic goals are aspirations that are out of your direct control. They include:
- Marital success
Chasing them has been proven to make you feel, well…shitter. Think lower levels of energy, anxiety, depression, less good emotions. Instead of adding to your well-being, they detract from it.
If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. These things are contingent on reactions from others. You’re actually in search of something else, even if you don’t admit it to yourself.
Healthy goals are things that are intrinsic to you, things like:
Chasing these goals makes you happier because they’re things you can directly fulfill.
In another study, researchers studied adults that had achieved financial freedom (aka f*ck you money) and found that among them, the ones with the highest materialistic values were objectively the least happy. Other research found that we’re happiest when we prioritize time over money.
So if chasing money doesn’t make you happy, then equating freedom with f*ck you money probably isn’t the healthiest either. Do you really want to flip off your boss? Or do you just want to be able to do what you want with your time?
I propose a new ideal…
F*ck You Flânerie
Is freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else.Epictetus
Imagine the freedom to chase whatever caught your interest, to turn in any direction that called you. To be unrestricted by physical location or any other constraints, free to jump on a plane and relocate to any part of the world for any reason at any time you want. To be able to just sit back and observe where you’re being taken. Everything completely at your own pace.
This is what I imagine the perfect freedom to look like.
Think about it: to be able to stroll aimlessly—truly aimlessly—for extended periods of time, you’d have to be 100% free.
You’d need to have:
- Money taken care of. You’d need to have the financial ability to be be unrestricted in your travels by any means. If you wanted to go to Australia but buying the ticket would cause you even one degree of financial stress, that wouldn’t be true freedom.
- No one to answer to. Every turn you make would have to be undirected. Others may have inputs, but you’d make the final decisions based on your own volition.
- The mindfulness of a Zen master. Is wandering truly aimless if you’re being pulled by compulsion, wandering thoughts and desires? You could argue not.
With this freedom, you could spend the entirety of your focus and energy on whatever called your name in the moment, whether that be:
- Starting a charity
- Working on a passion project
- Writing and reading all day
- Starting your dream business
- Kicking back on the beach
- Going full Dan Bilzerian
Instead of flipping off your boss, it would be a f*ck you to to-do lists, scripts, strict goals, standard operating procedures, itineraries, rigid schedules and all the things that go against your very nature.
An unachievable standard, maybe. But a better target to aim for: pure, unadulterated flânerie.
What Would it Take to Get There?
By definition, flânerie requires leisure time. If you’re cooped up in an office, you can’t just willingly take a day to aimlessly meander about town.
But realize that it’s not all or nothing. It’s something you can experience right now.
You can earn yourself higher degrees of freedom in a continuous process of small improvements. Instead of setting your sights on some future number, you’re going to be a lot happier if you start thinking in degrees and focusing on intrinsic goals. Freedom of choice is a great one.
And there’s not some end number you hit when you’re suddenly free. It’s a continuous process of leveling up in these areas:
Of course money is important. If money is the cause of your worries or restricts you from doing what you truly want to be doing, you’re going to need to switch things up and take action. But instead of focusing on the dollar figure, start viewing money for what it really represents to you: freedom.
Money and time are highly related. Money can help buy you more time, and time can help you earn more money. But often times, this takes using your time to invest in improving your skillset or creating better systems to make more money. As you upgrade your skill set, you can earn yourself more money and buy yourself more time. Through continuously ratcheting this up, you earn yourself more freedom.
Mindset is by far the most important of the three. If you’re stressed and unhappy, you’ll need to mix things up. The ideal mindset is one that sets you up to move in the direction that, when completely honest with yourself, you know you should be heading in. It’s you at your best, far removed from biological urges, fatigue, compulsive thoughts and procrastination mechanisms. Snapshots of this may only appear in brief, spontaneous flickers. Use these moments as trail markers. Your mind will always find ways to distract you from doing these things.
Practical Thoughts on Achieving F*ck You Status
1) Take Risks
Freedom is always associated with risk taking, whether it leads to it or comes from it.Nassim Taleb
A few of my friends have now achieved f*ck you money by any definition you go by. They have enough money to have no cares left in the world, and they each did it in the same way: through taking calculated risks.
For example, here are the paths two of them took:
Friend A: Working a job → Freelancing → Working at a startup → Investing in technology companies → Starting an ecommerce company → Starting a blockchain company → Selling his stake in said company → Investing in a diverse range of assets → F*ck you flânerie
Friend B: Consulting → Negotiating higher salary → Starting a marketing company → Investing in cryptocurrencies → Buying real estate → Starting a tech company → Angel investing → F*ck you flânerie
They each took new risks as they ratcheted up their freedom.
They invested their time and money in secure ventures or projects while at the same time taking highly speculative risks that had high potential payoffs. Classic Nassim Taleb barbell strategy: hyper-conservative on the one side, but hyper-aggressive on the other.
This can be not only with finances but with decisions you make. Often it’s not even money that holds people back from living their perfectly free dream lifestyles in the first place. In fact, your dream lifestyle probably costs a helluva lot less than you think. Most times it’s simply other priorities, fear of the unknown or over-valuing security.
Often just taking one leap toward a little more freedom will open new doors for you to get the the next level. Accept that it will require risk-taking.
2) Create Assets and Passive Income Streams
If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.Warren Buffett
So what type of speculative risks should you take?
One approach might be to create new passive income streams and assets. If your assets plus passive income create more money than it costs you to live, you essentially have the money part handled.
Passive income might come from real estate income, social security, dividends, pensions, annuities, interest or other sources.
In my opinion, the easiest way to get there is through entrepreneurship. If you’re currently in a job and want to earn yourself more freedom, one of the best ways is to start a side project.
If you’re going to take a speculative risk with a side project, ideally it’s one that has the potential to:
- Pay your monthly expenses over time
- Become an asset that grows in value, and
- Be worked on from anywhere in the world
That way if it hits, you’re tackling the money issue and freeing up your location at the same time.
3) Know What to Avoid
It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.Steve Jobs
There are an infinite number of options and opportunities for us in the world.
Flânerie doesn’t entail chasing every shiny object you come across, but rather knowing what to avoid and letting yourself be pulled in the direction that calls you at a deeper level.
Here are some suggestions for things to avoid:
- Toxic people / energy vampires
Each can detract from the feeling of freedom.
The last might be the most important. If you stop equating happiness with spending money, your lifestyle will become a lot less costly and you can accumulate money faster. As Seneca said, “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”
4) Connect the Dots
The role of the imagination is to create new meanings and to discover connections that, even if obvious, seem to escape detection.Paul Rand
The entrepreneurially minded are both blessed and cursed. They typically have an insatiable appetite for knowledge, a profound curiosity, and a wide range of goals. There’s a desire to be able to do everything.
But society doesn’t work this way. You’re pressured to specialize and narrow in on one defined path.
I’m a big fan of Warren Buffet’s 5/25 advice: make a list of your top 25 goals, circle the five most important, and do whatever it takes to avoid the other 20.
But before you make any final decisions, see if there’s a way to combine ideas:
- Is there a common theme between your goals, interests or passions?
- Is there a way to combine any of them?
- What project, if you took it on, would check off a few of the boxes at the same time?
Part of being an entre-flâneur is finding new solutions, thinking in creative ways and noticing opportunities that others fail to see. This is a skill.
If there’s no way to tackle two goals simultaneously, attack them in sequence. There’s likely one that, if acted on, will open new doors. Figure out which project can act as the lead domino.
What’s Your Next Step?
Sometimes the next step toward freedom is backwards.
It may require creating a more stable base. Maybe that means investing time in learning new skills or taking on a job to bank money.
But more often it’s through taking more calculated risks. Maybe it’s time to start freelancing, building a business or starting to invest.
Whichever path you decide to take, focus on the freedom instead of the dollar figure. Have your number, but make sure it doesn’t have yours. That way, you’ll avoid a lot of the people-pleasing and resentment of dominance hierarchies that make you want to flip everyone off in the first place.