In the world of financial independence there is great emphasis on breaking away from the shackles of work, and trading it for a much more relaxed life that's full of freedom. A part of the journey is therefore getting to the point where you have F-You Money. But what exactly is F-You Money and how do you obtain it - and could your actions or behaviours, rather than money, actually be the only thing that's stopping you from having it?
Becoming financially independent means you've reached a point where you're self-sufficient in terms of money. But the goal of financial independence isn't actually money - instead it's the ability to achieve a perfect balance between work and life. When you reframe things in this way you're suddenly able see that the state of financial independence and the state of having F-You Money can actually be separated. If you start defining F-You Money as the ability to have more control on your time, rather than the ability to flip your office desk, you start to realise that the only thing that's really standing in your way could actually be yourself. Thus, to get F-You Money you need to work on yourself rather than on the money.
Why I want to write this
Recently I've been told that I seem a lot less stressed, and that I seem to have a far greater balance between my life, my personal projects, and my job.
And I agree - before anyone even brought it up I already had a sense that this was the case. A couple of signals I picked up were:
I usually wake up early but it became less of a struggle.
My weekends are more relaxed - a mix of family time, personal time, and personal project time - as opposed to stressing about the upcoming week.
I'm working out more.
I'm more focused in all areas of life.
And the interesting thing is I seem to be doing a lot better at my job.
I'm going to say a part of this comes from my recent experience in going for a tough interview, getting the job offer at £76k a year, and then turning it down after calculating the real value of my current job.
But another part of it also comes from attaining some degree of F-You money.
It got me thinking about the meaning of F-You Money because it's not like I suddenly got a windfall, hit a monetary milestone, or have reached financial independence.
Yet somehow I feel like I have more than I ever did before.
The real goal of financial independence
The term "financial independence" seems to put a heavy emphasis on one thing - a potentially far away number that means you no longer need to work for money.
There's also a natural tendency to think that F-You Money is linked to that amount where you no longer need to work for money.
The problem with this line of thought is that it diminishes the quality of all the time and life between now and reaching that number - because you're so eager to get there that you start to neglect the present.
But if we take a step back - the goal of financial independence isn't actually a particular number or even the ability to never need to work again.
It's actually the ability to strike a perfect balance between work and life as you see fit - and it just so happens in some cases that the balance is 0% work, 100% life.
But not for everyone.
Originally I assumed that the more financial wealth I built up, the less I would care about work and shift my focus towards enjoying a life of freedom instead. And indeed this was the case at first - but the shift caused many negative feelings.
In reality the more wealth I build, the more productive I seem to be becoming.
I'm getting more work done - yet I have more F-You Money and more financial independence than I ever did before.
And my reason for this is because I'm working on the real goal - the perfect work life balance, and not the money.
What is and isn't F-You Money
F-You Money is hard to quantify because it's going to be a different number for everyone, just like everyone's number for financial independence is going to be slightly different.
So instead - it's better to describe it in terms of behaviours.
If you can't flip your office desk and walk out while flipping everyone off, you don't have "F-You Money".
This is a tempting thought but that's probably the wrong way to think about it.
In fact, I would say it's stressful to think of it that way.
This is because you're probably not going to be able to behave in that manner and whenever something irks you at work, you're going to be extra pissed off that you can't respond in the way you want.
The worst thing about this is that you - often without realising - start to overcompensate for this lack of ability in other ways that cause you even more problems. You become more conflictive, less co-operative, and overall less pleasant as a person.
Eventually you become the person who everyone feels has some "personal issues".
A better way - in my opinion - is to think of it as the ability to take back control over the seemingly minor things in your work.
Being someone who has worked in the management consulting industry for most of my professional decade I got accustomed to three unhealthy behaviours - short lunches scoffed down at the desk, being stuck in the office late into the evening, and not having time for anything else besides work.
Since you're reading my blog I'm certain you can relate - even if we don't work in the same field.
So here are three simple behaviours in response that could define having F-You Money.
Take your lunch break in full and actually disconnect from your work while eating it.
Leave the office on time - there will always be more work to do.
Get involved with, and dedicate yourself to, other non-work related things that you find meaningful.
You might be wondering "how does this represent having F-You Money?" - well because for me, when I had the unhealthy behaviours described, it was because I was purely chasing the money.
You only chase the money when you don't have F-You Money - right?
Now obviously simply doing these things is, most likely, not enough to determine that you have F-You Money, and you're able to do it without having any financial stability at all.
Nothing is stopping you from simply getting up and walking out the door at 5:30PM everyday without a care in the world.
But when you're able to start doing it without any underlying feelings of doubt or uncertainty you can be more certain that you've gained more control over your time. This is what having F-You Money gives you.
How you work on getting F-You money
Ultimately you are the only one who can decide if you have F-You Money. You could have over ten million in the bank or in investments yet still be trapped somehow.
But getting started and working on it is something that's actually really basic.
For all the opinions I give around approaching life and doing some self-discovery, there is no avoiding the fact that F-You Money is first rooted in the financial realm.
So start with getting your budget in order so that you have a solid foundation to work off of.
Then, build your emergency fund.
Finally, when you invest or make big financial moves such as buying property - don't over extend or over-leverage yourself.
I told you it was basic - and I'm sure there are no surprises there. But let's move onto some of the more philosophical things.
Budgeting and frugality in the name of reaching financial independence is a tough balancing act - and it's easy to fall foul on either side.
Spending too much is a bad thing - but so is saving too much.
When your approach is out of balance you will find it difficult to have that inner stability which gives you the confidence to adopt healthier behaviours to regain control.
Think back to the rushed lunch or staying late in the office and why a person would do that.
Probably in the hopes of more money right?
And the source of this is that desire to save even more because a higher savings rate will bring the early retirement date forward.
Now I'm not saying there isn't any merit in putting in the effort or having a drive to raise that savings rate - there is - but there comes a point where it can go too far and start damaging your chances of financial independence.
There'll be impatience. Frustration. Burn out.
And you start to loathe how everyone else around you seems to be content with their current situation - dependent.
The irony is that while you're probably among those with the most "financial stability" - everyone seems to spend freely, has little saved up, and has debt - you seem to have the least control.
Because you haven't found your balance, which makes it harder for you to get F-You money.
Using F-You Money as a platform
That being said, with your hard work and commitment you will eventually get some degree of F-You Money.
The approach doesn't have to be how I have described it because you're going to have your own experiences and lessons - but regardless of the method, you'll get there.
When you do - don't stop.
F-You Money can be the platform for you to go on and build the perfect work life balance for yourself - the thing that I believe is the real goal of financial independence.
Here's why -
When you have F-You Money you are inherently less concerned about the money, which then liberates you to set better boundaries between work and life.
You're not going to work over lunch, you're not going to stay late, and you're going to commit more time to things that you're passionate about.
Now it's natural to assume that not working over lunch and not staying late is going to result in less work done - but this isn't necessarily true.
When you're bound by the money you may feel uncomfortable or unable to refuse some of the extra work and tasks that people simply toss over the fence to you - the stuff that distracts you from the work you're actually accountable for.
You attend meetings, you pick up that report, you help find some information - basically you're being helpful even though it's not your job.
After all - you might need a favour in return one day - or a good word for that bonus.
But when you have F-You Money, you're able to regain more of your time and redirect your focus onto your own work instead.
You might work on less things, but you get more meaningful work done.
And guess what... this is the productivity that actually gives you a better chance at that bonus, raise, or promotion.
With better boundaries you also start to experience the positives in your personal life.
You're more refreshed after lunch since you actually took a break and stepped away from the desk, meaning you're a little less drained after work.
And you're stressing less in the evenings or on the weekend about work - allowing you to disconnect and enjoy other things in life be it time with the family, on a hobby, or just relaxing in general.
Funnily enough, a happier personal life can lead to better performance in your professional life.
Can you see how using F-You Money as a platform can become a self-building thing?
Let's go back to that scene where you flip the office desk and walk out while flipping everyone off.
Who's the real "antagonist" against you here?
When I was still having this fantasy - back when I had less matured thoughts around this - my answer would've been "the boss" or "everyone else in the office".
But as I pondered why I had such a fantasy I started to come to some realisations.
I hated being who I was, with so little freedom.
I felt weak and insecure.
I disdained the fact that I was so willing to take on the extra work loads while other people seemed to get away with slacking off.
In the end I came to only one conclusion.
It was never the boss, or the colleagues.
The antagonist was me.
This was the moment where I started to get to work - on myself - and when that happened I finally started getting some real F-You Money.