When it comes to FU money, one thing is pretty clear – it’s great to have it. There is awesome comfort in knowing that if things get bad enough at work, you can give your job the good ol’-fashioned FU and blissfully live off of your stash of cash for a while…or hell, even just retire.
But what happens when we add some grammar into the mix? FU money gives us the freedom and flexibility to up-and-quit virtually anything we do for a living with the knowledge that our savings will support us. However, placing an adorable little comma after the FU part changes the meaning of the phrase entirely. Let’s examine the difference. It’s fun.
FU money vs FU, money
I like to use descriptors traditionally used for food to describe every day, non-food related topics, and this one is no different. FU money is delicious. It’s like mashed potatoes and gravy, or those slightly burnt (only slightly!) portions of pie crust. It may not be gourmet, but it’s comfort food to the max.
It means you can effectively put a stop to full-time income immediately and still remain financially independent, at least for a while. It doesn’t necessarily mean or imply that you can flat out retire.
But the term “FU, money” (with a comma) changes the meaning to something more akin to, I don’t know, perhaps a gourmet meal of the best damn piece of steak/fish that you’ve ever had, coupled with the creamiest risotto and topped with those creepy edible flowers – pretty much every night. It also means we can summarily curse at our money because we have so much of it relative to our needs. It is one step up from FU money.
FU, money is our way of expressing control over our financial life rather than the other way around. After all, it’s better than saying F ME, money. Too many people have fallen into the trap of letting their money control their very livelihoods. Those who have F ME, money often do not have FU money. They are eating dusty rocks every night for dinner, not gravy-soaked mashed potatoes. Even stale bread would taste better.
In other words:
FU money = Fuck off, Mr. Boss. I’m done here!
FU, money = Fuck you, money. You don’t control me.
F ME, money = I’m fucked.
How FU money works
Deceptively, FU money typically amounts to much less than people may think. If we live below our means, it is relatively easy to accumulate FU money. And remember, FU money is about financial independence for a period of time, not necessarily enough for the rest of our lives. FU money for six months is a remarkable achievement for most people.
Check out this Quora discussion on what FU money is. It’s a fun read, and a couple quotes immediately jump out at me.
Michael Wolfe said “The minimum for f–k you money is enough that you will never have to work again but with a reasonable lifestyle: nice house, health care, vacations, enough to send your kids to good schools, etc.”
Though I disagree with the “never have to work again” part, I do agree with the general sentiment.
Jon Mertz writes “When you need to walk away from a company, this pot of money provides a basis to make a transition to a new one.”
To me, Jon’s comment hits the nail squarely on its head. Please note that the new “job” could be retirement instead of another company.
How FU, money works
This is the category designed for financial badasses, where money is so immaterial relative to your lifestyle that you don’t give it a lot of thought. Do note, however, the “relative to your lifestyle” part. FU, money group participants need not be multimillionaires. Instead, it simply requires a large enough net worth and a frugal enough lifestyle to enable living for several years at a time without checking the ol’ investment accounts.
Basically, you have money figured out to the point where you’ve effectively made it your bitch. Your money works for you. Your passive income streams are solid and defined. Your lifestyle is frugal and well below your means. You are not super wealthy, but you also don’t worry about money – not for a second.
You are a financial badass and you curse at your money. Look at you, you badass.
How F ME, money works
F ME, money is not good money. It means that money controls your life. It probably means that you are living paycheck-to-paycheck and beholden to a full-time job in order to maintain your lifestyle.
Keep in mind that the large majority of us start out with F ME, money. As youngsters fresh out of high school or college, we begin our accumulation phase without a lot of money and, thus, we are forced into the position of required full-time work even if we think our boss is a prick. We can find other work, but our ability to rage-quit by spitting obscenities as we gracefully walk out the door to the envy of our co-workers like a fucking superhero isn’t quite there yet. Money can easily fuck us at this stage.
But the goal is to, over the years, acquire enough wealth that our money slowly transitions from F ME, money to FU money and, if we are especially frugal, FU, money. It requires living sensibly.
For the record, my wife and I are squarely in the FU money category, though our pen is gracefully poised and ready to mark the comma.
What about you? Which category do you fall into, and how far do you think you are from reaching the next level?
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.