I’m fascinated by “fuck you money”, or as some call it, “FU you money.”
I remember the first time I heard the term was early in my career. It was not used in the way many individuals use it today.
It was used in the context of having enough assets under management as a financial firm to tell other large institutions to go fuck themselves.
As companies get larger, they too have fuck you money. Just look at any large bank or corporation. They routinely tell governments, individuals, and the environment to fuck themselves.
Pay the fine. Move on. Rinse. Repeat.
It’s a constant fuck you.
But, what about for individuals?
What is fuck you money in the context of individuals?
For most people, it means enough money to never need to work again, or as I like to call it, financially independent. However, there are different levels of fuck you money.
It isn’t necessarily having enough money to never need to work again.
Fuck you money could mean having a few weeks or months off of work. It could mean starting a business. It could mean going back to school.
It could mean many things to different people.
Let’s look more at what fuck you money is, the different levels, and how to calculate your fuck you money number.
What is Fuck You Money?
If you are not one for reading, this video sums it up nicely.
Fuck you money is having enough to figuratively – or literally – say “fuck you” to someone.
Unhappy at your job? “Fuck you, I quit.”
Annoyed by a client? “Fuck you, you are no longer a client.”
Angry at a colleague? “Fuck you, I’m done.”
Get the picture?
It’s having enough money to not care. It’s having enough that you don’t have to take problem clients, stay in a bad job, or work with people with whom you do not get along.
Fuck you money provides flexibility. It allows you to live the life you want and take risks. It frees you from being a hostage to an individual or system that keeps you down.
Now, the ironic part of fuck you money is that once you have it, you usually don’t say fuck you to someone.
It’s really about the option to say it. Once you have the option, you normally don’t.
You normally surround yourself with people you want to be around and avoid the people who make you want to say fuck you.
While fuck you money allows you to say fuck you to someone, another way to think about it is having enough to live, talk, and be the person you want to be without worrying about how you will earn money.
Even though many people equate fuck you money to financial independence, I’d argue there are at least three different levels of fuck you money.
Fuck You Money: Each Level Explained
Fuck you money isn’t simply financial independence. It’s also freedom along the road to financial independence.
Level 1: Temporary and Short-Term
Level 1 of fuck you money is having enough to say fuck you once or twice. You can’t say it constantly because you don’t have enough money to live until you die without earning income.
Level 1 might be having 6-12 months of living expenses in cash, perhaps less if you are a big risk-taker.
If you are annoyed at your boss, you could say fuck you and walk out. You wouldn’t be panicking because you don’t have an immediate need for money like someone who had no emergency fund.
It might not be the wisest choice to say fuck you because you might need a recommendation or that boss could make your life difficult in that industry, but you technically could say it and be okay for a few months.
If you are self-employed, it could mean not taking on every client who walks through the door.
I’ve seen many businesses accept any client in their early stages because they needed the revenue. Even if the owner had a sinking feeling in their gut that the client would be annoying, rude, and condescending, they still took them, and almost always regretted it.
Level 1 fuck you money could mean passing on that client to wait for the next good client.
In level 1, fuck you money is about flexibility and buying time until you can earn money again. You have to be selective in your fuck yous because you don’t have an unlimited amount.
Level 2: Temporary and Medium-Term
Level 2 of fuck you money is having enough to say fuck you for longer. It’s still not permanent. You can’t go around saying fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you to everyone.
But, you can say it more than once or twice.
In level 2, you might have 1 to 5 years of living expenses in cash.
Technically, you could have more than 5 years and less than your financial independence number, but I find most people can hardly conceptualize five years of fuck you money.
Level 2 of fuck you money buys you time. It buys you a sabbatical. It buys you a breather, time to unwind, destress, and decide what is next.
When people reach level 2 of fuck you money, you might see them transition to a new career, volunteer, start a business, become a stay-at-home parent, or go back to school.
Level 2 is often where the big life changes happen.
I love level 2 because it’s where people do soul searching. After spending years, often in a corporate soul-sucking job, people decide to find a job that isn’t soul-sucking and start to prioritize what matters most.
Again, fuck you money is about flexibility and freedom. It’s nearly impossible to dream big if you never have the space, time, and money to figure out what comes after actually saying fuck you to a person or the situation.
Level 2 of fuck you money often means trying to find a way to make money that works better on your terms. You can say fuck you to quite a few people on the journey to find it.
Level 3: Permanent – Financial Independence
Level 3 of fuck you money is what most people think of when they dream of fuck you money – financial independence.
Never needing to work again.
I’ve spent most of my career working with people who are close to or already have fuck you money.
Now, to be clear, I’ve never heard any of them refer to the amount of money they have as fuck you money. Once you have it, your desire to say fuck you seems to disappear.
That’s the funny thing about fuck you money.
Once you have it, there are so many other things to enjoy and say yes to that you don’t take the time to surround yourself around anybody who needs a good “fuck you!”.
Level 3 of fuck you money is having an unlimited box of fuck yous. You could say fuck you for the rest of your life, and you’d be okay.
If you actually did it, most people would hate you, and you would have a hard time getting service anywhere, but you could probably get by okay.
Level 3 of fuck you money means working the job you want, working with the clients you want, working around the people you want, spending time the way you want, standing up for what you believe in, and not worrying about how your actions will be perceived or the backlash from others.
It means doing what you want when you want.
How to Calculate Your Fuck You Money Number
Now that you know the levels of fuck you money, how do you calculate your level and how much you need for level 3?
Level 1 Calculation
Level 1 is easy to calculate. If you decide 6 months of living expenses in cash is enough to take some time for yourself, multiply your living expenses by 6.
For example, if you spend $5,000 per month, your fuck you money number for level 1 would be $30,000.
That should be enough to say fuck you once or twice and still feel okay.
I’m not advocating for actually saying fuck you, but it should give you the flexibility to walk away from a crappy situation or job.
Level 2 Calculation
Level 2 is fairly easy to calculate, but hard to feel.
What I mean by that is you can calculate your number, but taking action on it is tough. Some people know they have enough to make a change, but fear making a change. They stay on their existing path even though they could do something different and don’t love the current path.
For instance, if your living expenses are $5,000 per month, your fuck you money number for level 2 would be $60,000 to $300,000.
It doesn’t necessarily mean in cash. It could be in a brokerage account or even a retirement account if you don’t mind possibly having a 10% penalty on withdrawals. The key is to align the money with the time frame you plan on using it, which means if you are truly going to do something different, you may want the money more conservatively invested in case you need to use it.
The problem and advantage with level 2 fuck you money is you have more flexibility than you have ever felt. When you have fewer options, it’s easier to make a decision.
Remember the last time you were at a restaurant with a big menu. It’s tough making a choice. Do you go with the steak salad to be healthier? Do you indulge and get pizza? Do you select the chicken? It’s boring, but it sounds good.
When you have a wide variety, choosing can be difficult.
Contrast that to dining at a pub.
Do you want the hamburger, chicken strips, or fish and chips?
See? It’s easier.
No decision paralysis. No wondering if one option is much better than the other. It’s also less expensive, so if you picked the wrong thing, you can choose differently next time.
Many people reach level 2 fuck you money and never realize it. Or, if they do, they choose the safest route with the most certainty. I don’t blame them.
The path of least resistance is always tempting and one I’ve taken frequently.
Level 2 fuck you money is often accompanied by phrases such as:
- I don’t want to take a step backward.
- I’m earning too much to quit.
- I’d really like to do something different, but I can’t now.
- If I only work a few more years, I’ll be set.
- I have stock vesting. I’d leave too much money on the table if I quit.
It’s hard to walk away from money. It’s challenging to rewrite your identity without a corporate title or paycheck. It’s difficult to step back and just be for some time.
Some people want to live through level 2 fuck you money and never say fuck you. That’s okay.
One aspect of the pandemic I’ve enjoyed is seeing more people realize they are in level 2 and make a beautiful life change – sometimes with a loud FUCK YOU and sometimes with no words at all.
Level 3 Calculation
This is the most complicated calculation to make, but there are rules of thumb.
Most people will say if you have 25 times your living expenses, you are financially independent, meaning you are in level 3 of fuck you money.
I tend to be more conservative and personally am aiming for 30 times my living expenses.
For example, if you want to spend $100,000 per year, traditional rules of thumb would say you need about $2,500,000 invested. I personally want $3,000,000 in that scenario to be more conservative.
Please keep in mind that these are general rules of thumb. It’s best to consult with a financial planner or do your own calculations estimating your income and expenses throughout life.
Level 3 of fuck you money is often a scary proposition. People spend their entire lives saving, and then are told they can then spend from their assets and likely never need to work for income again.
Level 3 is a good place to be.
It means the ultimate flexibility. Work because you want to work. Only build relationships with clients you want in your life. Choose projects that interest you – not because they pay more.
Level 3 is different than the other levels because the changes you make don’t need to be temporary. There is no wondering if things will work out. If you are unhappy, you get to make a change without worrying about what it means for you a few years or a decade from now.
Level 3 fuck you money is what most people are hoping to achieve.
Summary – Final Thoughts
Fuck you money, particularly lower levels of fuck you money, can be transformational.
The first time you feel it, you know it.
It’s a little weight off your back, a little tenseness out of your shoulders, and a little more air in your breath.
One could make the case for other levels of fuck you money. The richest people in the world certainly can say fuck you a little differently than I can.
I’d argue it doesn’t matter much.
Some people have a level 3 fuck you money number of $825,000. Others need $3,000,000. Some need $10,000,000+.
In every situation, each person has the autonomy, independence, and confidence to say fuck you the way they want.
That’s what is important.
They are okay if it doesn’t include a “fuck you, I’m going to the moon on my spaceship” level of money.
What’s your fuck you number?