F*ck You Money

We’ve all probably had the dream — hit the lottery, have enough money (that your funds would never run out), and you can just say “f*ck you” to your crappy boss and crappy job, and finally do what you’ve wanted to do in life— take photos for the rest of your life, travel, and see the world.

“You are rich if and only if the money you refuse tastes better than the money you accept” – Nassim Taleb

What is “fuck you” money?

Detroit, 2014
Detroit, 2014

I first heard the concept of “fuck you money” from the philosopher Nassim Taleb (who was once a former trader). The concept is to have enough money to say f*ck you to your boss, and to just do what you want in life.

The way I see it, “fuck you money” is a bit different. For me, it is saying “fuck you” to money itself. To not become the slave to money. To know that you need some money to survive, but realizing that no matter how much money you have, you will never have enough.

What do we not need money for?

“Don’t stare at money too long, it’s Medusa.” – Kanye West

For me, this is what I need money for:

  • Pay the rent
  • Pay for coffee/food
  • Pay for transportation/living expenses

This is what I do not need money for:

  • Buying a fancy car, camera, house
  • Living a “luxury” lifestyle
  • Using money to prop up my self-esteem

Am I already too rich?

“How do you know that you don’t have too much money already?” – Seneca

For my entire life, I always thought that I didn’t have enough money. I didn’t have enough money to pursue my passions. I didn’t have enough money to travel. I didn’t have enough money to buy a “good enough” camera to become a great photographer.

I thought this a lot when I was working in LA, earning $40,000 a year out of college. Granted, living expenses in LA are high — but honestly, looking back, I have enough money to really say “fuck you” to money.

I already had a digital camera that was more than capable. I already had a laptop. I already had an internet connection. Sure I was stuck in my day-job/office job — but I still had lots of time and opportunities to do creative work. To do work in the morning before going into work, to take photos during my lunch break, and to take photos after work. To write when I wasn’t in the office — at my house, or on the weekends.

I used to blame my job and not having enough money for my lack of happiness and fulfillment in life.

But in reality, the problem was myself. The problem was my mind-set. The problem was that I thought I didn’t have “enough.” But in reality — I had more than enough. As Seneca said over 2,000 years ago — “how do you know that you don’t have too much already?”

Abundance weakens us

In today’s world, we live in a world of abundance. We have too much. We have too much stuff (so we rent storage lockers). We have too many cameras (we get stressed out which camera to shoot with everyday). We have too many devices (we don’t know which device to use to check Facebook). We have too many options, stress, and anxiety.

Why do we think more? Why do we think we don’t have “enough?”

What do you really want from life?

If you have enough to pay your bills and basic expenses, and not live in fear of not being able to pay the bills — you have “fuck you” money. You don’t need $10 million dollars. You already have enough money.

What do you really want out of life? Some ideas:

1. To take more photos

A lot of us blame our jobs for not having enough time to make photos. But in reality (at least based on my personal experiences), now that I don’t have a “day job” anymore — I don’t take any more photos now (than when I had a 9-5 office job).

You can be a great photographer while still holding down the 9-5 grind. You can take photos before work, during lunch, during breaks, and after work. You can shoot on the weekends, and when on holiday. You can take photos when you go out with your friends in the evening, or even take photos of your family members in the home.

You don’t need more money to take more photos.

2. To travel more

I always thought that the more I traveled, the happier I would be. In reality, traveling hasn’t made me any happier. Sure I’ve had great experiences, met amazing people, and opened up my eyes to other cultures— but traveling didn’t fix any of my problems.

Traveling didn’t make me any less anxious about my finances and family problems. Traveling didn’t help me become more creative. Traveling didn’t help me become less envious or jealous of others more successful than me. Traveling didn’t help me make better photos.

I’ve also realized— traveling doesn’t require you to be far from home. Sometimes even a 1-hour drive can be enough to “travel” from your own neighborhood. Also as an American — I didn’t realize how many interesting cities you can travel within America, before traveling abroad. I’ve probably enjoyed going to New Orleans, Seattle, Chicago, Portland, and New York more than going to a lot of exotic countries overseas, and Western Europe.

Before you want to earn a lot of money to travel, realize you can travel close to home — try to do a 1-2 trip on the weekend. Often that is enough to refresh your spirits, and break out of your daily routine.

3. To not work anymore

This is the biggest misconception I think — we want to earn a shitload of money, so we never have to “work” again.

But it is shown that when many people retire, they get depressed. By no longer having any work to do, they don’t have any way to structure their days, their time, and their life.

The healthiest and happiest people work until they die. But “work” can include doing charity work, work for a local community center, or creative work.

If you had a shitload of money, you wouldn’t want to sit at home, watch TV, play video games, and check Facebook all day. You would rather want to do something meaningful and purposeful for your work.

What if I really hate my job?

You might have a job which you hate and abhor. You feel that your energy could be better off doing something else.

You have two options:

  1. Quit your job, and find a job that gives you more personal fulfillment.
  2. Make the best out of the job you already have. Perhaps scale back the hours you put in the office, or commit less. And use more of your free time to do your creative work.

There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to do this — just figure out what works for you. But don’t blame your job, only blame yourself.

The richer you are, the poorer you are

Often we think that if we had a bunch of money, we could finally afford to buy a BMW, to live in a big house and buy a Leica. Trust me, I know many people who have all the physical possessions in the world to make them “happy” — but they aren’t any happier than the rest of us. Many of them are even more miserable — because they compare themselves to people even richer than themselves.

How do I know that I’m not too rich?

I remember one study I read in college in one of my sociology classes — they did a study in which they polled different social classes in America (poor, working-class, and rich) and asked them: “How much more money would you need to feel secure?” All of them said that they needed to earn 25% more than they currently earned, to feel “secure.”

So trust me, no matter how much money you have, you will never feel “secure.” Even for me — I know that I already have “too much” money; yet I still worry for the future. I worry for my future family, my future kids, and my future security. But I always try to remind myself:

“Eric, don’t worry about the future. First of all, realize you have too much money. You have more than enough money. In fact, you cannot blame not having enough money for anything in your life. You have enough to pay your bills, expenses, and coffee. The only limit you put on yourself is your own mind— your own creativity, and resourcefulness. Realize that having more money will make you more complacent, and less innovative. Know that you already have all the tools at your disposal — you don’t need any more cameras, gadgets, or equipment to help you reach your potential. So don’t worry, and just get to work.”

So friend, I also encourage you — realize that you already have “fuck you money” in life— because you’re alive and well. You will always be lacking in money. But know that you don’t need more money to be more creative, and more happy.

If you’re currently living in poverty, cannot pay your bills, cannot pay rent, and constantly living in fear of creditors — this advice doesn’t apply to you. If this is your case (I know how shitty it is, because this is how I grew up) figure out ways to cut your expenses, and earn more money. If you’re a photographer trying to earn some more cash and trying to learn how to build more value, see my series: Photography Entrepreneurship 101 >

What if we never blamed money, but only blamed ourselves for our shortcomings? Wouldn’t that be liberating?


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