The Retirement Hypothetical

The Retirement Hypothetical post image

Many look at digital nomads as entrepreneurish types on a sabbatical from real life. In my mind, however, the fundamentals of the digital nomad movement– earning back your time and mobility first– form the bedrock of a wealth script. I suppose that’s part of the reason I was never so worried about the coconut cash conundrum. Being ambitious doesn’t need to mean going fast or placing your bets now, or even having a clear answer as to where the money is going to come from. It can actually look like the opposite. (Slow business movement anyone?)

With wealth scripts the desired outcome (wealth, mobility, and time freedom) are the same, but the approaches can vary radically. Let’s take a look at one I was brought up on in the movies:

FU Money

“F*ck you money” says the way to get lifestyle freedom— to have a wealth of time and mobility— is to go hard at a high-upside career for 5-20 years and, depending on your luck and skill, walk with enough cash that you can live off of the residual investment income.

In other words, you build your foundation with money, then you buy your time and mobility.

F*ck you money then depends on two predictions. First, that the career you’ve selected will continue to have the types of returns it’s seen historically for people of your caliber (and that you’ll realize those returns) and second, that the investment vehicles you select after you get your FU money will return enough income to live off of. If you are wrong in your predictions, the risk you will be exposed to is catastrophic.

Bud looking good and going after his FU money.

Bud looking good and going after his FU money in the classic Wall Street.

A related script is “gold watch” script— working a career over a long term. It isn’t actually so dissimilar from FU money in the assumptions it has at it’s core. In a good case scenario, you’ll spend a lot of time practicing something like dentistry, and then switch gears later in life to become a savvy investor. No thanks!

An alternative – FU Lifestyle

FU lifestyle strategy depends on a foundation of time. If you have enough time— to educate yourself, to build— you’ll be able to build as much currency and mobility on that fundamental foundation as you wish.

Following the f*ck you lifestyle script is simple (and fun!)– there’s only two rules (both of which will be represented by the middle fingers of cute kids):

FU Principle #1

FU Principle #1

#1: Optimize your life to maximize your energy on your enterprising craft. “Enterprising craft” might be taking the hard road to 10,000 hours in any direction that is consistently valuable to others. In order to optimize time, you’ll want to consider paying down your debt, “baselining” your expenses, and taking on apprenticeships that teach you important information and build you relationships on terms agreeable to you (rather than put yourself into profitable but inflexible career tracks).

FU Principle #2

FU Principle #2

#2: Survive. Stay in the game for a decade or more, making the same kind of time investment as your FU money counterpart, but spending it solely focused on building and understanding opportunities.

The two predictions at the core of FU lifestyle script are firstly that you will eventually help to generate one or many opportunities that has the potential bring you wealth, and secondly that you will be able to capitalize on those opportunity when they arise.

Both strategies involve presumptions and risk of course. In FU money you are putting your chips into an industry, a company, a path, very early in the game. In FU lifestyle, you are waiting to place a bet and assuming a good one will come your way.

F*ck you lifestyle requires a sort of conceptual patience and comfort with uncertainty that is not required in either F*ck you money or gold watch scripts. F*ck you lifestyle requires one to trust in a process that supplies no immediate answers to the wealth problem. FU moneyers and gold watchers “know what’s going to happen” years in advance.

FU Money  vs. FU Lifestyle

“FU lifestylers” have many other assurances not afforded to those who choose “FU money”

  1. If you fail at FU lifestyle, you were, at a minimum, spending your time on projects that were interesting to you.
  2. The fundamental posture of “FU lifestyle” is one of “flying your middle finger” rather than “kissing ass until you can fly a middle finger.”
  3. Your investment of time in a craft and projects becomes an opportunity for compounding effects rather than doing one thing, say trading bonds, so you can one day do something completely different.
  4. Although everything in life is a tradeoff, it seems that those pursuing FU money scripts are more susceptible to sunk cost fallacy.
  5. In a word– FU lifestyle is Antifragile.

I’m not totally against an FU money script nor do I think this distinction is super clean. I love kicking around ideas like this, I always appreciate your thoughts.

FU lifestyle appeals to my business partner and I in part because we have builder personalities. We’d rather captain our own DIY canoe than join the Navy and captain a battleship.

Haterz gonna hate.

Haterz gonna hate.

Look at that thing go!




Published on 06.24.14
  • I am working at a FU Lifestyle leading to FU Money. :)

    When I chased the cash it never worked out, now I am actually building something of substance and the cash is starting (just starting mind you) to come in.

  • TJ

    I watched a lot of my classmates chase after FU money on Wall Street only to watch their paper wealth disappear overnight in the financial crisis. Too many eggs in one basket and it’s easy to get addicted to that high consumption lifestyle.

  • Love it. I think this is one of the strongest points for me: “If you fail at FU lifestyle, you were, at a minimum, spending your time on projects that were interesting to you.”

    There’s a good bit of uncertainty in FU money too. Could lose your nest egg in a stock market crash, could lose that high-paying job, or you could die before you reach the FU point. But people don’t think much about it – sort of like how driving is far riskier than flying, statistically, yet many more people fear flying than fear driving.

    The other risk with FU money is that although there are certainly some who have the discipline to be able to minimize and save 75% of that fat paycheck for years on end… I think many – probably especially in the U.S. – fall prey to the temptation of upleveling their lifestyle, thus pushing back the retirement point.

  • Two Separate Thoughts

    1. Sometimes I wonder if going after FU money isn’t just the societally acceptable excuse Investment Banking types give for playing in fields where they can satisfy their will-to-power desires.

    A lot of the guys I know playing those games aren’t schlubs just trying to hack it out and get their FU Money and retirement – they’re cold-hearted killers and barring dictatorship and fiefdom creation, many FU money fields (investment banking for example) are great places to play if you’re absorbed in mastering societal level power dynamics.

    2. “The two predictions at the core of FU lifestyle script are firstly that you will eventually help to generate one or many opportunities that has the potential bring you wealth, and secondly that you will be able to capitalize on those opportunity when they arise.”

    I would define this is as patience+platform. or longball+optionality. Your 10k hours towards your craft increases your platform/optionality making you Antifragile to unforeseeable shifts that are going to come (given a long enough time horizon).

  • Adrijus Guscia

    For some reason this reminded me of one of the old LBP episodes and question ”If you lost everything now, how long would it take you to get back to full-time income level (at least)?” If that period of time is short, think few less than 3 months, that could be THE real benefit of the Entrepreneurship (skills, relationships and marketing acumen collected), than you have what could be called ”FU skills”… Maybe it beats both, FU Money and FU Lifestyle..

  • Love this article…also worth pondering about the end goal – both circumstances are predicated on the idea that there is an endpoint promised land where you’ll be completely 100% satisfied and then you can stop (deferred retirement style concept)…that everything you do is a means to this end but in reality there probably is no endpoint.

    I think we all like to believe there is an endpoint because we’ve been trained by stories where in a good story there is an ending where all crisis and conflicts are wrapped up nicely but in life, death is the ending of your own story

  • I think there’s a lead time on subscribing to either script that’s missing from the comparison here.

    The FU-Money script first and foremost depends on getting hired at the right bank, in the right role, and at the right time. Even within the industry there are different tiers of banks (i.e. Goldman vs. HSBC) and very few client-facing jobs that truly have access to that type of FU-compensation.

    Granted it is a very cyclical industry, but timing luck and the hiring cycle is virtually impossible when tens and thousands of college/MBA grads are also going for the same positions every year with so few to go around – not to mention those in-between jobs with more connections and experience.

    In an FU-Lifestyle there are many more elements under your control and opportunities you can capitalize on or proactively create. And all you need to get started today is a cold call. Yeah buddy!

  • Great article, Dan.

    I actually went for a hybrid approach. I got a career in something that I enjoy (computer programming) but I’ve worked at normal jobs (which I don’t enjoy) to build my FU money. I’ve kept my expenses low and quickly built up enough FU money to cover my essential expenses for the rest of my life, hopefully.

    Along the way, I’ve created some side hustles (utilizing my computer programming skills) that will fund my discretionary spending and I will continue to work on these projects after I leave my full-time job next month (thus transitioning into FU lifestyle).

    The FU money I built up will make the FU lifestyle aspect of my journey less risky (since my essential expenses will be covered, I don’t have to worry as much about your #2 rule of FU lifestyle…surviving) and the fact that I’ve been side hustling along the way will mean that I hopefully won’t be starting my FU lifestyle journey from scratch.

    I could keep doing what I’m doing for another few years to build up my FU money so that even my discretionary expenses are covered but I’d rather step away earlier and maintain some monetary motivation to keep working on personal projects (plus, I can’t let you FU lifestyle guys have all the fun :) ).

  • Brian

    I dig the coinage of the “FU Lifestyle.” For this generation that’s pretty disillusioned with the lifestyle our parents led and the way their retirement is shaping up, it helps to keep the right end goal in mind. Different for everyone, of course, but keeping the big picture in mind is huge to avoid wasting huge parts of your life on things you don’t like, e.g. “suddenly I woke up and it was 30 years later…”

  • great point, there’s a line of thinking that goes the nature of rationality is to finish off narratives even if the data isn’t there.. our brain loves shortcuts, all types of them, even when they are absurd…

  • that’s a great point, this is precisely the kind of mindset and skillset supported by an FU lifestyle, I’m glad there’s more and more nomenclature popping up around these topics (and the stories of entrepreneurs who’ve done it) so folks making life decisions can properly value the paths they choose.

  • good point there, I like “lifestyle lead time.” (LLT) as a characteristic of each script!

  • cheers Brian! Yeah that’s a good point that anecdotally at least I’m seeing a lot less than stunning retirement prospects, or none at all.

  • haha I hope that you don’t!!! can’t argue with a career that pays well and helps you build competence in something that will continue to be relevant in your future ventures…. in particular if you are good with loot. best of luck with your ventures!

  • Adrijus Guscia

    Good, seeing this more clearly..

    Looking forward to more stuff like this. :)

  • me too man!

  • Regarding #1 that’s pretty interesting. I remember being struck that Michael Lewis was surprised that Liar’s Poker, which described how horrible wall street firms behaved, actually inspired tons of young males to flock to wall street to attempt similar fortune. That particular one was actually tough to swallow– so you met a bunch of pirates and walked after a few years with 100’s of thousands. Hm……

    I like your frame up of #2, I think that’s exactly what I was going for. Once you can visualize it I feel so at home it it, but I can remember a version of myself that wasn’t in a position to believe it.

  • yeah really that point could have been the whole thing… i guess the pesky business of making a living keeps rearing it’s head.

    no question regarding FU money, very common for those to get caught up in the culture of FU money which is often blowing it (or blow!) :P

  • so many stories…..

  • yeah buddy!!!!!

  • Ben Bowen

    Dan, which one do you think leads to more growth? One of the things I see for either is the possibility of becoming what I call Comfortably Profitable: where you don’t grow as much as you could. A state that is dangerous personally and professionally.

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