I first encountered "Fuck you" as a quantification of money in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. Its exact amount depends on your age, current economic conditions, the cost of your desired lifestyle in your preferred location, and other factors. The name derives from the fact that once you have acquired the appropriate amount, you can tell your boss, your investors, your creditors, anybody, "Fuck you!"

Interestingly, the amount is not as large as you might expect. Until very recently, we were accustomed to hearing Cinderella stories about high school dropouts who start web companies which they sell to well-heeled investors after a year or two, for tens of millions of dollars. And, of course, athletes have been making news for their lucrative contracts for years. Against this backdrop, one might assume that five or ten million dollars wouldn't come close to fuck you money, but one would very likely be wrong.

Consider the pauper with just two million dollars in the bank. Granted, he'd probably have to have made four or five million in order to have two left after taxes, but let's say he's done it. He could invest it in tax-free municipal bonds at 3 or 4 percent and have $60,000 to $80,000 income after taxes, for life. That's comparable to a salary of $100,000 or $150,000, which is easily livable, even in New York or Los Angeles, and downright plush in many places. And you don't have to lift a finger -- you don't even have to get out of bed!

"Wait," you say, "I want a couple of Ferraris, a house in Malibu, and tickets to the opera in Milan every other weekend." Well, so do I, but neither of us will get it by working for The Man. I believe there are only a few ways to get the kind of money you need to have in order to buy a $200,000 car, or a $5,000,000 house, or to support a $12,000-a-month habit, and none of them have much to do with showing up at an office for forty hours a week.

To really make good, you must be a residual claimant in some enterprise -- one of the guys who splits the profits after the suppliers and wage slaves are paid. Sure, sometimes they don't make any money, or they lose some, or even go broke (while the slaves, bless their hearts, still take home whatever the IRS leaves of their $5,000 per month). But when the company's sales are up because the slaves are doing their jobs marginally well, who do you think is laughing all the way to the bank?

The U.S. economy has been honed with diabolical cleverness to tease citizens into coveting the unattainable Ferraris, beachfront properties, and other baubles of star actors, athletes, and lottery winners; while making it easy to acquire the booby prizes -- big-screen TVs and SUVs -- on credit that absorbs their savings and makes sure they won't be able to say "Fuck you" to their bosses in this life.

You should save, not for your retirement, but so that you can afford to risk your savings on your enterprise, the one from which you pocket the profits. Let's face it, if you end up relying on your IRA for your retirement, with or without Social Security, you're deeply fucked.


cgori notes that I haven't accounted for inflation, and suggests that the minimum bound for fuck you money is more like $4,000,000 in the bank. It's true that I ignored inflation, and obviously, when it comes to money in the bank, the more the merrier. I don't have $2 million in the bank yet, let alone $4 million, so I can't comment with any more authority than (I expect) cgori can.

Still, my point is that you don't have to be richer than God, or even Bill Gates. A few million in the bank, and you can live like you do now, but without the soul-killing grind for The Man.

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