Why you need F-you money

Shortly after 9/11 my company kicked me to the curb.

Six months earlier our division president had taken me to a congratulations lunch for a record breaking year.  We were explosively growing and embarrassingly profitable.  Over a bottle of fine wine we discussed my very bright future.

It was the best job I’ve ever had.  Great team, great leadership, great fun.  Great money.  I had just cashed a bonus check for more than I had ever made in a single year before.

A year later my little girl and I were sitting on the couch watching a news broadcast.  The concerned news crew was filming people standing in a depression era style bread line.  They were, the reporter said, the newly poor suffering from job loss in the dismal economy.  I was still unemployed and licking my wounds.

“Daddy,” said my eight-year-old, “are we poor?”  She was gravely concerned.

“No,” I said, “we’re just fine.”

“But you don’t have a job,” she said.  Thinking, I’m sure, just like those poor souls on the TV.  Who even thought she knew what a job was?

‘That’s no problem, honey.  We have money that’s working for us instead.”

That’s what I said, but what I was thinking was:  This was exactly why I worked hard to be sure I had F-you money.  In fact I’d been working on it long before I heard the term.

If memory serves, it comes from James Clavell.  In his novel “Tai Pan” (highly recommended BTW) a young woman is on the quest to secure 10 million dollars.  She calls it her “F-you money,” although the F-word is spelled out in the book.  So you can look it up in case you’re wondering just what word it is.  And 10m is far more than it takes, at least for me.  http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/the-monk-and-the-minister/

I may not have known what it was called, but I knew what it was and why it is important.  There are many things money can buy, but the most valuable of all is freedom.  Freedom to do what you want and work for whom you respect.

Those who live paycheck to paycheck are slaves.  Those who carry debt are slaves with even stouter shackles.  Don’t think for the moment their masters don’t know it.

This guy, one of my favorite bloggers, even says home ownership is a form of corporate bondage.  Check out point “E.”:


I first accumulated the modest amount I needed around 1989.  Not enough to retire on perhaps, but enough to say F-you if needed.

The timing was fortunate.  I wanted to take some time off to pursue business acquisitions.  When I found myself one morning with my boss in the office hallway screaming at each other, it occurred to me perhaps the time had come.  Never did a guy more need to be told….

I may never own a Mercedes but I’ll always be able to say what needs to be said when it needs to be said.

Oh and it turned out I was unemployed for three full years after 9/11.  I’m really lousy at job hunting.

 Addendum: John Goodman on F-you money (Not work or kid friendly)

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  1. Posted June 8, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Thats a great post Jim. I’m still trying to figure out the number myself but the realization we all get as we get older and deal with real life and real happiness is that its never as high as we thought.

    Although, one story:

    Was having breakfast with someone a few months ago and he told me he had just had breakfast with Steve Schwartzman, CEO of Blackstone. Steve is, of course, a billionare. But my friend told me he was VERY UPSET. Because Sergey Brin and Larry Page had more money than him. “Those fucking kids,” he said, “deserve shit compared to me.”

    And that’s a guy who never have the magic of enough.

  2. Jess
    Posted June 9, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    hah wow look at you dad!! congrats it looks great! unfortunately i didn´t have time to read all of your posts but i did read the one about f-you money and i cant wait to see what some of your readers have to say about that topic. and the layout itself is very impressive, very proffesional. im impressed. looks like you´ve been busy while i´ve been away. can´t wait to hear all about it when i get back :) see you on friday!!

    love you


    • Posted June 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Hi Cutie….

      Great to see you here and reading this. Finally, a way to get you to listen! ;)
      Thanks for the kind words. you’ll have to keep reading now. never know when I’ll be talking about you. :)

      See you Friday. How about lunch over the weekend?

      Love Daddy

  3. Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Hey man, Great post I would be fine with $10m, I Just want to be able to wake up and have that freedom that money brings. Nothing Else. You should post more often your posts are quite addicting and you write well. Thanks.

  4. Posted May 9, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    I love your wisdom Jim. “I may never own a Mercedes but I’ll always be able to say what needs to be said when it needs to be said.” — that’s the definition of wealth in my dictionary.

  5. Corey
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Great blog, I also came via mmm and similarly enjoying your writing very much.

    One minor point (only because I love his books) – If I recall correctly I believe the term Clavell used was “screw you money” and it was in his book Noble House.

    I don’t mean to correct you, just make sure that people read the right (awesome) book. Although “Tai-pan” is a great one too.


    • Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Thanks Corey…..

      and no worries on the correction. It’s been a long time since I read Clavell and my memory’s not what it once was.

      Still, I remember enough to second your praise of his books.

    • DaveKL
      Posted February 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Not trying to correcting you. this is for someone wants to read up more on this topic. Corey is correct about the source is from Clavell’s Noble House. Casey wants her ‘screw you’ money so she can lead the life she wants and having the luxury of being able to tell anyone to “S-U” if she needs to do it. If memory serves, she think she needs about $2MUS (~in 1966, so it would be much more in 2014$).

      BTW, this is a great blog. Thanks to MMM for introducing it to me.

      • jlcollinsnh
        Posted February 12, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        No worries, DKL.

        Noble house it is.

        Glad you found your way over here!

  6. Blair
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Where would you suggest one to accumulate FU money? Me and my wife are doing a good job of saving in retirement accounts (401k and roth iras). I know I could access principle from the Roth, but how does someone determine how much to keep in taxable accounts versus retirement accounts. I have a strong desire to acquire FU money, but also want to take full advantage of tax savings etc…. Any thoughts or suggestions? love the blog.

  7. Posted March 11, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Obviously I’m going to click on a post with “F-you” in the title! I know exactly what you mean, though. I save my money for the same reasons. If I ever need to stand up and walk out, I know I can do it without feeling instantly stressed out.

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted March 11, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink


      My plan worked!

      This post has been one of the best read since the blog launched. Maybe it’s the title, maybe its just strikes a cord with people.

      Money can buy lots of things, but nothing more valuable than freedom.

      As you clearly know, it’s not about quitting your job. It’s about knowing you could.

  8. Carol
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Came to you from MMM and find myself bouncing around the site of another kindred spirit. You are a very clear communicator!

    This post really resonated. When I was in my mid-twenties and just starting my first “real” job after engineering school, I read a book during the presentation on retirement plans because I was so ignorant that it might as well have been given in Mandarin. Later my boss took me aside and introduced me to the concept of a F-you fund which he felt was in both our best interests. Someone else recommended the Vanguard website to me and thus began a lifelong self study and passion. Having that fund was empowering! I ended up leaving that very job (amicably) four years later, debt-free and with enough saved to take a short sabbatical and figure out the next phase. 20 years later I am financially independent (thanks to frugal living). Here’s hoping you’ve inspired others similarly.

    I add my voice to yours and others about the freedom that comes from following these very simple principles and am in violent agreement about the choice of Vanguard. Thank you for your sharing.

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted March 12, 2013 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      Wow, Carol!

      Great story! Congratulations!

      Thanks for your kind words and especially for adding your voice to the conversation. For those just starting out it is incredibly important to hear from those who’ve walked the path. Just knowing it can be done is huge.

      BTW, I love your phrase “in violent agreement.” I’ve never heard it before and just may have to steal it. ;)

    • Josh
      Posted September 4, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      I read your comment and found myself on a similar path. I graduated from engineering school and have been working for a little over 5 years. I’m almost debt free and in the process of figuring out that next step. I’d love to pick your brain on how you chose your next journey.
      Thank You!

  9. Posted April 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    “I may never own a Mercedes but I’ll always be able to say what needs to be said when it needs to be said.”

    This is a great perspective, thanks Jim. I think the day I realized I no longer needed the job, my value to my employer went up. Being able to say what needs to be said, tactfully of course, can add a lot of value to employers. My pay rose quite substantially in the following years partly as a result of this

    Eventually when job satisfaction wasn’t as high as it used to be, being able to get the F outta there was worth more than any number of Mercedes

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted April 6, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      Well said, Jeremy…

      …and well played. Congrats!

      I still find it remarkable that most people prefer the Mercedes to their freedom. To each his own….

      • RubenJ
        Posted September 16, 2014 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        Hello I love the blog. My second and last child is months from graduating collage and I was thinking of selling my 13 year old car with 190000 miles on it and get a Mercedes it’s my way of saying good job and my friends say buy it you deserve it. I don’t know I get a bigger joy on seeing my investment account getting to close to that 8 digit and it does not make financial sense to throw that money away on a benz I guess my car has more happy miles to travel.

        • jlcollinsnh
          Posted September 16, 2014 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

          Thank you Ruben…

          Glad to hear it.

          Getting close to 8 digits? As in 10 million? If that’s the case, and you want the Merc, go for it.

          But isn’t it funny? As we get in to the position of being able to suddenly and easily afford such things we no longer care about owning them….

  10. Posted April 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I just re-read this post, and still love it! It’s one of several that helped me get serious about early retirement / financial independence. I’m now well on my way!

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, GP-FI…


      That makes my day!

  11. Posted June 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Why can’t you write the word “fuck”?

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      I can and sometimes do.

      But I consider words like “fuck” the same as hot peppers. Great in small doses to focus the palate, but used excessively they just kill the taste buds and lose their bite.

      • Posted June 21, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, it goes from adding emphasis to completely trashy in about 5 seconds when overused.

      • Draggon
        Posted September 6, 2014 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        My first post to your blog – only to say that your reply to this simple question is stellar.

        Love what I’ve read so far. Please keep up the great work. (Funny to be posting a comment to a +3 year-old blog post, but what the F?)

        • jlcollinsnh
          Posted September 7, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

          Thank you, Draggon…

          And welcome!

          This post might be three years old, but it remains one of my most popular and the concept here is one of the core ideas underpinning this blog.

          Hope to hear more from you.

  12. Loyal Follower
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink


    Love the blog! Have been a follower since MMM introduced me to you. Today I had an experience at work that confirmed the need to have F-U money. The wife and I are well on our way to having it, but at 27 still have a few years. Truth is I could say F-U and look for another job, but I would like my current job to be my last. Tomorrow should be an interesting day.

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      Welcome LF…

      You don’t have to be all the way there for it to have a powerful positive effect. It always kind of amazes me that it’s not #1 on everybody’s wish list.

      Good luck tomorrow. I’d love to hear the story if you care to share it.

  13. Paul
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Back in my 20’s I decided that the work that I was cut out to do was not something that I could nor wanted to do my entire life. Lots of physical exertion, stress, and poor working conditions. But the money was good. My father gave me similar advice, and I followed most of it. And retired at age 49. And yes when I left the job I basically said ‘phuck you’ and walked out the door and never went back, even though 2 VP’s and the Prez of the company personally called me and asked for my return. I didn’t burn the bridge, but I essentially said what needed to be said. Right now and for the past 4 years since I walked I haven’t been happier. Sure, I could pay cash for a new Mercedes right now. But that may mean the ‘W’ word later on. People, you can do it too! Go for it!

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Well played, Paul!

      Basically everybody has a choice:

      They can buy things like the Mercedes or
      They can buy their freedom.

      This was always an easy choice for me.

  14. Posted September 19, 2013 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    We just moved and my husband’s job has been very unstable. But guess what, we are just fine and not stressed about it. It is all because of the FU money I have been saving.
    Thank you so much for everything, because this FU money was saved due to the mind opening posts from you and MMM.
    Keep up the wonderful work Jim.

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      That’s awesome, Paris! Congrats!

      It is a great feeling, isn’t it?

      F-you money not only opens up options, it makes engaging the world far less stressful.

      BTW, thank you for your recent comment here: http://jlcollinsnh.com/go-ahead-make-my-day/

  15. Posted October 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I hope to make it to having a decent F-You stash in my bank account in the next couple of years. However, we first must work to pay off my wife’s student loan debt. After that, we’ll be putting our excess mostly into savings and retirement accounts to build up that F-You stash.

  16. Peter
    Posted January 20, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jim,

    After reading through the whole series, I’m not sure I ever quite caught this:

    My first question is easy->

    Does F-you money live in taxable investments, so that it can be easily accessed?

    My second question, maybe not, and it might not even be answerable->

    Going along the lines with what Blair asked, how do you determine the ratio of taxed/tax-advantaged investments.

    Unlike Blair, I’ll be specific.

    I imagine most of you readers–as well as ERE, madfientist, and MMM readers–want to either retire early or accumulate enough F-you money to quit the grind and do what they love. Let’s say the goal is age 35. And let’s say this person can live on 30,000 a year. How much does he or she need in a taxable account to either get them to retirement or be able to safely say F-you to their own Lumbergh? And how much in their tax-advantaged to not run out during retirement?

    (Here, I’m assuming tax-advantaged is for post 59 and taxable is for pre. I may be wrong).


    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted January 20, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      Hi Peter…

      Since my reply to Blair, the Mad Fientist has opened my eyes to some cool new strategies for accessing retirement accounts before 59.5. He even did a guest post for me on this: http://jlcollinsnh.com/2013/12/05/stocks-part-xx-early-retirement-withdrawal-strategies-and-roth-conversion-ladders-from-a-mad-fientist/

      So now my advice is to max out your tax advantaged accounts first, then build your taxable investments. Since the amount you can contribute to tax-advantaged accounts is limited, and if you are saving at the 50%+ rate it takes for truly early retirement, you should have plenty of money in the taxable accounts anyway when the time comes.

      Oh, and your F-you money lives in both. At least mine does. ;)

  17. Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Just a quick note to say thanks for taking the time to put together all the information on this site. It takes a lot of effort to put out the kind of content that you do and I really appreciate all your insight regarding Vanguard funds, as well as other items. I’ve been a reader since you first were mentioned on MMM’s blog way back.

    I’m turning 32 in June and in the next couple months will be heading into early retirement (whatever THAT means) around then. I prefer to think of it as F-You Money or financial independence and the freedom to choose how to fill my time – even *gasp* IRP-be-damned if it makes money. Regardless, I will be doing whatever I please thanks to investing and building a business over the past 5 years that will sustain us.

    Your help with where to direct cash has really helped calm my jitters with investing. Auto-deposits into Vanguard, set and forget… Hard to stay on that true line with so many easy ways to divert assets and fritter away hard-earned dollars, but I am (most days at least) convinced. I view your site as the in-detail complement to MMM’s – keep up the great work!

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the very kind words, Dakiar. It is always good to hear something I’ve written has been of help.

      Congratulations on your pending retirement, whatever THAT means. :) Beats me, but it sure is fun!

  18. Posted February 23, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink


    You are correct in that “F-you” money is needed for freedom, but the harder part is getting the money together – thats the real trick.



  19. Posted April 4, 2014 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jim,

    I’m a huge fan, thanks so much for your amazing articles on financial freedom! Your writing has really shaped how my wife and I are planning our own retirement strategy.

    I mentioned this in one of your blog comments, but your blog has actually inspired me to blog myself. I wanted to give you a heads up that I published an article today about calculating your F-You number and cited you many times: http://lifeafterliquidity.com/2014/04/04/f-you-money/

    Thanks again for all the inspiration. You’ve really changed my life. Wishing you well!


    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

      Hi Eric…

      Thanks for your kind words. Glad my ramblings have helped!

      Nice post!

      • Posted April 7, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        Thanks again Jim! Definitely give yourself some more credit for these fabulous essays!

  20. Zol
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I had never heard the word(s) “f-u money” until about 6 months ago when my corp was going through major changes. From my first line boss no less (mind you they have little real power).

    In the last 2 weeks i’ve read it by happenstance on atleast 4 websites. I’m wondering if this a sign as things degrade at the office hehe. I’ve switched my label from E-Fund in ING to FU-Fund in my savings account in honor of this post.

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted May 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes terms and other stuff arrive as we need them. ;)

  21. Adam
    Posted December 8, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Hello! Further to Peter’s question in January about whether the F-you money lives in taxable accounts, do you prefer to leave a portion of it in cash in case it comes to crunch time and you have a significant cost you have to pay? Or do you invest it all? I can imagine once your investments are large enough, even in a market crash you’d be able to cash out to cover emergency expenses, but just starting out investing emergency funds could be a bit hairy.

    I’m thinking about keep a four-digit cash sum as a safety net and then to invest the rest from there.

    • Adam
      Posted December 8, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      I’ve done some more reading and discovered you already answered this:


      “5% = Cash. Cash is always good to have in hand. You never want to have to sell your investments to meet emergencies. We keep ours here: VMMXX https://personal.vanguard.com/us/funds/snapshot?FundId=0030&FundIntExt=INT

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted December 9, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Adam….

      for digging deeper here for an answer.

      Let me add that 5% is about what we do, but the actual amount will depend on your net worth.

      5% of a million is $50,000 after all, and that might be excessive.
      5% of $10,000 is $500, and that might not be enough.

      Understand your potential needs and aim for that amount, rather than a fixed percentage.

  22. Posted January 27, 2015 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I have always loved the idea of F-U Money. It does have a huge impact on how you go through both your professional life and personal life. There is an extra boost of confidence in everything that you do…at least that has been my experience. We have enough F-U money to cover our basic cost of living for at least 3 years and maybe longer if we made some changes to our standard of living.

    Last year we paid off the last bit of consumer debt we had on a car purchase. This year we started our 7-year plan to pay of the mortgage we just got last year. I actually just wrote a post about it on my own blog if you want to check it out.

    But basically I started thinking about how much money I would be earning in the next 5-7 years. And when I realized that we would earn at least $1.4M in the next 7 years it just seemed irresponsible not to divert approx. 22% of that income to pay off the mortgage early and before we are 35. Now we can’t stop thinking of the freedom this will bring.

    I have been maxing out my 401K for the last few years, and starting with 2014 we are also maxing out a IRA for my wife since her employer does not offer a retirement plan.

    2015 is the year that we make aggressive moves to increase our net worth and get us that much closer to financial freedom. If all goes well, we should increase our net worth by about $60K to $100K this year. I just started tracking that as well, and as extra accountability I am posting that on my site as well.

    I am hoping that by posting real numbers that it will keem me motivated and help me reach my ultimate goal of $10M networth. Its probably more than I need, but its a number that just sounds right to me.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts.


8 Trackbacks

  • […] The fact of the matter is, if we hadn’t cleared up $800+ in monthly cash flow by paying off debt we would have been handcuffed by her employers wishes.  In essence, just by paying off our debt we had accumulated just a little of the ‘F-You Money’ that Jim Collins talks about. […]

  • […] an emergency fund to avoid living paycheck-to-paycheck.  Jim Collins amusingly calls this “F You Money” because if push comes to shove, you can tell your employer “F U” and walk off to […]

  • By Financial Titans: J.L. Collins : Waves of Wealth on July 19, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    […] the genius of what John C. Bogle started with Vanguard.  He’s unapologetic about the need for F-you Money and has a Simple Path to Wealth that could save the retirement dreams of countless millennials […]

  • […] “Why You Need F-You Money” Jim Collins […]

  • By Møt Finansnerden | Finansnerden on August 3, 2014 at 7:21 am

    […] Mitt store hårete mål er å bli økonomisk uavhengig innen 12 år, fra og med april 2014. Jeg vil ha ”FUCK YOU” money, sagt på godt norsk. Det vil si å ha nok penger investert til og høflig kunne avslå eventuelle mindre fornuftige anmodninger fra sjefen, uten å måtte bekymre meg for de økonomiske konsekvensene av det å få sparken. Heldigvis har jeg det supert der jeg er i dag, men erfaringsmessig vet en aldri hvor lenge idyllen varer. Viktigheten av å ha slike midler oppsummeres så fint her av mr jlcollinsnh. […]

  • […] a “gap year,” or I suppose in this case a “gap decade.” Blogger jlcollinsnh would call it “f-you” money – the financial wherewithal to do what you please for a while. Call it what you want, but I just […]

  • By Møt Finansnerden on September 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    […] Mitt store hårete mål er å bli økonomisk uavhengig innen 12 år, fra og med april 2014. Jeg vil ha ”FUCK YOU” money, sagt på godt norsk. Det vil si å ha nok penger investert til og høflig kunne avslå eventuelle mindre fornuftige anmodninger fra sjefen, uten å måtte bekymre meg for de økonomiske konsekvensene av det å få sparken. Heldigvis har jeg det supert der jeg er i dag, men erfaringsmessig vet en aldri hvor lenge idyllen varer. Viktigheten av å ha slike midler oppsummeres så fint her av mr jlcollinsnh. […]

  • […] to allow you to take a chance on something new, minus the risk.  This amount is commonly known as F-You Money.  (Thanks, jlcollinsnh).  You don’t even need to hit your full “FI” goal in […]

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