When "F*ck You Money" becomes an excuse.
Fuck you money. Maybe you've heard of it. It's the amount of wealth you have to amass to walk away from any job any where without sacrificing your standard of living. If it motivates you to great savings, then it's a fine goal. While some finance writers may advocate saving 1-2 years income, others note that you might be able to get by infinitely on just a cool five million dollars if you want to hand it to your boss.
But F*ck You Money may not be as important as it seems. In fact, for some, it can serve as a convenient excuse to hide behind.
I was recently sick. I was not deadly sick (I was almost fully recovered after about a week), but sick enough to let this blog lapse for a month. More seriously, I was sick enough for my husband and I to momentarily wonder if I'd be able to go back to work. In the scariest moments, I was reminded of family members whose health forced them to leave their jobs and go on disability. My job requires a high level of reading, writing, and data analysis, but at the height of my illness I had to have my husband complete forms and answer questions about my own health history.
Regular Mindfully Spent readers will know that the work I do for money is work I chose to do because it is exceptionally meaningful to me. In this moment of illness, I felt some terror about the inability to return to the work that I love. I did not, however, feel the kind of panic that I expected about the potential loss of a regular paycheck.
What would life be like without a regular paycheck?
While we outwardly focused on taking care of my health and our household, my husband and I were each quietly thinking about what our life might look like if we had to live permanently on half our current income. What we discovered is that all either of us needed was each other, our family, some kind of cozy roof over our head, medical care, a library, and to be able to put food on the table for the five of us (if you count the dog and the cat as well as our teenage son). Deep down, I'm not sure if any of us really need much more.
We had some clear advantages going into the emergency room: I have the luxury of good health insurance. I have the luxury of having a working partner. I have had the luxury of working the last year to pay off all our consumer debt. But we've just begun to save for basic things like home repairs. We are far from having a real nest egg of any kind, and we are no where near the bare minimum of one year of income that we'd have to save to qualify as having F*ck You Money in the world of personal finance. Still, we felt deep in the center of our chests that we would be okay.
In the long run, continuing to live in our small home would be optional. Any purchases outside of food and utilities would be optional. A second vehicle and the insurance that comes with it would be optional. Our smart phones are optional. Travel, as much as we'd miss it, is optional. Saving for retirement? Well, we would like to be among the Americans who can continue to do so, but so many do not have that luxury. When forced to consider what we could strip away from our lives, very little was essential.
Life is precarious. Show up like it matters.
A car accident, a quiet disease, an act of violence, or a breach of our mental health could leave any of us on a much different path than we have planned for our life. I had the luxury of recovery. Even more, the time in the hospital let us know that our love and the love of our family and friends is at the foundation of who we are. As long as we can meet our most basic needs, very little else matters.
We haven't had time to revisit our budget since this all happened, but it made me think about the past. It made me think about the workplaces where I've witnessed or been the subject of wrong doing. A young woman with very few of the luxuries I have today, there was not always much I could do. There were times when I was precariously employed and solely responsible for putting food on the table. #MeToo. But, that is no longer the case.
While I haven't born silent witness to any wrong doing at my current employer, my experience has reassured me that I will never have to be silent again. None of us needs a whole year of income in the bank to speak up or change jobs. And you definitely don't need a couple million bucks before opening your mouth.
Life is short. The quality of your life and the lives of others are too valuable to be wasted.
Personal finance writers talk about the ultimate freedom of financial independence. Once achieving it, certainly they will have the freedom to live as they please in early retirement. But the personal finance writers I admire most talk about the quality of the life they live just as frequently as they discuss the quantity of their savings.
When F*ck You Money Might be an Excuse.
Not everyone can quit on a dime. There are a lot of vulnerable and precariously employed workers out there who truly cannot leave their job without a safety net. Only you can tell whether that applies to you.
If you're doing work that directly conflicts with your moral beliefs or if a lengthy commute is preventing you from showing up as the partner or parent that you want to be, it might be time to give notice. The time you spend on this earth is just as finite as the money we earn, and both should be treated with care. Who you show up as in your lifetime means something. In fact, it usually adds up to a whole lot more than the balance of any investment account. And there are times when the impacts affect much more than just our own lives...
Who are we if we show up at the workplace thinking only about our own paycheck and turn a blind eye to what is happening around us?
What kind of workplace culture allowed famous Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and Fox News Anchor Bill O'Reilly to perpetrate ongoing sexual harassment? Who were the coworkers silently sitting by while Abercrombie, Wal-mart, and Denny's leveraged racial discrimination against applicants, employees, and customers? An unspoken code of silence and fear (and sometimes more insidious kinds of compliance or support) allow these kinds of abuses to happen in plain sight. Especially when it comes to the workplace, these acts rarely happen in isolation. And they only end when someone speaks up.
Women across the country have broken their silence to say #MeToo. At the same time, our friends and coworkers of color and those who belong to the LGBTQ+ community are carrying even more weight, even if this moment of history hasn't provided it with a pithy hashtag.
Only you can know if it's safe to come forward. However, if you're waiting to save up a couple million bucks before speaking up about harassment or discrimination in your workplace, if you're experiencing those things yourself, or if your employer is breaking laws that have a direct impact on your coworkers' safety, it is probably time to stand up.
Resources for race and sex discrimination in the workplace:
FROM THE UNITED STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION:
If you believe that you have been discriminated against at work because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information, you can file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Worried about speaking up? An individual, organization, or agency may file a charge on behalf of another person in order to protect the aggrieved person's identity.
Local enforcement agencies and resources may also be available in your area.