Independently Poor: A Twist on FU Money. Or: "FU, Money"

The main body of this post (the part in the blockquote) was originally published elsewhere under the title "Money and Maneuvering Room" on 2012/07/12.

I have long collected little mental snippets about money and how people relate to it. For example, (ironically enough) long before my medical diagnosis, I made mental note of the idea that if you have a deadly disease and there is no cure, no amount of money will fix your problem. I also really like the scene in "Titanic" where the rich guy tries to buy his way into a lifeboat and gets told his money won't be worth anything at the bottom of the ocean.

In the past year or two, as my financial problems deepened, I began reading and thinking more deeply on this topic of money and how people relate to it. I learned the phrase "fuck you money", which I had not heard before. It is the idea of having enough money "to be able to tell anyone to go to hell". It is attributed to Bogart (supporting link below).

Reading about his policy to have enough money on hand so he could pick and choose his roles made me realize that his ability to be choosy is likely why he has such a legendary reputation: He never had to take crap roles to keep from starving. Therefore, he never got known for playing bad roles in bad movies. Thus, a legend was born.

I thought a lot about that. In some sense, I never had that luxury. I married young to escape my family. This encouraged my husband to view me as helpless and incompetent as an excuse to deny me freedom of choice. I left him under very difficult circumstances which again curtailed my freedom of choice. Somewhere in the last year or two, I concluded that lack of ability to say "fuck you" is a big part of what went so very wrong with my life. And I have to fix that if I am ever going to get my life straightened out.

Ultimately, I concluded that being able to choose wasn't really about money per se but was about maneuvering room. Yes, having sufficient resources helps, but making choices in life and exercising free will is not directly related to how much or how little money a person has. It helps if you have some confidence you won't starve or otherwise experience catastrophe. But that isn't about money per se. For one thing, having a garden and knowing how to hunt can assure you that you won't starve, even if you don't have a dime. For another, sometimes people take the "fuck you" choice even when there is zero assurance they will survive it.

My understanding of that was crystallized by one of the articles below. "The Quitter Book" was recommended on Hacker News in essence to say "keep your day job in order to keep your maneuvering room". The free online chapter states clearly that if you give up your day job and have no real savings, you suddenly find yourself negotiating deals from a position of weakness and find yourself accepting deals you really don't want just to have something coming in.

This topic, of money and maneuvering room, has been on my mind a lot this past week. Relatives have helped me deal with my latest financial drama and are feeling entitled to try to run my life because of it. For example, I have been instructed to close my current bank account. Not asked. Not suggested. But told to do so. I don't agree with this and it is my life. I am also being pressured to pick up a check from relatives that I don't want.

I currently have some maneuvering room in the form of food stamps and knowing where I can get a free meal or free clothes. Food stamps don't cover some essential nonfood items that we need and can't get from a homeless services center, specifically peroxide and plastic cups. Yesterday, we came up with enough money to buy peroxide (95¢). So we are good on that for another week or two. We will soon need plastic cups. If my account is unfrozen tomorrow, I will be fine. Otherwise, I need $2.49 plus tax to politely say "fuck you" to picking up the check I don't want.

I have 35¢ in change and a dollar in "rewards bucks" from a store that sells plastic cups. I think $1.34 will give me "fuck you" money for this week. I think we will be fine.

I also think I finally have enough real say about my own life to start getting it straightened out, never mind that I am living on the streets.
Related reading:

Hacker News Discussion
Fuck You Money (Violent Acres)
Dilbert and Bogart on F You Money (My Money Blog)
Different Kinds of Money
Fools and Their Money
Quitter Book

I am still on the street. My debts are less than they were. I am now well enough to work consistently (about 10-15 hours/week right now) at my goals in a way I have not been able to do in the past. I have a long way to go to clean up my financial mess and get off the street. But, on Metafilter, my profile describes me as "independently poor." I mean that in more than just a tongue in cheek manner. Although I don't have much money, I have some control over my destiny similar to someone who is "independently wealthy." I have more such control than many people with jobs who feel trapped by car payments, house payments (or rent), time pressures, etc. I am pursuing the things I wish to pursue, which seems to be a relatively rare luxury in this day and age.


For what it's worth to you: Keep it up! Fight the good fight!
Your post is on Hacker News:

Good luck!
Angelo said…
You should put a donate button on your website, after having read this I would have donate some to give you some "maneuvering room", also agree 100% with you, we are slaves of money, I call it "modern slavery".

Wish you all the best good luck.
Angelo said…
Just noticed the donating button :) hope it helps. Keep on fighting.
The Woden said…
Insightful and worth the read. I hope things work out for you..

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