The Real Reason It’s Called “F-You Money”
“The success comes, and you’re on your own. There’s no manual. One day, they give you a check…that you can’t even relate to the zeros on the end, and you can get in a lot of trouble with that much money.”
-Tom Petty, Runnin’ Down a Dream (documentary)
I went to business school because I wanted to make a lot of money. There were other legitimate reasons, but that was the driving factor.
One day during first year, a classmate shared the news that the company where his dad worked had just gone public and now his dad had “fuck you money” (FU$). He elaborated, “…meaning, he now has sufficient cash to tell his boss ‘F-you!’ and live with the consequences.”
“Wow,” I said, blown away by the concept. “That’s amazing!”
At the time, I was carrying the current equivalent of $150,000 in student debt, so any degree of financial independence sounded pretty cool. But to be so rich as not to need a job? That was incomprehensible.
Broke as I was, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about money. However, as too many lottery winners, young pro athletes, and yours truly learned after my own windfall, FU$ is more complicated than it sounds. While it grants the recipient a massive degree of career latitude, it also comes with rights, duties, and responsibilities, which — if not fully understood — will lead its owner down the wrong path. Not that anyone is going to tell you that.
Consider your friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man: Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider, thus endowing him with supernatural arachnoid capabilities. Isn’t he lucky? Because now he does whatever a spider can, climbs sky-scrapers, and catches thieves just like flies. He’s in a whole new league.
But those extraordinary capabilities also distort the relationship with his career and co-workers. Once a person can swing from buildings and capture crooks with sticky wrist jizz, how will he tolerate flying coach class to Milwaukee for the 30th Annual Packaging Materials Supply Chain Management Convention? (Yes, we are re-casting Peter as a mid-level logistics manager.)