When we think about money we typically think about monetary value. We ask questions like how much are my investments worth or what could I buy with the money I earned? Why don’t we talk more about the emotional benefits of saving all that dough? How does money make us feel and what can it do for our emotional well-being?
A few weeks ago my husband and I discussed our motivations for saving for the very first time. It turns out we save to feel secure, calm our fears, reduce our stress, ensure future flexibility and sometimes just to have some fun.
We intrinsically know this, but we keep these thoughts in the back of our minds. We don’t focus on those benefits as we pour our salaries into bank accounts and watch our numbers rise.
Why do we focus so intensely on the numbers when there are tremendous psychological perks of acquiring wealth? Money can change our outlook on events. It can positively impact the bad moments of our lives.
The Value of FU Money
How much of an impact does mindset have on financial events? I’ll give you an example from my life. A story of how a change in mindset could have dramatically altered my layoff from work seven years ago. It involves the strength and confidence that comes from the term ‘FU Money.’
What is FU money? FU money is a big pile of cash and/or investments that covers your expenses for a good, long time. It lets you walk away from work when the need arises and cushions the blow when bad things happen. It lets you say “see ya” when your employer hands you a pink slip with little to no hard feelings.
Why do you need FU money? So you can leave on your own terms or at least say I don’t give a f*ck when your employer kicks you to the curb.
Picture yourself on your last day of work. How are you walking out the door? Are you bursting out of your office grinning from ear-to-ear? Do you see yourself throwing open the doors and leaping out into the big, wide world shouting “F-R-E-E-D-O-M” like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. You should be.
We should all be lucky enough to leave work on a high note feeling joyful and excited. Unfortunately that was not my experience and quite frankly I’d like a re-do. I think the concept of an FU Fund would have eased my pain immensely.
How does the classification of money change our mindset? Why do we feel more confident and proud when we reclassify our ‘savings’ as ‘FU Money’? After all, what is the difference between money in the bank and an FU fund?
Here’s my story.
Last Day of Work
My last day of work came three weeks after the birth of my first child. I didn’t feel confident leaving my exclusively breastfed baby with my husband so the three of us piled into the car and drove to my office together.
I parked in the garage, left my son with my husband and stepped into the elevator of my office building. As the doors shut I stared at my reflection. I shook my head in disbelief and wondered how I’d reached this particular moment in time.
I faked a smile as the elevator stopped and new riders hopped on board. It was early in the morning and fellow employees were still arriving.
I looked at their clean, crisp business attire and suddenly felt out-of-place in my casual T-shirt and jeans. I diverted my gaze, stared at my sneakers and gripped my laptop tightly. It was the last physical connection between me and a place I’d worked for more than a decade.
When the doors reopened I stepped out of the elevator and spotted my manager. We would say goodbye in this awkward spot in the main lobby. A place where fellow coworkers were still rushing between offices and cubicles.
A civilized heart-to-heart conversation behind closed doors might have been nice, but that was not about to happen. Security had turned off my badge that morning and I could no longer go upstairs.
My manager congratulated me on the birth of my son. Then expressed his condolences over my job loss. It felt strange to watch his expressions shift so quickly between those two sentiments.
He reached out his hands and I gave him the laptop I’d been clutching so tightly. The rest of my team, (including my manager), would turn in their equipment a few hours after I did.
My layoff was official. I stepped back into the elevator and drove home. Along the way I had a strange, sinking feeling. I would never drive this familiar route to work or back again.
It was a strange series of events that led to my last day of work; a pregnancy, a switch to a different location, a manager and director I’d met just a few months earlier.
Although the economy was recovering from the Great Recession it didn’t stop the currents of reorganization from shifting around us. I’d survived many rounds of layoffs and parted ways with many coworkers. Our company’s departments were routinely being sliced and diced to a fraction of their former size.
I switched to a new team, in a new department while all of this was happening. I never imagined my company would create a job posting for a position they planned to cut six months later. Yet that’s exactly what they did.
As they say in the corporate world layoffs aren’t personal. This was business. If I stayed with my previous team I would still have a job. My prior manager knew my qualifications, skills and passion for work. I knew that at heart, but somehow that knowledge didn’t soothe my peace of mind.
Saying Goodbye on My Own Terms
My emotions were running high on that last day. I felt exhausted. Both from delivering a nine-pound baby weeks earlier and from leaving a successful, highly compensated job.
I didn’t know that would be my last time in a corporate office. I planned to begin a new job six months later, but when the time came I chose to remain home with my son instead. That day unexpectedly ended my twelve-year career as a software engineer.
I wish my last day was full of positive emotions. I’d like a do-over. In fact, I think I deserve one.
A chance to walk away from work on my own terms instead of someone else’s. The ability to put on my favorite pair of boots and strut right out the front door.
That’s where FU money comes in.
My Mindset Robbed Me of the Glory
In my mind I picture myself stepping outside and feeling the warm sun on my face and the gentle breeze on my skin. Then pondering the question, “What will I do next?”. My mindset robbed me of that glory.
Thankfully we didn’t need my salary to pay our bills. We had plenty of money in the bank. In fact, we already had FU money. We just didn’t call it that at the time.
In addition to investments my husband’s newly formed business would cover my missing salary for awhile. When my severance ran out I would start the new job I lined up. Although as I mentioned above that never happened.
There are certainly worse places to be and I don’t deny those facts. I am grateful for all that we have and all that we’d built. It’s easy to see others who aren’t so lucky.
I just wish I viewed our money for what it was truly worth. Not the dollars and cents value, but the mental boost it could have provided during that dark time.
The FU Fund
For some reason I never ran calculations prior to my last day of work or if I did I don’t remember. I wish I realized how long we could live off the money we’d already saved.
In reality we’d built a ginormous FU Fund. A large pile of money that could help us weather these types of storms. We just didn’t view it that way at the time.
Back then I viewed money as a future goal. We stowed money away for no particular purpose. Perhaps we would use it for retirement, college tuition or to buy another rental property. I never thought about it using it to, (gasp!), live.
In fact, I was blind to its true value. I should have seen that FU money as a way to say, “F-You! You cut the wrong employee and I don’t care! I don’t need that job or that salary! Thanks for the severance I’ll take it home so I can be with my son for a while!”
With FU money in hand I could have viewed my layoff and associated severance check as a parting gift from my previous employer.
Look I’ll be perfectly honest rejection sucks. It’s never fun to be laid off. It’s like being in a relationship. No one says, “I wish my boyfriend dumped me.” Nope. It hurts to feel discarded, but with the proper mindset that FU money could have changed my emotional state of mind. It could have helped me walk out the door with my head held high. I could have walked out shouting ‘F-R-E-E-D-O-M’!