Monday, October 17, 2011
"Fuck You" Money
I've always been surprisngly responsible about money.
I always tried to have some savings on hand so that I could get out of whatever hopeless predicament English teaching (or my drunkeness, or cruel fate, or whatever) left me in.
'FUCK YOU' money!
I first heard the term "fuck you money" in this film, Burt Reynolds' long-forgotten 1986 HEAT (not to be confused with the Pacino / DeNiro / Michael Mann classic from 1995.)
In this clip, Burt Reynold's character, a washed-up bodyguard in Vegas, finally wins the $100,000 he'd been dreaming of to run away to Italy; he'd figured on spending $20,000 per year for the next five years.
Discussing it with a friend afterwards, however, he realizes it's not enough -- during the last three years he'd never be able to relax as the money ran out. He decides to try to win $1,000,000 -- $20,000 per year for the rest of his life -- and of course (spoiler) loses it all.
How much is 'Fuck You Money' for an English teacher?
I rolled up in Thailand in the 90's, when I was 26, and had about $1000 to my name; after a year there, I decided I needed more of a cushion to better enable me to enjoy my feckless lifestyle. So I went to Korea in 1996, to save some money.
I decided I needed $10,000.
That was enough money, at that time, to last me a year in places I liked, like Thailand or Prague. Living extra cheaply, maybe even two years. I stayed in Korea about 9 months, until I had $9,980 -- at that time you could change a maximum of $10,000 per year from won -- and then I got on the next plane out with no regrets.
The US inflation calculator tells me that $10,000 in 1996 is about $14,000 in 2011; but in fact the cost of living in "the third world" has gone up at least 3 or 4 times what it was in 1996, so it's not such a straightforward calculation. ($100,000 in 1986 dollars is more like $200,000 in 2011 dollars.)
Is there anyplace in the WORLD where you can still live comfortably on $1000 a month? Let me know. I think you could probably still manage it in Thailand and maybe in China, but anyplace in E. Europe would be a tight fit. Mainly due to the cost of apartment rent.
Nowadays, $10,000 would definitely get you safely out of one country and established in the next; but beyond that, you could blow through all of that easily in a few months, especially if you had to buy plane tickets and pay an apartment deposit.
So what's "fuck you money" now?
I see that it's a pit you can fall into, actually, trying to decide that.
There are plenty of guys who've been here in the Middle East for eight or ten years, and have $500,000 or even closer to $1,000,000 and they continue to insist how much they hate it here and (once again) will stay for "only one more year" before they go somewhere else.
Obviously if you have a family, calculating "enough money" becomes very difficult. As you get older of course there are the various nebulous worries of retirement and health care costs.
But English teachers don't usually have the typical money worries; no mortgages, car payments, not much of that. Student loans? Anybody I know who has them seems to have pretty much decided they're simply not going to pay them.
And I got to thinking about the movie OFFICE SPACE, where the guy says that if he had a million dollars, he'd do absolutely nothing, and another character says, "You don't need a million dollars to do nothing, man, my cousin's flat broke and he don't do shit."
So I think that's what it boils down to -- the more money you think you need, to tell your boss to fuck off, the less likely you'll ever do it.
(I could only find THIS BIZARRE ANIMATION featuring that dialogue from OFFICE SPACE on YouTube; anybody finds the real thing, we'll be waiting.)
My original plan, like Burt Reynolds in HEAT there, was to save six figures. I'm sticking with that -- six figures and go. I don't even particularly want to tell my boss to fuck off, they treat me pretty well. . .