The Escape Artist has previously reviewed films for hidden but valuable lessons for potential escapees. Lets turn our attention now to music and some classic anthems of financial independence hiding in plain view in the back catalogue of popular culture.
All of the songs illustrate various themes of financial independence, although these are not always obvious at first glance. Keep an open mind and let the subliminal messages absorb themselves into your subconscious.
Since I quit work I’ve offered my writing services to the NME but they must have a problem with their phones because they haven’t returned any of my calls. So let’s cut out the gatekeepers and take the message direct to the People. Without further ado, here are The Escape Artist’s Top 10 Anthems of Financial Independence…
10. Working 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)
For someone that never worked a cubicle, Dolly has an remarkable understanding of the dynamics of the Prison Camp:
9 to 5…what a way to make a living…barely getting by…its all taking and no giving…they just use your mind and then never give you the credit…its enough to drive you crazy if you let it….
Was there ever a more under-rated thinker and businesswoman than Dolly Parton? Men and women alike are guilty of under-estimating Parton, based on large boobs, blonde hair and a redneck accent.
But it turns out that Dolly was way smarter than the rest of us. Did you ever have your own theme park? You are only allowed to laugh at Dolly if you earned more than the $16m that Parton grossed just from her 2006/7 tour alone…and all by living her dream. I certainly didn’t.
9. Price Tag (Jessie J)
Financial independence is a funny thing…in the wealth building phase, it seems to be all about the money…and then, when you quit, its not about the money at all anymore.
This song lit up Glastonbury when Jessie J played there in 2011. Less glamorously, it also lit up the atmosphere when they played this at my kids school quiz that year: like an anthem for the aspiring bohemian middle class of Surrey. Before they drove home in their SUVs to watch shit on TV. Sigh.
I think people are drawn to this song without really thinking about why it resonates. But it speaks to a deep human urge to curb the consumerist bullshit that pervades our society.
8. Echo Beach (Martha and the Muffins)
In this classic from 1980, Martha, ably assisted by the Muffins, explains how she ground out a Dilbert style existence as an HR manager in Slough. Or something like that.
From 9 to 5 I have to spend my time at work; My job is very boring, I’m an office clerk; The only thing that helps me pass the time away; Is knowing I’ll be back at Echo Beach some day.
Echo Beach is clearly a metaphor for financial independence. By invoking the classic early retirement image of a beach, Martha invites us to visualise the dream of financial independence. Echo Beach may be far away in time, but we know that compounding will work its inevitable magic and the future always arrives eventually. Martha will then have the last laugh at the consumer suckers currently surrounding her.
7. Goldigger (Kanye West featuring Jamie Fox)
In the journey to FI, its vital to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your objectives, values and priorities. Mr Money Mustache refers to this as The Talk. This helps ensure you are aligned from the outset and that you are with each other for the right reasons.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the opposite sex, most young men are fucking idiots. I know I was. This song articulates the trap that many young men fall into of being impressed with superficial glamour and the accroutrements of modern consumer society: trashy clothes, make up and accessories.
True, this is not the most politically correct song ever written. But there is wisdom as well as comedy in the lyrics.
6. The Bear Necessities (from the Jungle Book)
This classic Disney song can be viewed on 2 different levels.
At first glance, it’s a feel good anthem of frugality capturing the themes of simplicity, gratitude and leading a natural, lower stress life. And it works wonderfully well at that level.
More subtlely, Baloo embodies the strong male role model now missing from the lives of many children in the West. Baloo lives in a world before health & safety, political correctness and tick-box compliance. It is a jungle out there.
Baloo is the opposite of a Walking Wallet. He is a free bear and answers to no boss. Baloo is a model for men: present, relaxed and playful. He’s a lovely guy but no pushover. He is strong and capable and if anyone tried to mess with him or Mowgli, he could crush them.
5. I will survive (Gloria Gaynor)
Gaynor’s classic anthem about moving her portfolio away from a parasitic wealth manager continues to resonate down the decades. As soon as we hear those iconic opening piano notes, we know that we are in for a treat at the Venn diagram intersection of self-help, karaoke, high camp and roller disco.
There is contrast and pathos in the song. We feel Gaynor’s anguish as she recalls those nights thinking how her wealth manager charged her a shocking 2.5% each year of funds under management. But Gaynor rises above her resentment, realising that the best revenge is a life lived well:
And you see me, somebody new, I’m not that chained up little person still in love with you.
Gaynor moves her portfolio (and gets her exit fees refunded to boot). She learns the confidence to take control of her portfolio using low cost tracker funds.
You go girl!
4. You can’t always get what you want (Rolling Stones)
This song is the poetry of stoicism set to a backdrop of guitar-based rock.
Jagger and Richard distinguish between our wants (which are endless) and our needs (food, water, love, shelter) which are simple and can be met with ease if we focus on the right things.
Shit happens, so we need to be robust to the possibility of disappointment. This is an entirely normal and natural part of life. It is not our cue to start whinging and demanding that our government / employer / parents / spouse solve all of our problems for us. What doesn’t kill you, can often make you stronger.
3. Happy (Pharrell Williams)
I’ll let you into a secret: financial independence is not really about money…its about the search for happiness.
Pharrell realises that the end purpose of FI is not to dwell on your fear of poverty and focus on the accumulation of excessive assets. No, the purpose of financial independence is to Optimise for Happiness.
For me, this pop pleaser works because we sense its underlying authenticity. I doubt that it would be possible for Williams to put on his game face and write this song during lunch hour in his cubicle between producing last month’s management accounts and completing his performance review forms.
2. Lose Yourself (Eminem)
The theme tune from the majestic self-help film 8 Mile. The film and the song tell of Eminem’s personal journey of escape from the trailer parks and ghettoes of the 8 Mile Road in Detroit. James Altucher has a great post here on how smart this film is.
Eminem articulates the focus necessary for FI:
Success is my only motherfucking option, failure’s not.
And emphasises the need to capture your “one shot”, your “one opportunity”. In fact, life provide loads of opportunities but I think Eminem’s underlying message is that we only have one life. To waste that one life, by carrying on working any job you wouldn’t do for free, is crazy if you already have enough. Don’t die in the office with your music still inside you.
Eminem signs off with You can do anything you set your mind to, man. A cynic might say yeah, like getting paid millions of dollars for spouting shit from self-help books.
But I’m with Eminem on this one.
1. Dignity (Deacon Blue)
This song is my personal all time favourite anthem of social mobility and financial independence.
If you are the Editor of NME, you can see my full review of this song here. Within this short song, Deacon Blue captured more truth about the possibilities for the working class than Karl Marx ever did.
Image credit (and apologies to) : http://www.nowmusic.com