Lets turn our attention now to music and some classic anthems of financial independence.
All of the songs illustrate themes of financial independence, although these are not always obvious at first glance.
But who needs them anyway?
Let’s cut out the gatekeepers and take the message direct to The People.
Yes, The Escape Artist is here to review classic songs about financial independence in the guise of a music critic from the NME…armed with earnest prose, psycho-babble and increasingly tenuous metaphors.
Without further ado, here are The Escape Artist’s Top Anthems of Financial Independence…
Working 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)
Was there ever a more under-rated thinker and businesswoman than Dolly Parton?
For someone that never worked a cubicle, Dolly has an remarkable understanding of the dynamics of the Prison Camp.
And quite the head for business. Did you ever have your own theme park? You are 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.
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 consumerism.
Echo Beach (Martha and the Muffins)
In this classic from 1980, Martha, ably assisted by the Muffins, explains how she ground out a dull office job working as an HR manager in Slough.
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.
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’s a jungle out there.
Baloo is a free
man bear and answers to no boss. Baloo is relaxed, present and playful. He’s a lovely guy but no pushover.
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 that combines self-help, stoicism, 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.
Gloria 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!
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. Disappointment is a normal and natural part of life. It is not our cue to start whinging and demanding that other people solve all of our problems for us.
Be robust. Or, better, anti-fragile. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
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 financial freedom is not to focus on fear nor the pointless accumulation of more 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.
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 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”.
I’m with Eminem on this one.
Dignity (Deacon Blue)
This song is my personal all time favourite anthem of social mobility and financial independence. It is pure genius.
If you are the Editor of NME, you can see my full review of this song here.
Image credit (and apologies to) : http://www.nowmusic.com
Do you remember Now that’s what I call Financial Independence!?
Well, here comes the inevitable follow up album.
Yes, The Escape Artist is back once again in the guise of a music critic from the NME…armed with earnest prose, tortuous metaphors and psycho-babble to review more classic songs about financial independence.
Don’t stop (Fleetwood Mac)
To get to financial independence, you need to stay the course. To do this, it helps to have a vision of your future and stay positive.
In this classic from their 1977 album Rumours, Fleetwood Mac remind us that yesterday’s gone and that what matters are our actions today. Don’t shaft your future self by buying shit when you need a mood boost. Thanks to the magic of compounding, £5 saved today becomes £226 if invested over the next 40 years at 10% a year.
The Escape Artist cultivates optimism and knows that equities compound in value over time. Time flies and tomorrow will soon be here. And it will be better than ever before.
Bohemian Like You (The Dandy Warhols)
Prevention is better than cure. The best way to control spending is by never letting your lifestyle inflate in the first place.
When you were a student you lived cheap and didn’t worry about keeping up with The Joneses. So why not carry on those good habits after you leave college and start work?
People are inherently social creatures and, to replace consumerism, we need an alternative value system. Bohemian culture represents an alternative value system where spending and conformity are not highly prized. Just because you make serious money working in IT / finance / law / Megacorp doesn’t mean you can’t continue to spend like a student.
What do you do for money honey? (AC/DC)
From their magnum opus Back in Black, comes this classic from AC/DC. The Back in Black album represents triumph over adversity.
Never overly concerned with health and safety, AC/DC suffered a blow when their lead singer Bon Scott died after a night out of excess alcohol consumption. Most bands would have fallen to pieces at this point but AC/DC were made of sterner stuff and returned with their greatest work, a fitting tribute to Bon Scott.
AC/DC give voice to the potentially tricky question that all financially independent people face when asked: “what do you do?”
Shake it off (Taylor Swift)
What might appear on the surface as just another bubble gum pop ditty is actually laced with the wisdom of stoicism (again) . This is self-help gold for anyone learning how to master their emotions.
Swift highlights the benefits of optimism and resilience…especially when other people are under-estimating or trash-talking you. Other people are going to do what they are going to do. Haters are gonna hate. Complainers are gonna complain and leave angry comments on blogs.
Taylor reminds us that we just need to play the hand we are dealt, focus on what we can control and ignore the noise.
Young Guns (Wham)
George Michael starts with an assertive greeting of Hey Sucker! in a manner reminiscent of a young Mr Money Mustache.
George Michael advises against taking on debt in the form of hire purchase (HP) and against having children without first thinking carefully:
A married man? you’re out of your head, sleepless nights on an HP bed. A daddy by the time you’re 21…if you’re happy with a nappy, then you’re in for fun
In response, Ridgeley’s fiancee shows her consumer sucker mindset and tries to shame Andrew into dumping his old mate.
Ridgeley must choose between freedom and consumerism.
Fruit Machine (Ting Tings)
Here The Ting Tings hand out some basic financial advice that should be obvious…but still needs saying.
Don’t gamble when the odds are stacked against you and don’t flush your money down a toilet in the shape of a fruit machine.
Because that, my friends, is ridiculous spending.
Money, Money, Money (Abba)
Frida Lyngstad highlights the problems of a harried working woman suffering from stress and lifestyle inflation.
I work all night, I work all day…to pay the bills I have to pay…ain’t it sad…and still there never seems to be a single penny left for me. That’s too bad.
True, its not the most financially literate song…but what do you expect from a lawyer? You should ignore Abba’s advice to visit Las Vegas or Monaco in order to get rich. But Abba were definitely onto something when they sang about the freedom to quit work and do whatever you want:
I wouldn’t have to work at all…I’d fool around and have a ball.
Money for Nothing (Dire Straits)
This song can be interpreted in different ways but I see 2 main themes playing out here.
On one hand, the song mocks MTV and excess spending on consumer products whilst highlighting the numerous advantages of passive income (money for nothing, chicks for free).
On the other hand, Mark Knopfler seems a bit derogatory in his description of the financially independent subject of the song, perhaps reflecting some inner conflict about his working class roots and his own good fortune in becoming a rock star. Through the medium of this song, Knopfler was perhaps resolving the guilt he himself felt about becoming rich without manual labour.
Relax Mark, you earned it!
Emergency On Planet Earth (Jamiroquai)
I am an environmentalist. We have a bio-diversity and wildlife emergency. We need to shrink the human footprint on Planet Earth and reversing consumerism is just one step in that long, long process. The good news is that this could be hugely positive for us (as well as for the rest of nature). The whole construction of a society based on cars, convenience, passive entertainment and sedentary lifestyles has been a health disaster for humans.
Sometimes readers email me to say that it can’t be easy coming up with original content every week…but it would be nice if I could at least try.
It’s true that The Escape Artist is not above spreading The Butter of Creativity over The Toast of Repetition with a follow up post or two.
So The Escape Artist is back once again in the guise of a music critic from the NME…armed with earnest prose, tortuous metaphors and psycho-babble to review more classic songs about financial independence.
And if you didn’t then I’m sorry.
Great Escape (Mike Dignam)
This catchy little ditty from 2013 was offered up by The Fire Starter. This is a great song for anyone who has accumulated enough and just needs a little motivational push past their fear to jump off the cliff.
Mike Dignam reminds us that the clock is ticking and it would be great to travel the world whilst we are still young enough to fully experience it. He also recognises the power of habit and the advantage of getting out before we become totally institutionalised.
All I wanna do (Sheryl Crow)
If you are ever at work wishing you were in the pub (or indeed anywhere else) how about this one from Sheryl Crow.
Sheryl (to her friends) reminds us that whilst most of the world is at work, there are always some people having fun.
Why shouldn’t that be us?
Freedom 90 (George Michael)
In Freedom, George Michael publicly illustrates the advantage of having Fuck You Money. Freedom tells Michael’s side of the story of why he left Sony, the record label that had helped propel him to success. Michael reflects on the fame and financial benefits that he got in his early 20s, but that he now wants something different from life.
Michael tells his story with due respect to Sony. He is not bitter towards his former employer, he just wants the freedom to do the work he loves.
Back on the Chain Gang (Pretenders)
The Pretenders were drawing an analogy between consumerism and convicts working in The Prison Camp….before The Escape Artist was even out of school! This classic from 1982 highlights the downsides of commuting, indentured servitude and the mass media.
The Escape Artist is all in favour of upper body exercise, hard work, manual labour and being outdoors. It’s just that quality time with a sledgehammer should be voluntary exercise rather than compulsory work in The Prison Camp to service our mortgages and credit card debt.
The Boss (James Brown)
This song is a reminder that its possible to get too wrapped up in accumulating money or status and that getting to the top in any sphere of life requires hard work and sacrifice. Ask any sports star, lawyer or CEO. Even if we have the ability, we still have to decide whether we are prepared to pay the price needed to become a high earner.
This is forgotten in earnest debates about income inequality where people sometimes overlook the possibility (I put it no stronger than that) that median earners might be getting the better deal. At least once income tax plus national insurance at 47% for high earners, health, happiness and free time are taken into account.
As the Godfather of Soul reminds us, you pay a cost to be The Boss.
Superstition (Stevie Wonder)
We humans are hard wired to make mental short cuts and avoid effortful thinking where possible. This leads us to believe in superstitions that we pick up from the other monkeys in the human tribe.
Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel prize for discovering and illustrating many of the quirks and imperfections of human thinking (see book here).
Kahneman shows that we have 2 decision making systems. 1) an ancient hardwired reptile brain for dealing instinctively with threats and opportunities…this is how we feel fear and greed. 2) a more recently evolved human capacity for logical thought. To get to FI, we need to use this second system a bit more.
Bullet in the Head (Rage against The Machine)
Advertising is not some ineffective background noise that we screen out, its created by smart people that understand and target our weak spots. So respect your enemy and remove it from your life.
Rage Against The Machine highlight with energy and some style the benefits of thinking for ourselves and living intentionally.
This song won’t be to everyone’s taste and does include some swearing. But personally I think the swearing adds colour and emphasis to a positive message.
Busy Earning (Jungle)
Keith just didn’t ever seem to have time to fire his financial adviser. He wonders how anyone could afford to retire early. He always ends up paying a price premium for convenience and speed. Money is leaking out of Keith’s life like blood spurting from an arterial wound and he has no idea how much is enough.
Keith is busy. Being busy is a badge of pride at the office. It’s reassuring for Keith to feel that he is in demand. And being busy is a great distraction from thinking about what we really want in life.
In short, Keith is busy earning. But what’s the point if you’re too busy earning to get rich or have fun?
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
I’m an environmentalist and would like to see all shopping malls, drive-thrus and theme parks torn down and returned to nature.
Shopping as a leisure activity is stupid. With home delivery, there is no need for most shops to exist.
I’m sorry to have to report that the whole construction of a society based on cars, convenience, passive entertainment and sedentary lifestyles has been a clusterfuck. Joni Mitchell absolutely nails it in the lyrics:
They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum and charged the people a dollar and a half just to see them…they paved paradise, put up a parking lot
Some said that The Escape Artist was finished.
Some said his last album was too commercial and they preferred the earlier stuff.
Others said that Now That’s What I call Financial Independence! 3 was the last word in capturing the cultural zeitgeist, never to be repeated.
But They were Wrong.
Yes, The Escape Artist is back once again in the guise of a music critic from the NME…armed with earnest prose, tortuous metaphors and psycho-babble to review more classic songs about financial independence.
As the NME might solemnly put it:
“A welcome return to form.”
Young & Stupid (Travis Mills featuring T.I.)
The media often run earnest articles bewailing the fate of young people unable to save because the system is cruelly stacked against them.
It’s true that young people earn less starting out and high house prices don’t help them. But the trick is to get into the habit of saving (even small amounts) whilst young. This habit will serve you well later in life when you will hopefully be earning more money and able to save.
Wham Rap (Wham!)
It turns out that George Michael was all along a hidden guru of financial independence. Who knew? Well actually, reader Bobbyo knew and suggested this song.
The lyrics of Wham Rap contain great wisdom as well as comedy gold. George Michael advises against continuing to work a job that eats away at your soul. If that requires hardcore frugality, so be it.
For the avoidance of doubt, The Escape Artist is not recommending living on the dole or avoiding hard work. Working a job you don’t like can be a source of grit, character and personal growth.
Just don’t do it for ever.
Ker Ching (Shania Twain)
This song was brought to my attention by a reader. So a big thank you to Patty, because Shania really knocks it out of the park with this one.
I like Shania’s style and think she could write a great guest post for The Escape Artist. I’ve tried getting in contact with her several times but I think her iphone must be broken because she hasn’t been able to call me back yet.
So if any readers bump into Shania (perhaps whilst out shopping…do they have Lidl in Hollywood?) please say hi from me and tell her she’s welcome to submit a guest post anytime.
But tell her to keep it light, as I wouldn’t want the blog to come off all preachy.
5) Get Lucky (Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams)
One source of angry comments on FI blogs is people dismissing others as lucky and therefore unrepresentative. This is partly true. Luck does play a huge part in investing, careers and life generally.
Having said that, it’s a good working assumption that the harder and smarter you work, the luckier you’ll get. Pharrell explains the benefits of goal setting, putting in the time and focussing on what you can control.
The Escape Artist spent a large proportion of his 20s and 30s staying up late, looking to get lucky. Sadly, in my case it was staying late at work fiddling with spreadsheets rather than in jacuzzis with hot babes.
The Bad Touch (Bloodhound Gang)
True this may not be the most politically correct song, but I think that somewhere under the schoolboy innuendo there is a serious point here. The Bloodhound Gang are bang on the money when they say:
You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals
As I’ve said before, evolutionary psychology can explain pretty much all of our cognitive biases and heuristics. Once you accept that we are all just monkeys wandering around in designer suits (or jeans and t shirt), most people’s approach to personal finance starts to make more sense.
Many otherwise smart people end up emulating the ridiculous spending of rockstars. Even if it’s a toned down suburban version based on large houses, SUVs and plasma screen TVs. Which is odd, because there is no evidence that rockstars are particularly happy.
Our material desires are endless. But its not easy to become a rockstar so we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.
If happiness could be reduced to an equation, it might be written:
Happiness = what we have – what we want
If so, it’s much easier to get happier by reducing what we want and practicing gratitude for what we have.
Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd)
Apologies in advance to readers who are teachers. Because, if I was a teacher, this song would probably annoy me.
I don’t doubt that most teachers out there are doing good work. And I don’t agree with the line that we don’t need no education. It’s not grammatically correct for a start. But this song does make a point that needs making. Which is that traditional education has some big downsides. Schools encourage conformity, subservience and don’t like too much independent thought in the children.
Schools should teach more stuff that is valuable in real life. Take maths for example. Why can’t everyone be taught the 3 numbers that can make you a millionaire?
I need a dollar (Aloe Blacc)
The Escape Artist advises you to dig a well before you are thirsty.
Even if you love your job right now, shit happens and things change. There are booms and then there are recessions. People lose their jobs. So even if financial independence is not your thing, why not get ahead of the curve and stash some cash to provide peace of mind should you hit a bump in the road?
Recessions happen so we should all be aiming to get out of debt and have say 3 – 6m spending in cash as an emergency fund.
Country House (Blur)
We’ve been brought up to believe that you can’t go wrong with property, a message reinforced by all those property porn TV shows. These have a lot to answer for, having perpetuated the myth that happiness comes from more square footage or an extra house or two.
I don’t buy it. You can try to Escape to The Country….but wherever you go, there are you. You take your emotional baggage with you. And your mortgage(s) as well.
Scientists have plenty of data on what delivers happiness. And its not having a big house, let alone a big mortgage during a period of rising interest rates. It seemed strange to me that buying a bigger house did nothing for my happiness. But it’s true.
Some said the NOW FI! franchise was dead…
…many certainly hoped that was the case.
Some said that that it should be banned.
Others said it should be put in a museum where nobody could be offended by it.
But where would be the fun in that?
The Chains (Joel Madison Blount)
The Escape Artist is not just a blog about money. It’s about financial freedom, wealth and health in the widest sense.
It’s about The System (sometimes referred to as The Matrix but referred to here as The Prison Camp). And no, I don’t believe in conspiracy theories…shit happens and things just turned out this way.
The FIRE movement was supposed to set us free. But consumerism was just one mental trap amongst many.
The chains include all forms of propaganda, cults, dogma, conformity and groupthink. Have you noticed any of that in the last 3 years??
Creation (Seven Lions)
Repeated lockdowns were a giant leap backwards for public health and a mental health disaster.
To be fair, the problem started long before 2020. Modern life is disconnecting people from nature. If you spend all your life indoors under flourescent lights, eating processed food, hunched over staring at a screen you will eventually get sick.
The antidote is simple: get outdoors, get sunlight, get exercise.
Walking in nature is as mysteriously beneficial as sleep. People underrate it because it seems so mundane (plus its hard to monetise). There is something deeply calming and restorative about being in nature. Parks and gardens are good but wilderness is better…beaches, moorland, mountains, deserts, coastline and woodland.
Money (The Flying Lizards)
Money is just a tool, it’s the spade that allows us to dig out of the Prison Camp.
Don’t get me wrong. Money is super important. But it’s just a means to an end.
You have to know what you want in life…and, for me, financial security and freedom are the goals.
I feel like this song came from a simpler and more honest age. The lyrics and stripped down melodies feel rather stark in 2022 but at least the lead singer gets straight to the point and spares us the bullshit.
Edamame (bbno$ & Rich Brian)
It’s time to take the *simp* out of simple living.
Society sets porn and social media thirst traps everywhere for young men. Why the fuck does OnlyFans even exist? Have some self respect ffs.
Here Rich Brian and bbnos$ celebrate achieving financial independence and reflect on some of the challenges that they faced in their relationships along the way. The lyrics are hilarious. Hit the CC button on Youtube to get subtitles.
The song finishes with the immortal line “Never ever fold for a thottie, that’s an oath”. Wise words indeed.
Baby No Money (Bbno$) recognises that health is wealth in this compelling argument for some form of mobility practice as part of your health regime.
BBNo$ eschews easy stereotypes and explores alternatives to traditional gender roles.
Bbno$ is the poet we needed for a post-woke generation and I commend
his their work to you.
Hype (Dizzee Rascal)
Included just for the line “I’m a bad boy and I do what I like”.
Here’s my take on side hustlez.
I’m in favour of working flexibly (whether part time or as an interim exec or a contractor) and/or starting a lifestyle business either before or after financial independence. It is a wonderful thing to be a solotrepreneur.
But many of the MAKE MONEY ONLINE!!! wheezes out there are
scams a waste of time for people with proper jobs.
No Limits (2 Unlimited)
Most people are not ready to be rich. Observe the curse of lottery winners who have not done the necessary work.
Limiting beliefs work in a number of ways to stop people getting rich.
Remember, a limiting belief is a belief that isn’t true but the fact you think it is, holds you back. If you think that it’s impossible to get a great job, then you will never even apply. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Your beliefs drive your actions which drive your results.
I Fought The Law (Green Day)
I’ve always wondered…why do so many rich people keep pushing the envelope even after they are rich and famous and have everything to lose?
Recently I have been amused by the spectacle of the aptly named Sam Bankman-Fried blowing up his $30bn fortune and his *oh-so-sophisticated* hedge fund in The Bahamas. It seems that SBF stole / lost maybe $10 billion of client money?
How could this be when he seemed so nice and preached frugality, effective altruism and veganism?!?
It remains to be seen whether SBF’s donations to US politicians will keep him out of prison. But why risk prison and bankruptcy after you have made it? It’s bonkers. Once you have won the game, it’s time to manage down your risk and pay your taxes with good grace.
Personal integrity is an important part of wealth creation (and preservation).
Plus I’m too good looking to go to prison.
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