Do you remember Now that’s what I call Financial Independence!? Well, here comes the follow up album.
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’re gonna need to stay the course. To do this, it helps to have a vision of your future. In this self-help classic from their 1977 album Rumours, Fleetwood Mac deliver a masterclass in visualisation, optimism and thinking big.
Fleetwood Mac remind us that yesterday’s gone and that sunk costs are irrelevant for decision making. 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 yes, it will be better than ever before.
Bohemian Like You (The Dandy Warhols)
The best way to control spending is by never letting your lifestyle inflate in the first place. Prevention is easier than cure. When you were a student you lived cheap and (occasionally) worked hard. So why not carry on those good habits?
To replace consumerism, we need an alternative value system. People are inherently social creatures and we can’t avoid comparing ourselves to others. Its pointless trying to go against the grain of human nature. Bohemianism represents an alternative value system where spending and conformity are not highly prized. Just because you make serious coin working in IT / finance / law / Megacorp doesn’t mean you can’t continue to spend like a student.
Welcome to the Jungle (Guns ‘n Roses)
Using the metaphor of a jungle, Guys ‘n Roses deliver their classic essay on capitalism. A jungle is a rich and productive ecosystem of organisms engaged in a mix of competition and co-operation. In nature, as in capitalism, we see a range of predatory, symbiotic and parasitic strategies. Capitalism is not inherently moral or immoral. It just happens to be the most productive system that humans have come up with to produce abundance.
This song reminds us that companies are not your friends, despite the shit they put in the adverts. If you live in a jungle (hint: you do) then you need to think for yourself. Moaning about capitalism is like moaning about the weather. It solves nothing and you are better off focussing on what you can control. Remember that capitalism, for better or worse, gives us what we are prepared to work and pay for. Capitalism’s faults are our faults.
What do you do for money honey? (AC/DC)
From their magnum opus Back in Black, comes this belter from AC/DC. The Back in Black album represents triumph over adversity: stoicism in action. Never overly concerned with health and safety, AC/DC suffered a blow when their lead singer died on a night 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, in tribute to Bon Scott. The album includes the song Have a Drink on Me. Which, as song titles go, may seem edgy after their last lead singer died from alcohol. But that’s male humour for you.
AC/DC give voice to the potentially tricky question that all financially independent people face. Actually the question “what do you do?” is a bit of a misnomer. When asked this, I respond honestly, telling people that I enjoy life, manage a portfolio, write a blog, exercise a lot and help raise 3 children. But what most people are really asking is what do you do for money, honey?
Shake it off (Taylor Swift)
What I love about this pop pleaser is that what might appear on the surface as just another bubble gum ditty is actually laced with profound wisdom and 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. Swift’s song reminds us that we just need to play the hand we are dealt, focus on what we can control and ignore the noise.
Material Girl (Madonna)
One of the biggest obstacles to financial independence is choosing the wrong partner. Sadly, lots of guys follow a sucker strategy in the mating market, competing on the basis of ridiculous spending.
Be warned. If you end up attracting, marrying and enabling the character that Madonna artfully portrays in this song, then you will never achieve financial independence. She will get the gold mine and you will get the shaft.
The Escape Artist always admired Madonna. She is the very opposite of a gold digger: hard-working, intelligent and talented. And financially independent without relying on a man.
Young Guns (Wham)
With hindsight, this might be the (unintentionally) funniest pop video of the 1980s. And there was a lot of competition back then.
George Michael starts with an assertive greeting of Hey Sucker! in a manner reminiscent of a young Mr Money Mustache. Like MMM, Michael advises overcoming fear, pursuing freedom and going for it. Also like MMM, 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 mate:
We’ve got plans to make, we’ve got things to buy. And you’re wasting time with some creepy guy.
Ridgeley must choose between freedom (represented by George Michael) and consumerism (represented by his fiancee). It all kicks off but fortunately Michael resists the temptation to deliver a Mustachian face punch.
Fruit Machine (Ting Tings)
If you were to listen to left wing politicians or watch the news (neither of which I recommend) you would gain the mistaken idea that everyone is skint because The Man is holding them down.
Hhhmmmmm. Is The Man forcing people to go to the pub and put their money into slot machines? Or is it just that there are a lot of Frankies out there who think its a good idea to tip their cash into a machine in return for….errrr….flashing lights and beeping noises in their head?
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. Perhaps she worked at a Magic Circle law firm? She certainly seems to have picked the bad habits that many lawyers suffer from:
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 (although the stuff about finding a rich partner can work). But Abba were definitely onto something when they sang about the freedom to quit work and do whatever you want:
all the things I could do, if I had a little money… I wouldn’t have to work at all…I’d fool around and have a ball.
Now that is a strategy The Escape Artist can get behind!
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!