They 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.
Some said that he could not spread The Butter of Creativity any thinner over The Toast of Repetition.
But They were wrong.
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.”
1) 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. Hhhmmmm.
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.
The issue is cultural as much as economic. Maybe some young people just prefer to spend their money? These questions are examined by Travis Mills, unofficial spokesman for a lost generation of millennials (with a guest appearance from T.I…but I don’t think it’s the one from Monevator).
I like Travis’s honesty here. The song acknowledges the shallow attractions of over-consumption and flashing the cash. But personally I prefer to focus on the positive values in the song: optimism, being outdoors, having fun, self-awareness, stoicism, community, ride sharing, cycling and what to do with your TV.
2) 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.
In Young Guns, Michael highlights the dangers of poor mate choice in the context of financial independence. In Freedom, George Michael publicly illustrated the advantage of having Fuck You Money. In Wham Rap, Michael advises against continuing to work a job you don’t enjoy. If that requires frugality, so be it.
The Wham Rap lyrics contain a certain amount of wisdom, not to mention comedy. But just to be clear, 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.
3) Bitch better have my money (Rihanna / Stay See remix)
Yin and yang are concepts from Chinese philosophy. They can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light).
Or at least that’s what it says on Wikipedia, anyway.
To get to financial independence, we have to balance very different character traits. It takes one set of qualities to earn more and another set to spend less. If spending less on beans is the Yin, then earning more is the Yang. You can’t just penny-pinch your way to financial independence.
For me, this Stay See remix of the Rihanna song represents the Yin and the Yang of financial independence. The Escape Artist admires a strong female vocal and I love the way this song balances determination with calm, assertiveness with control and swearing with melody.
I advise listening to this before you see your boss for your annual performance and pay review.
4) Ka 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.
We’ve created us a credit card mess
We spend the money that we don’t possess
Our religion is to go and blow it all
So it’s shopping every Sunday at the mall
All we ever want is more
A lot more than we had before
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.
I was lucky in lots of different ways. To be born a human in the Western world during an era that saw an explosion of material and technological progress, to have had free education, to have the parents that I had.
Having said all that, it’s a good working assumption that the harder and smarter you work, the luckier you’ll get. And remember The Principles of Lifehacking: the more you experiment, the more chances you have to get lucky.
Pharrell explains the benefits of goal setting, putting in the time and focussing on what you can control:
She’s up all night to the sun,
I’m up all night to get some,
She’s up all night for good fun,
I’m up all night to get lucky
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.
6) 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.
7) Rockstar (Nickelback)
Many otherwise smart people end up emulating the ridiculous spending of rockstars. Even if it’s a somewhat 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. Ozzie Osborne has probably survived better than most. But, let’s be honest, it looks like all the drugs and the bats that he ate on stage have taken a toll.
Scientific research on happiness shows that the happiest categories of people are those that work outdoors in farming and horticulture and in professions like nursing where they are helping others.
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.
8) 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?
9) 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?
You don’t have to read Moneyweek or Zerohedge (you really don’t) to realise that there might be some truth in Blacc’s warning:
Bad times are coming and I reap what I done sow
Well let me tell you something, all that glitters ain’t gold
I am not talking about Zombie Apocalypse here. But 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.
And then we can relax, because everything’s probably gonna work out fine in the end.
10) 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.
In my book, Phil and Kirstie etc have got 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. Remember interest rates went to 15% in 1993 and 17% in 1981. Just saying.
It seemed strange to me that buying a bigger house did nothing for my happiness. But it’s true.
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