What could work be like after financial independence?


Today we are talking about how work can be much more fun after financial independence.

Remember, you are allowed to carry on working after FI if you want…because financial independence is not the same thing as early retirement.

I could bang on about this but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

So when The Escape Artist finds a music video that illustrates a point about financial independence better than his own tortured prose, he gets down with The Kidz and shares the learning points…with the aid of some banging tunez.

This music video from Korean-American director Joseph Kahn shows the remarkable effect that financial independence can have on your enjoyment of work:

OK, so why is this video so smart? And what can it tell us about financial independence? Lets take a closer look.

The video starts with images of a soulless modern metropolis, full of atomised individuals living a consumerist lifestyle.  At 15 seconds in (0.15) we meet the central character, a jaded middle-income office worker, wrenched from sleep with a jarring 6am alarm.

We see the sterile apartment, the rinse & repeat Groundhog Day routine and the multiple sets of shoes lying unused; consumer trophies destined for landfill.

At 0.35 we see the goldfish – a perfect metaphor for our consumer drone. Living isolated and confined in an unnatural bowl, safe but trapped by modernity. At least the goldfish is free to stay home and think for itself all day…

At 0.40 we see the commute. Its unclear why commuting should be so depressing, we just know that it is.  The Budweiser Ad on the tube represents the false promises of consumerism…the lure of instant gratification and a more glamorous life…no effort required.  Ironically, Budweiser were probably delighted with the advertising exposure, the irony likely being lost on most viewers.

At 0.47 we have the lift scene.  Lifts are claustrophobic and artificial; mechanisms to avoid using our legs and taking the stairs.  Our hapless male, looking for distractions from his life and bewitched by the attractive female co-worker, commits a gaffe.  It’s all a bit awkward.

But then the lift doors open (0.57) and our unlikely hero is ejected out of the lift and into The Prison Camp.

Then something changes within our hero (1.00).  A lightbulb comes on.  He decides to stop being a loser / consumer sucker / victim of the system.  Maybe its better to die on his feet than live on his knees?  He stands up straight, stops complaining about his situation and starts taking responsibility for his own life, focusing on what he can control.

Step 1 is to free his mind and ditch the misinformation (1.05). Remember that no news is good news. So he implements a low information diet and bins the newspaper (full of gory crime stories, recession scares, the weather and celebrity sex scandals).  This is just the first of a series of lifestyle changes, baby steps to becoming a millionaire.

Next he makes some changes to his diet.  At 1.10 he grabs the bag of crisps (crappy, processed carbohydrates – a fast track to diabetes and obesity) and lobs them on the floor as he switches to a low carb, paleo diet.  True, he sneaks a last crisp before lobbing them away but hey, none of us are perfect.

Having addressed diet and mental wellbeing, our hero starts to cut out mindless spending.

This is illustrated at 1.15 by that trusty favourite of personal finance bloggers: the expensive latte habit.  Yes, I know that just cutting out lattes by itself will not get anyone to financial independence. But every little helps. Small savings add up and compound prodigiously over time.  This is The Aggregation of Marginal Gains.

At 1.20 our hero meets the first resistance from other people. Perhaps these are office colleagues mocking our hero’s new found frugality?  Perhaps they are threatened on some level by what they see as the implicit challenge to their spendy ways?

But at 1.22 our man shows resilience.  He does not worry about what other people might say / think / do.  Instead he focuses on what he can control: his own thoughts and actions (slick moves). He is not trying to make those other people feel bad, he just wants to improve and be better than he was.

He learns that with a teeny weeny bit of courage, no one else can stop him! Not only that, some of those other people even follow his example (1.30)!  Its amazing what starts happening when you overcome fear

Encouraged by this progress, our hero starts to experiment with his new powers.  He learns the practical benefits of outrageous optimism as well as the difference between The 2 Types of Reality. Personally, I’ve tried that trick with the pointy finger and the blouse (at 1.40) and I couldn’t make it work…even with positive thinking. Objective reality can be a bummer like that.

But leaping onto desks is totally possible for those that have implemented the diet and exercise advice on this blog.  Contrary to popular belief, even forward rolls and acrobatic dismounts are possible (1.50) for those that don’t give up on exercise in their 30s.


People that keep exercising are able to do things later in life that the wimpy humans from Wall E have given up on.  Things like walking, cycling…and bladder control.

Note the transformation in energy levels between the depressed consumer at the start of the film and the same guy once he regains his mojo.

At 2.00 we are reintroduced to the lady that we first met in the lift earlier.  A confident working women, our heroine is self-supporting, independent and already on The Path to financial independence.

Our heroine seems to sense potential in our hero, despite his somewhat embarrassing behaviour in the lift earlier.  So at 2.05 she sends our man off into the boardroom where he meets a mysterious yet charismatic guru figure and his band of followers (2.11).

This is clearly a metaphor for the world of financial independence in general and Mr Money Mustache in particular.  Think about it….the cult-like guru preaching against always taking the easy route, the quasi-religous fervour, the loyal followers…it’s all there.

After much late night internet reading, cognitive dissonance and shouty frugality tips our hero has experienced a financial and spiritual awakening. Our hero emerges (2.30) ready to implement a new, more natural way of life.

Perhaps he was already financially independent without even realising?  I know from my financial coaching that this is more common than you might think.  Particularly if you don’t know your spending and where it all goes.

Its ironic: it was frustration with his job that led our hero to pursue financial independence.  But, now that he’s reached FI, our former wage slave comes to the surprising realisation that his job could actually now be much more fun than before!

He stops worrying about money and being laid off. He feels free to speak his mind and be more honest.  He is able to choose ethics where before he felt pressured to prioritise profits. On reaching financial independence, The Escape Artist chose to make the jump and quit but I realised in my notice period that my job became way more pleasant.

So our man decides to stay on at his job…at least for a while. He decides that a transition period may be sensible.  He realises that Fuck You Money means being able to politely decline the less reasonable requests of his boss. He no longer feels the need to attend strategy awaydays, health & safety briefings, performance reviews and Nuremberg style corporate rallies etc.

In fact at 2.34 our hero realises that his entire life is a lot more fun when financially independent.  Its almost like he is living his life in colour rather than in black and white. It certainly looks more fun than any office I ever worked in.

I’ve realised that this is what happens for those annoying people that manage to get paid to do what they love and find meaning and purpose in their work.

So maybe we are not entirely wrong to envy celebrities? The cash ain’t bad and there are some perks that go with the territory.  But the biggest upside is not (I think) the champagne or the Ferraris. Frankly, Aldi prosecco and a Skoda Octavia give you 95% of the same benefits.  No, I think the biggest upside is the freedom to pursue creative projects that you find fun and meaningful.

But knowledge without action is useless.

And at 3.05 we are yanked back to the present, the consumerist status quo.  We realise that our hero has just had a glimpse of his future self, a vision of what’s possible.

To make that vision a reality, he needs to stop procrastinating and just do it.  Its no use just reading FI blogs as entertainment, he has to follow through with action.  It won’t always feel easy, but if he can get started and keep on The Path then he can make it happen.


  1. 15hourworkweek · · Reply

    Hi TEA,

    A great read, as usual. Without your analysis, it would be indeed hard for me to capture the subtle parts like “the newspaper” and the “latte”.

    I am a Singaporean and I actually just stumbled onto your blog just a week ago. I have been gobbling up the archives since.

    I run a personal finance blog and I just wrote an article about your blog.


    Hope it’s a good summary of the message you are trying to spread and that you enjoy it.

    My 15HWW

  2. OMG… Your analysis is hilarious! Keep up the good work.

  3. Haha. That was amazing video (and great analysis!)

  4. Buffy the Vanguard Slayer · · Reply

    I love it! That must be what a stash of FU money can do for you!
    Your prose is never “tortured”, always utterly hilarious, keep it up TEA!

  5. Amazing video! The last few seconds was tough to take, though. šŸ™‚

  6. Excellent, thanks

  7. aperture · · Reply

    Brilliant – loved your analysis of this video. I never would have understood it without your detailed play by play analysis. Now can you take a look at Stairway to Heaven?

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