Work Bitch

britney-spears-work-bitch-that-grape-juice

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

And if that’s true, then what’s a slick video with a banging tune and hilarious lyrics worth? Quite a lot, I reckon.

There’s an unwritten rule that stuff about money has to be written so blandly that none of the children in the sandpit can possibly get offended.

This is a widely followed convention in personal finance and one that The Escape Artist will not be following today.  If you choose to read on, you were warned…so you can spare us both the outrage. 😉

Let’s get on to the point of today’s blogpost and review Work Bitch by Britney Spears. Watch the video with the sound turned up nice and loud:

Let me start by saying that I love this song.

Not previously known as one of the thought leaders of the financial independence community, Britney surprises on the upside with this banger. Its funny, its sassy, playful and politically incorrect…all things that The Escape Artist loves.

And yet there’s more to it than first meets the eye. Underlying the sick beatz and the eye candy, there seem to be some deeper philosophical truths being touched upon here that overly earnest or sensitive people may find unpalatable.

Let’s accept the realities of life. Until you have saved some FU money, you will always be someone else’s bitch.  I’m not saying that you have to be fully financially independent (net worth of >25x your annual spending) to avoid this.  Its not binary. But I am saying that you need to avoid / get out of debt as quickly as possible and ALWAYS have some savings.  Dig a well before you are thirsty.

The standard media narrative is that its low income people who are enslaved by the system and that if you are middle class / above-average income then its all good in the ‘hood.  But if you allow lifestyle inflation to take hold, then you’ll always be a Work Bitch. Even if you earn >£250,000 plus per year. Trust me, I’ve met enough people like that to know.

I once skimmed through a book called something like How to be CEO. I didn’t buy it but I took one lesson from it. The author (an American CEO) realised that, even as CEO the company owned him. Not for ever.  But, whilst he was CEO, he answered to The Man. He had made his peace with that and resolved to work hard…until he chose to do something else.

I did the same. I accepted the reality of my situation and always treated my employers as if they held my future in their hands (they did). I worked hard and gave them my best efforts because that was my best bet over the long term. I can’t tell you how many times I sucked up unreasonable demands or criticism from bosses / clients / juniors at work.  When you’re a Work Bitch, you should accept that you’re a Work Bitch. Just don’t do it for ever.

Financial independence is all about life choices.  You can have pretty much anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want. For me, being a Work Bitch was a price worth paying.  I worked hard and used the proceeds to buy my freedom (not more stuff).  Britney lays out these choices clearly:

You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion?
You better work bitch, you better work bitch
Now get to work bitch!

One of the mysteries of life is how many decades of work people endure for a big, detached house. People have this strange idea that climbing the property ladder will make you rich. You can’t go wrong with bricks and mortar, right?  Wrong: its wasteful and self-destructive to dedicate decades of your life to paying mortgage interest on a house that’s bigger than you need (and I mean need….not want).  Not to mention the cost of filling it with soft furnishings, plasma TVs and other shit.

This song can be interpreted on many levels and in different ways.  It can be read as a warning against the dangers of self-imposed consumer slavery.  But it can also be interpreted more positively as an ode to the BENEFITS of hard work.  This is a somewhat counter-cultural message in the UK where, let’s be honest, there’s a historical tradition of slacking off. If you grew up in 1970s Britain, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Hard work is good for you. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and hard work builds character, resourcefulness and resilience.  Its the hard work before financial independence that gives you the self-discipline to run your own life after financial independence without going off the rails like a lottery winner.

Look, I get that some jobs are ridiculously stressful. In those cases, you’ll want to be well paid. High paid jobs are much harder work than many people realise – its not all polishing your monocle and resting your brogues on the backs of the working class you know.

For example, take the bitching and moaning about Brexit.  Put aside the leave v. remain argument for a moment and ask yourself how many people understand how hard someone doing Theresa May’s job works? It’s beyond most people’s comprehension.

Some people still promote the myth that high paying jobs are shared out by The Patriarchy amongst white, privately educated males on a “jobs for the boys” basis.  This is horseshit.  The truth is that these jobs are competed for in an imperfect meritocracy.

High paying jobs are allocated the same way coaches pick our Olympic sports squads: employers pick the people they hope will perform the best. There are no guarantees (and luck definitely plays a part) but this will typically be the people with 1) some natural talent and 2) who are prepared to endure the most pain / long hours / hard work / criticism. People compete for top jobs with high earnings just like they compete for top level sports prizes. At the top, work- life balance is a mirage.

Having said that, there are jobs that some people do for the love of it. Note the Lamborghini in the video doing donuts around Britney and her posse. Some junior at the record company presumably got paid for driving that. Nice work if you can get it.

As I’ve said before, there is not just one path through life. I think there are 2 rational ways to choose a career:

  1. You do something well paid that interests you (ideally) or at least that you can tolerate whilst saving hard for your freedom – e.g. software engineering, plumbing, finance etc
  2. You do something that you love (which may not pay much) – e.g. nursing, teaching yoga, Lamborghini driving etc

One of the beauties of financial independence is that it allows you to transition safely from 1. to 2 perhaps whilst going part time or starting your own business.

The only wrong choice is grinding out the highest paid job that you can tolerate and then spending it all : pissing the money away on consolation prizes for the fact that your life sucks.

Moving on, I love how our Britney joins the dots between fitness and finance. The Escape Artist has for some time been drawing attention to The Striking Similarities Between Getting Rich and Getting Ripped. A healthy body is the ultimate status symbol and you have to give Britney credit for the shape she’s in (even allowing for some photo-shopping).  She certainly didn’t buy that at Dunkin’ Donuts.

It was not always this way. In her personal life, Britney has at times demonstrated a self-destructive tendency, suffering from drug problems, weight gain, the loss of custody of her children and sub-optimal relationship choices.

This brings us to one of the great taboos of personal finance which is that most people are self-sabotaging.  This inconvenient truth gets swept under the carpet in the earnest and somewhat prissy tone adopted in most personal finance content.

For example, earlier this week I was being interviewed by a young (28) journalist. He was intelligent and holding down a serious job with a major media organisation.  So I was surprised and amused when he asked me if I ever considered just blowing all my freedom fund on a fast car and a party in Vegas. And this was a SERIOUS QUESTION…he told me that’s what he’d be sorely tempted to do if he ever made it to financial independence.

The Escape Artist responded that I was more likely to drink a bucket of cold sick or jump out of a plane with no parachute than I was to blow my stash. Like, why the fuck would I do that??

Let me be clear: The Escape Artist does not claim to be perfect (far from it) and is no stranger to self-sabotage himself.  But the advantage of getting older is that you (should) get less prone to shooting yourself in the foot.

The hard stuff in personal finance is not which funds to choose but rather knowing yourself.  We have met the enemy and it is us. This is why you have to do the work to get better.

Finally…call me Sherlock Holmes (or Sigmund Freud), but The Escape Artist detects a sexual undertone to some of the imagery in the video.  Inter-sexual dynamics are important in life and often overlooked like the proverbial Elephant In The Room.

The Escape Artist has previously been criticised for writing about feminism and Walking Wallets etc. Staying in your lane is all well and good for motorway driving but doesn’t make for good personal finance advice.

That’s because your money results depend on your life choices: what work you and your partner both do, whether you talk openly with your partner about financial independence, whether you have kids, whether you get married / divorced etc etc.

Yes, the little things add up and yes The Aggregation of Marginal Gains is an incredibly powerful thing.  But it takes a lot of lattes not bought to compensate for getting taken to the cleaners in a divorce.


Further reading:

fin-coaching-widget

  1. How To Hold Down Any Job
  2. Financial Coaching

 


Appendix : Lyrics

You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti?
You want a Maserati? You better work bitch
You want a Lamborghini? Sippin’ martinis?
Look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch
You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion?
Party in France?
You better work bitch, you better work bitch
You better work bitch, you better work bitch
Now get to work bitch!
Now get to work bitch!

Bring it on, ring the alarm
Don’t stop now, just be the champion
Work it hard, like it’s your profession
Watch out now, cause here it comes
Here comes the smasher, here comes the master
Here comes the big beat, big beat disaster
No time to quit now, just time to get it now
Pick up what I’m putting down
Pick up what I’m putting down

You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti?
You want a Maserati? You better work bitch
You want a Lamborghini? Sippin’ martinis?
Look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch
You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion?
Party in France?
You better work bitch, you better work bitch
You better work bitch, you better work bitch
Now get to work bitch!
Now get to work bitch!

Break it off, break it down
See me come and you can hear my sound
Tell somebody in your town
Spread the word, spread the word
Go call the police, go call the governor
I bring the treble, don’t mean to trouble ya’
I make the governor, call me the governor
I am the bad bitch, the bitch that you’ll never know

Hold your head high, fingers to the sky
They gonna try to try ya’, but they can’t deny ya’
Keep it moving higher, and higher
Keep it building higher, and higher
So hold your head high, fingers to the sky
Now they don’t believe ya’, but they gonna meet ya’
Keep it moving higher and higher
Keep it moving higher and higher and higher

Work, work, work, work
Work, work, work, work
Work, work, work, work
Work, work, work
Work it out, work it out, work it out, work it out
Work it out, work it out, work it out, work it out
Work it out, work it out, work it out, work it out
Work it out, work it out
You better work bitch
You better work bitch

Written by:
Anne Cunningham, Anthony Preston, Britney Spears, Otto Jettman, Sebastian Ingrosso, WIlliam Adams

Publisher:
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management

20 comments

  1. I’m quite lucky (or I’ve been brought up right) and due to being frugal and saving I have a decent pension and a growing ISA and I’m well on my way to FI.

      1. I have never had the desire to blow all my savings on a single sports car or a crazy party in Vegas – doing that I know wouldn’t bring me much joy. It’s not that I don’t treat myself or spend money – I love going on holidays – but I couldn’t spend it all in a big blow out. When I travel I do it quite frugally and to experience things rather than one up my neighbours.

        And do you know what? At times I wonder if I’m broken at not getting great joy from buying things and having crazy blow outs. There’s clearly something in society that tells people that only spending will make them happy. Thankfully for me it doesn’t take me long to snap back to reality and realise I’m not broken for not enjoying spending, and it will be a great benefit in the long run when I can retire early.

  2. Another great post. Keep it up mate. We all appreciate your efforts with your writing. Refreshing to hear someone talking common sense.

    1. Thanks mate, I appreciate that.

  3. Awesome, I don’t know why it takes 6 people to write a song for these pop artists, but whatever. I agree the message is good.

    Best yet, I’m financially independent, I’m nobody’s bitch!

  4. i echo workingclassinvesters comment above

  5. In case you haven’t come across him in your travels, I thought I’d introduce you to the FI stylings of Aesop Rock.

    9-5ers anthem: https://youtu.be/UWOQHj_o6eo
    No Regrets: https://youtu.be/sClhmDN5Fcs
    Hail Mary Mallon – Whales:

    1. Ha-ha…thank you!

  6. Nice!

    I feel much more serf-f/work bitch-y due to non-work/meta-work stuff than the core of my job. My tasks are grand and challenging, but I find a lot is tacked on to the modern work environment and it’s going along with all that that grinds me down. That’s the stuff I think of as meta-work, though a better term is needed.

    1. Maybe you need an “Ignore until shouted at” file for pointless admin?

    2. I think meta work is the perfect term for it. The problem is that in many modern jobs the meta work has expanded so much you can barely see the actual work. And of course some jobs are nothing but meta work.

  7. andyphilipson@hotmail.co.uk · · Reply

    I’ve had to watch that Britney video a few times now ! Just to ensure that I fully understand the FI message that is being put across….

  8. Fretful Finance · · Reply

    Of those two career options I’m definitely in the first “Work Bitch” camp at the moment. But it’s tempting to jack it all in. The flat I’m currently trying to purchase should have exchanged yesterday but instead a very last minute curve ball looks like it might fall through. Honestly thinking of using it as an impetus to go down the second route of trying to find something I love doing.

  9. Very good motivation for working hard

  10. “Staying in your lane is all well and good for motorway driving but doesn’t make for good personal finance advice.” TEA

    Wow, this is just amazing!

  11. I find it amusing that it took 6 people to write that song. Love the music on it and the words are great. My co-workers and I got a great 1 year retention bonus. Myself and another are plowing it away in investments for our future. The rest are blowing it with items that they won’t care about in a year. Then they are the ones that complain up a storm about changes at work. As my other saving co-worker said to them yesterday when they were all talking about leaving for another company “Same shit just a different location.” Great post!

  12. electrosphere · · Reply

    Great, well written article thanks!

    Regarding the work pay-to-stress ratio, you speak the truth, I know from experience.

    Luckily I’m now in a role which I feel is a good sweet spot between stress and pay. Some of my colleagues have even reduced hours to a 4 day work week so they can work on something they love or believe in.

  13. @FitFunemployed · · Reply

    What is going on with Britney’s accent though…?

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