Work Bitch

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

First published February 2019, Updated December 2022

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 that we will NOT be following today.

So, if you are a cry-baby and you choose to read on…well…you were warned.

Let’s get to today’s business 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 and playful…what’s not to like?

And yet there’s more to it than first meets the eye. Underlying the sick beatz and the eye candy, lie some deeper philosophical truths.

Karl Marx may have been a disgusting communist but the dude had a point. The Left are not wrong when they say the employer – employee relationship is often unequal. If you work full time for a company that employs 10,000 people and you have debts to pay and a family to support then you probably need them more than they need you.

[Side note: what The Left get wrong is they ignore the reality of human nature and the inconvenient fact that people respond to economic incentives and will game every system.]

We all start off working for The Man

We all have to start somewhere (usually at the bottom). But you need to avoid or get out of debt ASAP and always have an emergency fund.

You should do this even if you currently like your job.

Things change. People lose their jobs. So dig a well before you are thirsty.

If you always spend everything that you earn, then you’ll always be their bitch.

It doesn’t matter how much you earn, what matters is what % you save. The time taken to get to financial independence is driven by your % savings rate:

Suck It Up…For Now

I once skim-read a book called something like How to be CEO. I didn’t buy it but I took one lesson from it. The author had realised that even as CEO the company owned him. Not for ever.  But for now, 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. I gave my employers my best. I worked hard for them because that was my best bet over the long term. I saved and invested. As the years passed, I chipped my way out of Shawshank.

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 trade-offs

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 rather than more stuff.

The genius of this song is that it joins the dots between your spending and your time to freedom. If you think of spending as your “treat” then you will be trapped in the Prison Camp forever.

A good exercise is to work out your hourly rate or annual salary (after taxes) and convert your next potential purchase into the number of extra hours you will have to work to pay for it.

Simple example, a £30,000 car (bought for cash) is a full year of your life for someone on £30,000 after tax salary per year. That doesn’t sound great to me when you can get a used car that’s like new for say £5,000 – £10,000. And bought on credit, it’s much worse than that, thanks to interest.

Why do you want a big house?

One of the mysteries of life is why people voluntarily choose extra decades of wage slavery in exchange for a big house. It’s crazy to spend decades of your life paying mortgage interest on a house that’s much bigger than you need.  Not to mention the cost of filling it with soft furnishings, knick-knacks, plasma TVs and other shit.


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

Britney Spears

The case for work

This song can be interpreted in different ways.  It can be read as a warning against the dangers of self-imposed consumer slavery. And it should.

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 can remember 1970s Britain, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

In America people understand better that hard work is good for you. Correlation is not causation but Britney’s message seems to have shown up in the US Labor Force participation data:

I think of quitting work and never working again as “The Hook” of financial independence. It gets people thinking (that’s a good thing) but the whole idea of never working again is over-rated.

What are you going to do with you life? Work provides meaning, purpose and challenge. Plus the additional income definitely comes in handy for crushing sequence of returns risk.

I do not consider myself to be retired. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been working on building out The Escape Manual and my financial coaching. These are elite level products.

Hard work builds character, resourcefulness and resilience.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The Labour Market is a Market

I get that some jobs are really stressful. High paid jobs are much harder work than most people realise – it’s not all polishing your monocle and resting your brogues on the backs of the working class you know.

The labour market is a market. High paying jobs are competed for and allocated the same way coaches pick Olympic sports squads: employers pick the people they hope will perform the best. Luck plays a part but this will typically be the people with 1) natural talent and 2) those who are prepared to endure the most training / 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. It’s just not a thing.

Sure, 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 lifestyle business or flexible consulting gig.

The only wrong choice is grinding out the highest paid job that you can tolerate and then spending it all on consolation prizes for the fact that your life sucks. Don’t just buy stuff, buy your freedom.

Health is Wealth

Health is wealth and I love how Britney joins the dots between fitness and finance.

A healthy body is the ultimate status symbol and you have to give Britney credit for the shape she’s in here.  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.

The enemy is inside us

I get flack whenever I stray onto the subject of personal responsibility, life choices and relationships but this stuff matters, Staying in your lane is all well and good for motorway driving but doesn’t make for good personal finance advice.

This brings us to one of the great taboos of personal finance which is that people self-sabotage in many different ways.  This inconvenient truth gets swept under the carpet in the earnest tone adopted in most personal finance content.

Not here though: The Escape Artist will tell you that most people need to harden the fuck up.

We have met the enemy and it is inside us all.


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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

22 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…?

  14. Great post, totally agree with how tough it is to work those high stress highly paid jobs. I’ve worked hard to get myself there but feel like it’s only sustainable for maybe five or six years. I used to wonder why people took voluntary demotions later in life but I get it now!

  15. “Simple example, a £30,000 car (bought for cash) is a full year of your life for someone on £30,000 after tax salary per year.”
    Ohh, it’s a whole lot worse than that. Let’s assume that poor worker also has to eat, and pay for accommodation, plus the fuel and insurance of running that car. So if we assume that $20K of that $30K take home pay is lost on general living expenses, then that car is actually THREE years of your life. Three years of getting absolutely totally nowhere financially, but working the whole time for the priveledge of getting nowhere.

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