The Quiz, Resolved. And Prize Awarded…

Tuesday, 4:06pm
San Francisco, CA
I left my heart…” (Tony Bennett)


By the time you read this, I’ll be back home in Reno… a better man for having spent a week in San Francisco.

Even though it was all business, I still get invigorated just from hanging out in that city by the bay.  It’s one of the few things California did right (though they’re working hard at ruining it).  (Bastards.)

And while I was gone, the last blog post went freaking bonkers.  Nearly 200 comment posts (most of them well-thought-out and elegantly delivered, too).  (With the occasional funny disruptor, of course.  It wouldn’t be a good Quiz without a big healthy dose of irreverence.)

So, a big “thanks” once again to Robert Gibson (SWS veteran teacher and all-around good dude) for being ring-leader while I was off.

And congratulations to the winner.  Who we’ll announce here in a second.

First, though, let’s clarify what the answer is.

The question was: What’s the 4th big observation about money that changed my life so dramatically… that an avalanche of good stuff followed (including the phat opportunities to work with Gary Halbert)?

Now, let me remind you that this is MY observation.  This is not a hard-and-fast law of nature, like gravity or death and taxes.  It’s what I discovered, and followed through on, early in my career…

… that changed the way I moved through the world at a cellular level.

There were a ton of good answers in the last post, a smattering of nonsense, and a lot of pure guesswork…

… but, as I said, everyone essentially won just by firing up the cognitive process in your brain.  We don’t spend enough time in critical thinking mode.  Giving those muscles a work-out is ALWAYS a good thing.

The answer was, indeed, scoring what I called “Screw You Money” (in one of the several get-your-act-together chapters in “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”)…

… which is also known as “Fuck You Money” in harsher circles.

Someone even quoted the exact passage from KACS, which I found startling.  I get ripped off a lot, but being actually quoted like that doesn’t happen very often.  Makes me feel all fluttery and embarrassed.

And, of course, the correct answer was nailed in the first flurry of incoming posts.  And multiple folks got it right throughout the threads.

This gives me hope.

Now, a few things must be explained here for the people unfamiliar with the concept.

First, don’t get sidetracked by the harsh language. The concept comes from savvy veterans in the front-line trenches of business… especially salesmen working on commission and entrepreneur-freelancers working without a net.  These dudes know how to turn a memorable phrase.  (And any opportunity to insert filthy shock-words is a big bonus.)

However, the “screw you” part is NOT about being an asshole, or running around with a tough-guy attitude.

It’s quite the opposite, in fact.

By putting aside enough money to take the pressure off having to score an immediate paycheck…

… you simply become more confident…

… and more CHOOSY about who you work with.

When you’re starving, or absolutely depending on that next payday to make the rent, your options are limited.  You will take a job you might turn down in better circumstances…

… or get involved with someone you might otherwise stay away from.

However, when you have a stash set aside to cover your butt, then your options explode.

And, when appropriate, you can say “Best of luck to ya” to any potential gig that rubs you the wrong way… and happily traipse off to go see what else the universe has in the way of adventure.

Tip: While you may imagine it would be joyful to actually say “Go fuck off” to someone who has insulted you, or who is too slimy to work with…

… the truth is that — once you feel real confidence in your life — you never have to utter those words.

It is MUCH more satisfying to rise above petty insults, and to simply say “No”… and move on with your life.

In fact, this subtle, non-aggressive attitude often carries MORE oomph than you can imagine.  Many of the too-rude-to-live psychopaths you’ll encounter in your career got into the business world because they crave power.

And, for most of the folks they deal with, money equals power.

By having the real confidence of being able to turn down a bad biz gig (because you really don’t need the bastard’s money)…

… you take away ALL of his power.

He won’t believe you’re walking away from a payday, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see him sputter and clutch his evil heart as he struggles to avoid fainting.  Nobody walks away from money.  It’s an outrage.  It’s… it’s…

… it’s turning the world upside down.

And, as you calmly stroll away (never letting the door hit you in the butt), you have the double-treat of enjoying his impotent rage…

… as well as savoring REAL freedom.

You don’t need his money.  You don’t need the grief of that job.  You are (as much as a human can be) in charge of writing the script of your life’s adventure.

No one else — including the government — will give you a safety net anywhere near as powerful as knowing you’ve earned a stash, which is set aside to watch your back.

There are few “rules” to getting this Screw You Money together:

Rule #1: You gotta earn it first.  Which means, if you’re now living paycheck-to-paycheck, you need to start setting aside 20% of everything you make.  I don’t care how much you’re pulling down… if you spend it all, you’re an idiot.  You’re guaranteeing yourself financial slavery.

Learn to save.

Rule #2: The amount you put in this stash is up to you.  I recommend at least 6 months of your nut as a starter amount — so, if you never earned another penny, this dough would cover all the expenses to continue living as you live now.

(Side note: If forced to tap into your stash, you also know you could back off living high on the hog, and stretch it out longer.)

The amount you need is individual, however.  Lots of folks get nervous about a 6-month cushion, and require a deeper safety net.  That’s fine — figure out what you need to feel confident enough to walk away from a bad but well-paid situation and not freak out.

That’s your Screw You Money.

Rule #3: This is where people get confused.

This stash is NOT a savings account.  It’s not a rainy day fund.  It’s not “mad money”.

It is a REAL TOOL for a serious professional.  When you consider the “ammo” you want in your bag of tricks for a great career, confidence is a nuclear bomb.

You “win” when you never touch your Screw You Money. You want to die, peacefully in a comfy bed (with whatever other details you want involved in your Happy Ending), and be able to whisper the location of your stash to your heir, who will be the first person to access it since you put it together.

Got that?  You can’t think of this stash as “money”.  That will confuse you, and you’ll obsess on it…

… and spend it on some “emergency”.

This isn’t money.  It’s a tool.  It’s the support system for your professional confidence.

Don’t put it into investments.  Don’t put it somewhere you can easily access after a few beers (and the inevitable “great idea” that always seems to occur in a bar, late at night).

Figure out where it needs to go hide, so you half forget about it (but still know where it is).

Then go live your life with gusto, and earn so much and have so much fun that you never have to even consider dipping into your Screw You stash.

Live bold, and confident.

Here’s how this tactic affected me: I worked hard, in the first years of my career, to claw my way into the tight little list of writers working with the largest mailers on the planet (like Rodale, Phillips, Agora, etc).

I was climbing the hierarchy with a bullet, and enjoying the ride…

… but I knew there were other adventures out there, too, in biz.

When Gary Halbert started his newsletter back in the mid-80s, I knew I had to pursue a relationship with the dude.  I weaseled my way into the edges of his biz, and liked what I experienced.

With the large mailers, the money was huge…

… but the markets were limited to health and finance.  I was getting bored.

With Halbert, the money was a roller coaster ride (from zero to vast fortunes)…

… and the client base was totally entrepreneurial.  A never-ending adventure filled with whacky people, novel-worthy story-lines, and always The Unexpected.

It could get scary, but never boring.

So I walked away from a gig with the big mailers that was on track to bring in millions…

… and hitched a ride on a new life in the entrepreneur’s lane, with no guarantee at all where we were headed or what was about to happen.

It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.

And knowing I had my stash set aside made it a no-brainer.  There was zero fear that I was putting my life-style at risk (even though I was taking a HUGE career risk).

It was excellent use of the kind of confidence that comes from Screw You Money.  And I didn’t have to say “Screw you” to anyone.

I just pursued something that sent surges of excitement, exhilaration, and adventure through my veins.

I have no idea how you, or anyone else, will use this tool.

It may never make a big difference for you.

Still, the bed-rock confidence of having it will influence your decisions, big and small.

Especially since most people will never understand this level of confidence, or have a clue how to attain it.

Make sense?


The winner is the 4th one to comment (Robert made sure I recognized this).  Eric Transue.

Other posters came real close, but Eric nailed it.

Again, great job to everyone who chimed in.

My over-worked assistant, Diane, will be getting in touch with you, Eric, about delivering your prize.

That was fun, wasn’t it.  We’ll have to do it again soon.  I love giving away prizes, when they’re well-earned.

Hope your summer’s going well.

Stay frosty,


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"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • Rovo says:

    Darn, I thought my sales theory was good. I’m still running with it, because it will get me to my “Screw You Money” Goals. Thanks John!!!

  • Rezbi says:

    I don’t care about the prize (okay, would have been nice to win something… anything), but the answer, I just had to know the answer.

    Talk about keeping an idiot in suspense.

    Funny thing is, I’ve seen you mention that so many times, I thought it couldn’t be the answer you’re looking for.

    Goes to show, things are usually much simpler than they seem. We just makes things difficult.

    Well… I do, anyway.

  • P. Gabel says:

    Another tip…you need to have some gold bars. Just in case the buzzards start circling the Fed.

    I keep mine in an rusty 67 Volvo in the back yard.

    The Fed is probably healthy…but better safe than …

    • John Carlton says:

      Gold is an investment, P.

      Your “Screw You Money” isn’t an investment. It’s a confidence tool.

      I’m not saying gold isn’t a good investment, mind you. However, if you’re stocking up on gold bars in anticipation of a complete societal breakdown, you may want to reconsider your plan. How do you buy a loaf of bread with a bar of gold?

      Push comes to shove, that old Volvo may be more valuable…

      Thanks for the post, P.

      • P. Gabel says:

        I disagree John. Gold is not an investment. If it was an investment it would be a very bad one. Gold is security. Pure and simple. Gold is always going to be legal tender.

        In the case of a complete societal breakdown how do you buy anything? I suppose the gun is the rule then.

        How do you buy bread? You sell your gold to a gold buyer and use whatever he pays you in as tender. Gold will always have value unlike the paper notes you have in your sock drawer. They aren’t even good toilet paper.

        I didn’t mean to say have all your worth in gold. Sorry if it sounded that way. I would never put all my worth in any one thing. Especially US currency.

        Thanks for the great blog.

        P.S. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the Volvo.

        • John Carlton says:

          But would you take a gold bar for the Volvo?

          Just to be clear: I’m not saying precious metals are not something to have in a portfolio, or as part of any stash. However, for your FYM, you want it as simple as possible, and cash has fit that model for ages. So that’s my recommendation.

          But the stash is up to the individual, both in nature and in size. The key is feeling confident, NOT having the actual cash-value available. This is important to understand.

          Thanks for the feedback, P. You’ve made some folks think even harder about this, I’m sure.

  • Eric Transue says:

    Thanks John and Robert!

    John, I really enjoy reading your blog and have learned so much from everything you have to teach.

    I don’t have a copy of “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” yet, so I’m glad I won it and really look forward to reading it. Thanks again.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Hartmann, James Foster. James Foster said: The Quiz, Resolved. And Prize Awarded…: Tuesday, 4:06pm San Francisco, CA “I left my heart…” (Tony Bennett) Howdy…. […]

  • Dana says:

    As always…great stuff and explanation. I know I’ve done work I wouldn’t have, had I had some “screw you money.” People can bitch all day about the “evils” of money. It’s their excuse for doing nothing, and those people usually don’t have any.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Dana.

      That ancient warning is “love of money is the root of all evil”, not “money is the root of all evil”.

      It’s a big difference, and most folks don’t understand it on any level. Money is just a tool, and it works. Obsessing on it can ruin your life, however… and assigning it mystical properties can drive you batshit.

      Tools, good. Wishful thinking, bad.

      Thanks for the note.

      • Dana says:

        It amazes me how often that gets misquoted and people leave out the “love” part of that quote. If you’re an ass without money, more of it will just make you a bigger ass…and if you’re a good person without it, you’ll be a better person with more of it.

        • John Carlton says:

          Though, sudden deluges of money do have a tendency to trigger fresh dramas of Shakespearean levels in even the most mundane lives.
          I think one of the Prime Directives of being a good person is to recognize the many opportunities in our culture to become spoiled and lose empathy… and to resist mightily. It’s an ongoing battle…

  • Michelle says:

    Congratulations Eric!

  • Lara says:

    I know what you mean about San Francisco. My mom grew up in Jersey City & would to go NYC often. She loved San Francisco. It has everything, it’s beautiful…but they are ruining it.

    One additional tip for this post: It’s totally in your control. You can increase your income or decrease your outflow. And you’re right, having that buffer gives you the freedom that you want which is why we’re freelancers.

    I just need to listen to myself more and get busy hustling up better paying clients…it requires a lot of work in the beginning to get the machine productive.

  • Janet says:

    I’m glad I read your full explanation. After I read the comments, it seemed pretty clear that it was the “screw you money.” Which I had never heard of before, so I appreciate the idea and everyone who posted it. But your explanation is especially helpful, and shows a lot of integrity – & shows how to use the idea with integrity. That’s why I love this blog! Always good stuff.

    The answer also shows that this is not a career to jump into before you have that safety net.Congratulations, Eric!

  • Chris Endres says:

    I absolutely love your statement “When you consider the “ammo” you want in your bag of tricks for a great career, confidence is a nuclear bomb.”

    That absolutely rang a bell with me. Love it!

  • robert says:

    I work predominantly with clients working to get out of financial distress.

    One of my biggest lessons is that there is no freedom that equals living below your means.

    If someone follows your advice, they’re not only living below their means, but they’re doing something PRODUCTIVE with the difference.

    That’s a powerful combination.

    I would ask you to clarify one point, though, please:

    Do you ascribe to the idea of an emergency fund in addtion to the FUM?

    If so, what do you typically recommend?

    Thanks… IMO, this is some of the best stuff you’ve written.

    • John Carlton says:

      Good question, Robert. I actually did arrange my investments with an eye of keeping some easy to get to, and most hard to get to. (The FYM was hidden away.) I didn’t think of it as emergency funds, but it worked the same way — a structured leveling of moolah resources. Heck, I’ve had savvy people tell me to stagger CDs (the simplest investment around) by months and years, even if they earn the same, so you have more options if you need to cash ’em out.

      Diversity, moderation, and just a tinge of paranoia goes a long way with handling savings and investments. Never put everything in one basket, spread the risk around, and stagger the access (from easy to hard). Even with a small bit of money, you can start basic investment vehicles that meet these simple rules… and fill ’em up as you get more successful.

      The biggest mistake I’ve seen is dumping everything you own into one investment (like a house). And, of course, living paycheck-to-paycheck. People who insist they cannot possibly save anything actually don’t drop dead when they take a sudden hit in their income — forced to survive on 20% less, they make it happen. Beer budget, put away the champagne dreams until you can afford them.

      So go ahead and start saving 20% NOW. Just do it.

      Thanks for the note, Robert. Good to hear from someone in the front trenches of the financial world…

  • Barry says:

    I love thinking of the stash as a confidence tool and not purely as $.

  • […] tip reminds me of a recent post on the Marketing Rebel John Carlton’s blog.  John explains a way to make your business work around your life instead of vice versa.  To do […]

  • All of your big observations are emotional. Controlling your emotions is one of the biggest lessons you can learn. Having a nut saved so you can tell someone to piss off might give you confidence, but it could give you bad karma unless you control your emotions while being able to walk away from a job.
    Robert Kiyosaki teaches it best when learning to get out of the rat race. Your stash is a residual/passive income, and you are out of the rat race when your monthly passive income is greater than your expenses.
    I like the idea of “Fuck you” money, because I learned that word at too young an age, but that’s old school thinking. You can’t involve your emotions with your money, you need to just know how to beat the game of CashFlow. Saving money is one of the eight sacred cows.

    At least this is what I’ve learned, but I don’t have your success yet either John.

  • As a newbie, I read and marvel. The cash nut concept (and ultimately execution thereof) provides such strength and freedom, and ultimately, a purity of decision and action that I can be proud of. Thanks for that John. I have one client that I may just tell, “Take this job and shove it!”

  • haritha says:

    try and grab the new quiz Business Quiz

  • […] I’ve tried my best to do John’s post justice. You can read it here. […]

  • FYM as a Confidence tool. I spent 30+ years in a small business that was very cyclical. Within a couple of years I had built up a small “FYM” stash to tide me over. I rarely needed it but the confidence it gave me has been huge.

  • […] tip reminds me of a recent post on the Marketing Rebel John Carlton’s blog.  John explains a way to make your business work around your life instead of vice versa.  To do […]

  • […] The ‘Marketing Rebel’ himself – John Carlton – talks about “F*#* You Money“. […]

  • […] off your debt and build a “screw you fund” as quickly as […]

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