Vested Interests

Homer Simpson once asked himself, “Kill my boss? Dare I live out the American Dream?” That particular dream is not exclusively American, of course, but generally, and unfortunately, it’s the boss who’s funding our dreams one way or another. Even if you’re self-employed, the customer is the boss, and I know many small businessmen who’d love nothing more than to nuke their customer base.

I remember reading Paul Allen of Microsoft telling of one of the major problems he and Bill Gates encountered as their company began to really take off. In order to attract the best software engineers, they’d offered potentially incredible share option packages to lure employees to rainy Seattle from sunny California. In addition, to make these options even more attractive, they gave them a relatively short time frame to mature to a point where they would become the employees’ property and could be sold on the market. In American parlance, when an employee gained their shares, they’d be “vested”.

Allen and Gates became concerned that when the first big tranche of options they’d given out became tradable, many of their key employees would become multi-millionaires overnight. Perhaps they’d all leave and retire? How could they continue to retain them?

Soon, however, they had an almost bigger problem when their employees started cashing in their options. These key people didn’t leave or retire. They became a different type of employee. Allen turned up to a meeting once to meet an engineer wearing a T Shirt stating “F*** You, I’m Fully Vested”. The message couldn’t have been clearer.

This may well be where the phrase “F*** you money” originated from. As far as I remember, Microsoft started firing any employee demonstrating what they saw as this “Couldn’t care less what you think” attitude. It was a real problem and probably still is. When you don’t need the money, do you need the boss and his crummy opinions?

Biting the hand that feeds you can become an option as you near your FIRE goals. In retrospect, I was affected by it in my own employment but it had a slightly different effect on me because it’s such a gradual process and, psychologically, I never fully believed it (probably because, unfortunately, I wasn’t made a multi-millionaire overnight.) I’d admit, however, that as the salary became less of a life support for me at work, I became more cantankerous, more prepared to say what I really thought in meetings and more critical of how things were – or how I perceived them to be – in the office. In retrospect, I think I made it quite obvious that I didn’t need, or want, to be there and that, as I’ve blogged before, is the quickest route out the office.

Most of us will take years to reach a position where we can walk out of a job and never look back, but increasingly as we stick to our saving strategies we will be approaching that point. This brings about a “So near, and yet maybe so far” frustration, because our calculations are based on an uncertain future which might mean we DO need to work a little bit longer. There’s a line that we hope to cross, but as we near it the line becomes a lot more fuzzy and indistinct. Worse, we are relying on our employer to give that line a more solid definition. You begin to spend time wondering how you could negotiate a severance package to sweep you over, and that is a dangerous road to travel. Your mind morphs over from doing a good job to focusing on what a good job it would be not to have to work. You become increasingly unsettled and discontented and it begins to show. You don’t wear a T Shirt, but you start to focus on when you can buy one.

This “Should I stay or should I go now?” question promotes the  “Just one more year” promise that you make to yourself when you feel that you could probably retire today, but begin to feel that maybe a further twelve salary cheques will provide a financial buffer to seal the deal. The buffer, however, is more likely to be in your head as opposed to the bank. Really, if a year is going to make that much of a difference then you don’t have enough to make the move, regardless of the money in your bank. Something else is holding you back.

These are things to bear in mind as you work toward your FIRE goals. The journey will be easier if you continue to appreciate the people other than yourself who are enabling it – your customers, your workmates, your employer. This would be an appropriate point for me to thank all my own previous employers for the help and money they gave me in realising my ambitions.

But you know what, I put a lot of that salary into index trackers, so *@*! ‘Em, because I’m fully (in)vested. 😉


5 thoughts on “Vested Interests

  1. Thanks! This has helped clarify the last couple of years and my future options. I quit my last job in April, having run the numbers and decided the pot was full enough. Had a good Summer, but I now realise that I need more than golf & travel and the actual issue was the last job not work itself.


  2. I typically relate a lot to your posts, but this one hits the nail on the head for me, even more than anything you’ve written before. I’m exactly here, stuck in the middle of the “OMY” syndrome. I still need the job to secure a good loan for my future mortgage. ETA is mid of next year, so in the meantime, I suck it up, while knowing that it would definitely not be financial failure if I was fired today.


  3. > The journey will be easier if you continue to appreciate the people other than yourself who are enabling it – your customers, your workmates, your employer.

    But in the end, it’s your ticket to ride, and only you can pull it…

    Once you’ve paid your dues, let it go, IMO

    Unless you’re Ray Kurtzweil, you ain’t gonna live forever


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