What Netflix’s Beef Taught Me About Financial Independence

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Have you ever been so angry you wanted to burn someone’s house down? If so, you’ll relate to the Netflix series “Beef”.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen the show yet, SPOILER ALERT. You’ve been warned.

Anyway, the show follows the story of 2 characters: Danny Cho, a struggling contractor, and rich bitch Amy Lau who’s about to sell her successful plant business for 10 million. They get into a road rage incident and try to dole out revenge on each other, competing to see who can hurt the other more until both their lives blow up.

I thought this was going to be mindless entertainment like the Tiger King feud between Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic, but it ended up being a deep, social commentary about life and unexpectedly made me think of how it relates to FIRE.

At one point, Danny asks Amy, who seems to “have it all” if she’s happy and does he have to get to where she is to be at peace.

And her response is the defining theme of the show (and in my opinion, of life in general):

“Nothing lasts, everything fades, we’re just a snake eating its own tail.”

Despite becoming a millionaire, Amy sees that her wealth and success still pales in comparison to someone even richer, Jordan, a tech billionaire who buys her business.  Jordan is so rich she owns a collection of rare crowns in her McMansion, just for the exclusivity, and yet, during one conversion they have, echos exactly what Amy tells Danny: “everything fades.”

This is the trap of the hedonic treadmill. It doesn’t matter how much wealth and success you have, the feeling eventually fades, and you’re left empty until you chase the next high to fill yourself back up. It’s a vicious cycle.

Growing up in North American society, we’re taught that happiness can be obtained through external validation. Once I get that promotion, I’ll be happy. Once I drive a Tesla, I’ll be happy. Once I buy the McMansion, I’ll finally have “made it” and be happy. But in reality, it’s a short-lived high. The feeling eventually fades and you inevitably need to chase the next high. 

Eastern philosophy teaches us that happiness comes from within. A better path to happiness is to accept yourself and realize you are enough. Easier said than done, but the two characters in Beef find a way to do this at the end of the film (I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I will only say that it reminded me of an experience I had in Amsterdam).

I realized this relates to FIRE because becoming financially independent didn’t magically solve all my problems. I didn’t automatically get internal validation. I was still chasing the high of book deals, TV options, speaking gigs, and Alexa rankings. I jumped from one treadmill of external self-worth to another, believing I needed to prove myself all over again even though I was supposed to be retired. It wasn’t until the pandemic blew all that away that I realized what I really needed to do was slow down, live in the moment, and spend time with the people I love. Not being forced to earn money or have a job made me realize the futility of chasing wealth and status. It’s fleeting and if you base your happiness on it, no amount ever be enough. You’ll always want more as soon as the feeling fades.

A second theme that really stuck out to me and again made me think of financial independence in Beef is how the lack of safety and security leads to uncontrolled anger. When you feel threatened, your lizard brain kicks in and you feel the need to defend yourself. When everything feels like a threat, anger is a protection mechanism.

It’s understandable that the male lead in Beef, Danny, is constantly angry and stressed because he’s strapped for cash, his business is struggling, and he has to support his parents and unemployed brother. But his arch nemesis, Amy, who’s in the exact opposite situation, with a successful business worth $10 million, a fancy house, and a loving family is just as angry. She’s built up this façade of the perfect life, but in reality, her marriage is falling apart and she’s mentally falling apart from the unrelenting stress of running a multi-million dollar business.

They both feel unsafe and as a result lash out at each other, using anger as protection.

Growing up, I also felt a lot of anger, resentment, and fear. Poverty and political instability made my parents care about survival and little else. This childhood insecurity and anger, drove me to prioritize money and see it as security.

I didn’t feel like I could stop and feel safe until I had enough. And the peace of mind you get from having “enough” is a feeling like no other. I never got that feeling from a job, the government, or my parents. There is no such thing as perfect job security, I can’t rely on the government to save me, and my parents aren’t privileged enough to support me. It wasn’t until I felt financially secure that I could finally let go of my anger and feel free and happy. I no longer feel like there were threats lurking in every corner and that I was one job loss away from homelessness.

So, while becoming financially independent won’t solve all of your life’s problems, Beef has taught me that FIRE’s greatest benefit is safety and security, followed closely by giving you the time and space to build self-acceptance and develop internal happiness. I mean, you could use that time and space to chase after another hedonic treadmill of success, but as someone who did that for many years, at the end of the day you realize, just as Amy Lau did, that “nothing lasts, everything fades.”

What do you think? Have you seen Beef? Do you think chasing success and status will lead to happiness?


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26 thoughts on “What Netflix’s Beef Taught Me About Financial Independence”

  1. I loved this post. On my way to FIRE and this is exactly what I was hoping to hear from people who are FIRE already. I just want to be FIRE so I can leave all the stress and angry times behind. Thanks for writing this <3

  2. I, too, was very affected by that series. Thank you for sharing your feelings and your story. It was a very important commentary on anger and the modern human condition. All work, all true success is the internal relationship to the self. And we all deserve a safe and supported world to allow for its evolution.

    1. Right? I’m so shocked at a how deep the series ended being. Honestly thought it was just going to be mindless entertainment. Glad you enjoyed it too!

  3. I stopped watching Beef after the first couple of episodes, I hated both main characters and thought the show glorifies the division that’s already rampant in the US (I did have much more sympathy for the Steven Yuen character, having been in similar shoes for many years). That said, I completely agree with your post. I’m 6 months into my early retirement and the peace of mind I feel, knowing I don’t need to do anything I don’t want to do anymore, is priceless. For me, FIRE was always about fear (not so much anger) – fear of a bad boss or job loss. I never could count on anyone, including my parents, and I’ve had plenty of bad bosses over the years. But I never felt resentful when I saw others with more than I had. I feel the show glorified victim mentality a bit too much imho.

    1. Oh interesting. Yeah, I don’t think the show meant for the 2 characters to be likeable. They are both flawed, realistic characters. But I can see how it would easy to hate them in the beginning and hard to watch for some people.

      Sorry to hear about your bad bosses (I’ve been there). Sometimes they even start off great and then turn bad over time. You have no control over it.

  4. ” I was still chasing the high of book deals, TV options, speaking gigs, and Alexa rankings. I jumped from one treadmill of external self-worth to another”

    I think that’s the reason why some say that you’re not really retired. Retirement is just a façade to pursue more money. But I wouldn’t hold that against you — money, to an extent, does bring you happiness, as you state in the post.

    1. Missing the whole point of the post. Not surprised at all, Crescent moon 🙂 Very on brand with your comments.

  5. curious, if it wasnt for the revenue from this place could you two still pay the bills?

    its an important question as many early retirees headed back to the work force after the SPY 2022 debacle

    b honest 🙂

    1. That’s kind of the whole point of end of year expense breakdowns and creating into Port A and Port B to separate out the money earned after FIRE. Still very easy to live on Port A only based on my current expenses.

      1. I think for me the goal is freedom… and then do what you want. Once you have financial freedom, you can explore options. You have inspired me to retire next year, and start my own blog, will it make money? I don’t care, but maybe one day. I can spend a few years developing ideas, and thats all I need. I feel sorry for people that are forced back into the work force, for financial or fulfillment reasons, I see it a lot in Government. That wont be me…

    2. Yeah, I love it when people criticize bloggers for not being FI even when these bloggers are 100% open with their finances right on their blogs. It just shows a lot of the critics take shots before they actually look into something.

  6. I love this sentence! Very well put. 🙂

    …. while becoming financially independent won’t solve all of your life’s problems, Beef has taught me that FIRE’s greatest benefit is safety and security, followed closely by giving you the time and space to build self-acceptance and develop internal happiness.

  7. Yes, it’s true that happiness comes from within. It is called “contentment”. This is a basic concept in the Buddhism philosophy. And it is essential to achieve true hapiness.

    Without contentment, any moment of hapiness is short-lived and we soon seek the next rush of adrenaline. This is like a infinity loop that we can’t get out when we get in.

    On the other end, contentment help us appreciate what we have, what we have achieved, the people around us, etc. It can be as simple as having a good health, eating a good meal or achieve the hardest goal we have set in our life so far.

    Contentment doesn’t mean we don’t strive for a better life. That would be called laziness. It just mean that we fully appriciate the state we are in right now.

    Our feelings (hapiness, fear/anger, stress, contentment) comes from hormones that we have in the brain and that regulate our emotions. Dopamine, adrenaline and cortisol are the hormones generating hapiness, fear and stress. The hormone for contentment is endorphin. The more we seek activities that produce endorphin, the more we should be in able to reach a state of long-lasting hapiness …

    Personally, I’ve worked in finance with very wealthy people. Although some of them were very kind and inspiring, I found that the vast majority were angry and disagreeable.

    So, I don’t think there is a link between wealth, success and hapiness. It’s all about being able to appreciate what we have right in the moment. In latin, they call that : Carpe diem … 🙂

  8. It does not matter what is your “Shiny Object” Money, Love, Longevity or Fame…

    Just make sure you do not settle for something that is less than you as long as you apply the following 4-dos…

    1. Eat Clean
    2. Drink Clean
    3. Sleep Clean
    4. Mindset Clean***(High Emphasis)

    At all stages of your life…0-25, 25-50, 50-75 and the final lap 75-100…

    Everything will turn out just fine.

    Good luck!

  9. I absolutely love your post and can totally relate to the joy of watching this Netflix TV show. We happened to stumble upon it last month when we arrived in Taiwan and encountered a few rainy days. It was the perfect excuse for some cozy/binge-watching /cuddling time 🙂

    I agree that this show was a true gem, packed with valuable lessons. Initially, I thought the first episode would take a dark turn like in “Parasite,” with more cruelty in store. However, as the series unfolded, I realized that is was focusing more on sharing some deep life lessons instead.

    One more lesson that could be added to your list is to “never to prioritize success over our relationships”. Amy’s affair ended up destroying her family, and Danny’s actions caused irreparable damage to his relationship with his brother. Both characters placed their “success” above the people who genuinely cared for them.

    By the way, I’d love to hear about the other Netflix TV shows on your watch list. Any recommendations?

    1. Hey Mr.NN, glad you are enjoying Taiwan! Hope we’ll come back and visit you guys there sometime in the future 🙂

      “Initially, I thought the first episode would take a dark turn like in “Parasite,” with more cruelty in store. ”

      Yeah, I was thinking this too but I’m glad they went in a different direction.

      “never to prioritize success over our relationships” –> 100% agree with this.

      In terms of Netflix shows, we’ve moved on to Amazon Prime now (they invited me to a free monthly subscription) and we really like “the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. And also “Upload”. Have you seen that one? It’s one of my favourites.

  10. I also grew up in poverty. Being FI is way better. Having money removes worries for our whole family and makes it possible to focus more on health and interests other than the need to make money. Of course you can be a miserable wealthy person too, but at least you can afford therapy. I found it interesting that there are new studies that show that happiness does increase with income – and presumably FI has an even higher correlation as there is no longer a need to work at all and you are living within your means more or less permanently.

    https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/does-more-money-correlate-greater-happiness-Penn-Princeton-research#:~:text=Killingsworth%2C%20Kahneman%2C%20and%20Mellers%20focused%20on%20a%20new,income%20threshold%2C%20after%20which%20it%20progresses%20no%20further
    https://sccei.fsi.stanford.edu/publication/twins-income-and-happiness-evidence-china

  11. I just don’t ever want to have to drive anywhere ever again…
    And be able to make my art. Tell my stories. My way.
    FIRE would allow that.

  12. Yes and yes. Miracle baby may have a learning disability and we can afford an assessment and I can afford to leave employment to support this process. Also, taking a wee vacation so late in my response. Maybe see you at the dog park in Toronto….perhaps with mb who is now 6 👧🏻💗

  13. I just want a simple life, roof over my head, food on the table a good book and happy and healthy friends and family. Why that can’t be enough for everyone?

  14. I would never have watched that show without your recommendation – it was great!

    Remember the scene at the end of the big break-in? “Freeze!” *pop* *pop* silence… That gave me the shivers.

    Also – do you think safe room doors work that way?! At first I said to myself “lol no dummy, that was sooo ridiculous,” but then I thought, well shoot you couldn’t exactly design it like elevator doors, amirite? Hold the door?

  15. Get instant loan..

    $5,000 and above. at 2% rate……

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