As a woman, my emergency fund protects me from more than just surprise medical bills and car repairs — it's a safety net when I need to get out of a bad situation
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- The viral article "A Story of a F*ck Off Fund" made me finally realize how important keeping an emergency fund is, especially as a woman.
- Once I saved up enough money to a few months of living expenses, I was able to say "yes" to things I really wanted, and "f*ck off" to things I didn't, without worrying about money.
- This helped me leave jobs and partners that didn't serve me on top of allowing me to cover unexpected expenses, like a tax bill and a last-minute flight to see family.
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I don't recall ever hearing the term "emergency fund" as a young adult.
Worried more about being able to pay my bills in my early 20s, the concept of keeping a stash of money for unexpected expenses never even occurred to me. Instead, my savings account sat off in the distance collecting cobwebs, perpetually at the $5 minimum balance required to keep it open.
That is, until I came across a viral personal finance article and realized something that changed my entire financial life: I needed a f*ck off fund.
What's a f*ck off fund?
The article that popularized the concept of a f*ck off fund, "A Story of a F*ck Off Fund," was written by Paulette Perhach when I was in my late 20s. Perhach's fund is like an emergency fund with spunk. Having one isn't just about being able to pay for a car repair, it's about freedom. That extra $1,000, $5,000, or $10,000 in the bank means that when someone or something in your life isn't serving you, you can metaphorically say "f*ck off" with the financial support to back it up.
The reason the article hit me so hard was the hypothetical story Perhach wove and how much I could relate to it. She asks her reader to imagine they're a young woman who just graduated from college. Saddled with student loan debt and the pressure to graduate from living like a broke college student to a young professional, she spends everything she makes and then some, racking up credit card bills in the thousands.
She's chugging along OK until her boss starts making weird advances on her and the boyfriend she just moved in with starts getting aggressive. She can't afford to move out, and she definitely can't afford to quit her job, so she convinces herself it's nothing.
But it gets worse. Her boss sexually harasses her and her boyfriend becomes abusive, and thoughts of escaping either are silenced by worries that her bank balance is dwindling and her bills are due soon.
What difference would some money in the bank have made? Perhach answers this by pressing pause on her story, hitting rewind, and retelling a story in which the young woman stays on her broke student budget, despite her new grown-up job, and saves up enough money to "live half a year without anyone else's help" — essentially, an emergency fund. The first time her boss gets inappropriate, she goes straight to HR without worrying about her job security. When her boyfriend gets aggressive, she packs up and leaves, staying in a hotel until she can find her own place.
Why emergency funds are crucial, especially for women
While the details vary, it's a story that many women can relate to in one way or another, myself included. I've watched my female friends linger in unhealthy relationships because they weren't sure how they'd afford rent if they split. I spent years in a job that wasn't in my field, working long hours for bosses who ranged from mildly inappropriate to verbally abusive. I always thought I couldn't quit because I needed the money.
This story is what helped me understand that having an emergency fund could do more than just help me avoid using credit cards during a rare emergency. Armed with money to fall back on, I could finally make life decisions based on what I wanted without worrying about the financial logistics.
I dreamt about all the life choices I would've made differently if I'd built an emergency fund right out of college. Then, I started saving.
The difference having a f*ck off fund made for me
By minimizing my fixed costs — living in an area with low rents and opting to be car-free for a while — and freelancing on the side, I was able to save up a modest emergency fund of about three months' living expenses. Over the next couple of years, I would build that up to an entire year's worth of living expenses sitting in my high-yield savings account.
Having that money to fall back on is what helped me finally build my freelancing into a full-time career that allows me to travel and work remotely. It meant that when my ex and I split up, I could afford to move into the city for a while to get some space, even though our lease wasn't up yet. I was even able to rent a nice temporary apartment in a fun, social area, and I splurged on the one with a pool. Let me tell you, break-ups are a lot easier when you can lounge in a pool every day.
My emergency fund has also helped me avoid resorting to credit cards to cover things like an unexpected tax bill and a last-minute flight home when the coronavirus pandemic hit. However, I'm most thankful for how having it has changed the way I go about my daily life. Now, when something in my life isn't doing me any favors, I have no problem telling it to f*ck off.
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