The story of the “fuck off fund” resonated with me lightly when I read it a few days ago and even more strongly with me when my wife read it out loud to me yesterday while I was driving us back from Ocean Beach in San Francisco (big black labrador sleeping in the back of our car). It resonated because it rings true with my personal experience. And I believe that renaming the emergency fund to something like the author did is a big step forward because it shows action not reaction.
When I was 24 years old in late 2008, I was working a good job for a software company, but was living in a region of the United States that I didn’t love (suburbs of Washington DC). I made $46,500 per year and lived in a 4 bedroom townhouse with 3 roommates where I paid $500 a month + my share of utilities for a tiny bedroom (probably 8'x10'). I had a car I really wanted to drive — a used 2004 VW Jetta GLi Special Edition that I should’ve had to pay $18k for, but got it for $12k because the guy selling needed to just get rid of it.
I didn’t live cheap, but I also didn’t live beyond my means. I didn’t have credit card, just a debit card. I wasn’t able to go into debt (other than my car loan) because of this, which helped me to avoid many of the trappings that many people my age at the time had. I was also very fortunate to not have any student loan debt because my parents were able to pay for me to go to a Virginia state school (JMU) where I received a great education.
I decided in December of 2008 that I didn’t want to stay where I was. I could easily picture getting married young (25 or 26), buying a house, and having a few kids by the time I was 30 like many of my friends, yet (and this isn’t meant to slight any of them) that terrified me and was not the life that I wanted then. So I made plans to go back to Europe for a while starting the following August.
Through some good fortunes and amazing mentors over in Switzerland, I was given that chance. Because I had been saving automatically every month (I put $500 every pay period into a savings account), by the time I moved I had over $10,000 saved up. I sold my car to a coworker and pocketed a couple thousand dollars more. So I moved to Switzerland in August of 2009 with over $12,000 in my bank account.
Had I not had my savings account, I would not have been able to change my life like I was able to. Because of those choices, I was then able to learn a new career in marketing through my time in Switzerland which got me a job in Philadelphia and then New York City and now I’ve been in San Francisco for two years with my now-wife. All because I started saving.
So What’s The Point?
The author of the original piece said this without saying it, but I think it merits being said explicitly:
A “fuck off” fund is not an emergency fund in case something happens. A “fuck off” fund is active because you are a person and have the skills and intelligence you need to change your life if you want or need to.
The problem I have with an “emergency” or “rainy day” fund is that these are passive actions expecting bad things to come to you that require you to use it. Having a “I do what I want” fund can allow you to change your life and make hard decisions if you need to.
Bad things happen to all of us, but if we’re going through life planning for them then often we are forgetting to live. Live an active life, not a passive life. An active life is a powerful life. Live a powerful life.
I’m the founder of Credo, a marketplace that connects businesses and growth/digital marketers. A growth marketer by profession based in beautiful San Francisco, California, I am formerly marketing lead at HotPads and Trulia Rentals and a former online marketing agency Distilled senior consultant. I travel the US and world to speak about growth marketing, connect with agencies and consultants looking to grow their businesses, and consult with some businesses on how they grow. In my spare time I rock climb, ski, cycle, and constantly seek to expand my knowledge and my network of people.