“Did you happen to see the story about f— off funds?” I casually asked Peach a few weeks ago while we were walking Mosby (and yes, I said the actual word).
“Um, no I don’t think so,” he responded. “What was it about?”
While tending to Mosby’s bodily functions, I explained to Peach the general premise behind Paulette Perhach’s choose-your-own-adventure style article about the importance of having an emergency fund. Or, as Ms. Perhach calls it, a F&@k Off Fund to walk away from an uncomfortable, inappropriate, abusive or harassing situation.
“Do you have one?” Peach asked.
I smirked before telling him the truth behind my savings strategy.
“My entire life has been about saving a f— off fund.”
Age 8: The Red Mitsubishi Eclipse
Standing on a car dealer’s lot in the warmth of a North Carolina spring day, I first saw her: a red Mitsubishi Eclipse. I thought that car was beautiful. I was also eight.
My parents were talking to a car salesman about buying a new family car while I walked around the Eclipse and found the price tag in the window. My memory of this event nearly 20 years ago could be drastically misinformed, but I recall the sticker reading $16,000.
Even as an eight-year-old, I already understood my parents did not believe in hand outs. If I wanted this car, it would have to be purchased with my own hard-earned dollars.
So, I began my first version of a F— Off Fund.
Certainly not in the way Ms. Perhach meant, but in my eight-year-old mind I remember thinking, “Mom and Dad won’t buy this for me, so I’m going to have to do it myself!”
This led to me taking every available job for an eight-year-old girl: friendship bracelet making, selling lemonade and petsitting the neighbor’s evil cat.
I tucked my money away in a candy tin and kept a ledger of my deposits with a picture of a car drawn at the top. Then I shoved the tin in the back of my closet, just waiting for the day I could drive off a car lot in that fancy Eclipse.
Because I know you’re dying to know, my first car was actually a Toyota Rav4.
Age 18: Ready to Ditch College and Move to New York City
Okay, that header is a bit misleading. I never planned to leave college before graduating, but I was ready to leave my small-town campus almost as soon as I arrived.
Without getting overly involved in my complicated history with my alma mater, I ended up picking my college based on scholarship money so I could graduate debt free (my parents did generously pay the difference). The school was just not the first pick in the draft, if you know what I mean.
I was also a teenager and incredibly bratty about not getting my way (aka having my parents pay full price for whichever college I wanted).
Always a future-oriented person, I began to fixate on moving to New York City after college. In order to accomplish this without parental welfare, I set the goal of saving $10,000 before graduation.
Thanks to teenagers years spent living overseas unable to get a job due to visa restrictions, I opted for the much beloved (yes, sarcasm), but no work history needed option of being a resident assistant.
This position paid in one of two ways:
- You put your $6,000 a year towards your tuition.
- You put three installments of $1,000 per semester in your bank account.
With tuition covered, I checked the box for option two.
Fueled by the low-boiling resentment in my gut, I spent sophomore year through senior year of college tucking $500 of each RA paycheck into savings.
The remainder subsidized car-related expenses and general lifestyle costs.
I also picked up two additional campus jobs my senior year, which easily topped off my second version of a F— Off Fund.
Fun Fact: I even started stocking up on hotel toiletries when I could, because apparently I had a Doomsday Prepper mentality about being able to wash my hair post-moving to NYC.
On June 12, 2011, three weeks after college graduation, I arrived in New York City with two duffel bags and a healthy savings account.
Age 22: A Creepy Dad Mildly Sexually Harasses Me
Once in New York City, I decided I didn’t want to touch my $10,000 savings and instead decided to work like a crazy person to keep building my net worth.
I moved to New York to work as a page for The Late Show with David Letterman, a fun job, but not one that paid particularly well. Determined to show my parents they raised me well by not asking them for financial support, I dove headfirst into finding other sources of income.
Like the twenty-something, suburban bred, white girls before me – I decided to be a babysitter to the over-privileged youth of Manhattan.
I also snagged an exhausting job at Starbucks.
A three-job work schedule exhausted me, even with the energy of a 22-year-old fresh to the Big Apple, but it felt so good to stand on my own two feet and continue building my savings. Tips from Starbucks, unexpected cab fare from babysitting and a portion from each Letterman check got dumped into savings (or literally stuffed into an envelope).
A year passed and my tenure at Letterman only had a few weeks remaining, so I scrambled to find another source of primary income.
Feeling comforted by my nest egg and several babysitting gigs (I’d left Starbucks after acquiring enough babysitting jobs to more than make up the difference) – I liked having the luxury of being selective with my next job.
Then, one fateful night put my most lucrative babysitting gig on the line.
In a movie-level cliché, the drunken Manhattan dad stumbles into the apartment (wife still gone) and proceeds to first tell the 20-something babysitter that she should leave her boyfriend, and then confesses that he routinely has affairs and even occasionally visits prostitutes.
Horrified, I left the apartment and texted the wife the next morning that I had found a full-time job and could no longer balance babysitting in my schedule. A lie, but I had enough money to cut both that babysitting gig and lecherous man out of my life. His wife must have told him about my quitting, because later that day he called me (we’d only interacted via text when he’d let me know what time to expect them back home or asking if I could stay later). I sent the call to voicemail and never spoke with the family again.
This is my truest version of a F— Off Fund, because much like Perhach’s character, I found myself in an extremely uncomfortable position but fortunately had enough saved to say, “Fuck off, I’m gone.”
Age 26: Always Prepared
Today, my F— Off Fund is not a specifically defined goal, but a series of savings accounts, automated and manual habits as well as investments that continue to build my wealth each month.
Nearly 20 years of aggressive savings habits as well as some basic investing has left me in a comfortable enough position to never feel chained to a specific job, employer or person. The constant side hustling also helps me feel that I’ve somewhat recession proofed my life with multiple streams of income.
I’m not on the early retirement track (deliberately), but I am working towards financial freedom simply by virtue of wanting my entire savings to be an F-Off Fund and allow me to never be forced into an uncomfortable situation due to financial constraints.
A final, but important note: The Intersection of Privilege and Savings
I recognize that I’ve been able to build my F— Off Fund thanks to many privileges. Those privileges include financially literate parents who taught me about money at an early age. A financially secure household that enabled me to completely focus on being a child, never fear money, and ultimately grow into a woman able to avoid debt while building a positive net worth and a healthy relationship with finances.