Written by 9:32 am Money & Lifestyle

Does every woman need a f**k-off fund?

About 6 minutes to read

When I started writing this article, I had a couple of hypotheses about the kinds of answers I’d receive when I asked questions about the “f**k-off fund”. 

I expected a couple of different responses. 

On the one hand, I anticipated there would be a group of respondents who would argue that even today they’re still an incredibly powerful thing to have – especially for women – because having a f**k-off fund means having financial freedom. It means you can quit that toxic job or leave that negative relationship or move out of a horrible flatshare. It means you’re free – and that’s a luxury that women historically haven’t had. 

On the other, I was sure there would be people who’d come back to me saying that the f**k-off fund is outdated. That the way the articles aim themselves at women is antiquated and little sexist. That it’s just as important for men to have a savings pot so they can leave bad situations as it is for women. That these days it’s not really about being able to leave a negative situation – no matter what kind – but that simply having a pot of savings for emergencies is more useful, more modern, and more inclusive. 

And I did receive a few replies along these lines. 

But what I wasn’t expecting was for so many people I know – friends, family, colleagues – to turn around and ask me what a f**k-off fund even is. Within a couple of hours of reaching out on social media to get a grip on the current sentiment around them, I had umpteen responses asking for more details. 

What is it? What does that mean?” asked one friend after another. “Should I know what that is?” 

I was floored. I mean, talk about realising how we all exist in an echo chamber. For me, f**k-off funds have been regular talking points for years. You almost can’t go to an event around women and money or savings or financial freedom without hearing someone raise the f**k-off fund as a topic of discussion. 

Yet here I was, hearing from well-earning professionals across a fairly broad spectrum of careers, of whom over half said they didn’t know what I was talking about. I put out a poll and the results came back even higher – over three quarters (75.4%) said they didn’t know what a f**k-off fund was. Just 20% had heard of one, with only 6.2% having one themselves. 

However, when told what a f**k-off fund was, 68% said they would like to contribute to one if they could. The majority also felt it was important for everyone to have one – this was highest amongst women (84%) and people identifying as LGBTQ+ (86.2%). Now my results are not exactly scientific or statistically meaningful (about 150 people responded) but as a snapshot of a friendship network, it seems quite poignant that there’s there remains such a gap at every level of knowing, having, and wanting.

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The history of the f**k-off fund

The first time I heard about a f**k-off fund was about five years ago when I was working for a banking startup. I was attending a General Assembly talk on how new technology can help empower people to better look after their money and their financial health, and the moderator asked the all-female panel about f**k-off funds.  

At the time, Paulette Perhach’s viral Billfold essay A Story of a Fuck Off Fund was trending around the internet – a powerful and simple tale of how different life can turn out if you have financial security and money to fall back on when times are tough. It’s a story that perfectly illustrates how having savings gives you the power to say no, to walk away, to take harassment to HR, to take a risk, or to try something new. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. 

But in the wake of that article’s publication, there was a wave of conversations around f**k-off funds and financial security. Almost all of them were in female-focused magazines – Salon, Jezebel, The Frisky, Refinery29, Glamour, Stylist – they all picked up on the insight and ran with it. 

The simplest definition is that a f**k-off fund is a sum of money you keep in a bank account solely owned and managed by yourself, that is there not only for emergencies like car breakdowns but for a sense of independence. It’s a nest egg. A rainy day fund. Protection. Self-care. 

Because, as Perhach herself said in an interview, there’s not just the practical implications, there are emotional costs to not having one as well. “I have been in a situation where I haven’t had [one]. It feels terrible,” Perhach told Salon. “You’re always scared when you’re broke. You can’t afford mistakes, you can’t afford surprises. When you have money, you feel more calm.”

But has the idea of a f**k-off fund had its heyday? 

It felt empowering back then, to me, to be having these conversations. About women. About money. About taking control of our financial futures. Back then, I was twenty-five, working in a startup with a swanky job title, living the dream on the surface – but I was scrimping to the point that my CMO used to worry about my sad, wilting, four-day salad lunches. But reading these essays, hearing these powerful women talking about the importance of having savings to fall back on, that only reaffirmed for me that my savings habit was worth it. 

But not everyone feels the same. 

“The concept of a f**k-off fund kind of annoys me,” says Mary, a property surveyor in her mid-twenties. “It feels incredibly privileged to me to say that people should be saving a whole separate lot of savings so they can quit a job or leave a relationship. It doesn’t even feel feasible. And I earn above average but I don’t think I earn enough for that. I don’t think any of my friends will either. We all save and most of us have some form of investments but none of us can save so much that we’d have our normal savings and a f**k-off fund.” 

Laurel, a 31-year-old who recently got engaged, agrees. “I feel like I have my own job and earn my own money. We have a joint account but we do most of our money separately. Perhaps that’ll change when we’re married or if one of us takes a long time off work for children, but right now, I’m not sure I see the point. I’d rather just have an emergency fund and not worry about the rest.” 

And this is the interesting thing. The conversation around f**k-off funds has been so often directed at women – in no small part due to the fact that women have historically been less financially empowered than men. But they are, at their core, completely gender neutral.  

Nina Mohanty, co-host at Breaking Banks, agrees. “The term f**k-off fund has kind of been applied to women more predominantly,” she says. “I speak to my brother, my male colleagues working in finance and they’ve never heard of a f**k off fund. But I speak to my female friends and they’ve all read about it in magazines. It reminds me of the research on how women are spoken to differently about money compared to men. Men know about emergency funds but not f**k-off funds. But if I was asked if I’d talk about f**k-off funds to men, of course I would. I have with my brother. Everyone should have one.” 

Because everyone can benefit from having a savings pot that they can dip into when the unexpected happens. Regardless of gender identity, sexuality, race or religion, having a degree of economic independence is something we all can benefit from – even those of us in long-term relationships. After all, if you come up against workplace harassment for whatever reason, a f**k-off fund could mean you feel empowered to raise the issue to HR regardless of if they support you. Likewise, if you become sick or unable to work, your f**k-off fund could become a financial cushion for you to fall back on. In this sense, the f**k-off fund is really more of an emergency savings pot. It can just as easily be applied to an emergency in your home (like my recent leaking roof) as it could an urgent escape from an unhappy situation. 

“I think the emergency fund is sometimes seen as something people don’t want to think about,” says Nina. “They don’t want to think about bad things happening and needing that money. But for women, the f**k-off fund has a legacy of creating a sense of agency for the person who has one. So instead of being at the whim of some emergency, it’s empowering.”

What makes a f**k-off fund? 

Given the connotations, some people prefer to think of a f**k-off fund as an emergency or ‘rainy day’ fund. But ultimately the name isn’t what matters. 

No matter what you call them, an emergency fund is a powerful thing. It’s money put aside for urgent occasions, savings that are easily accessible for when you need them. So rather than being locked into a fixed-term savings or investment account, it’s money that’s liquid – money you can withdraw relatively quickly and with little or no penalty. It’s money for a leaking roof, a kettling boiler. It’s money so you can leave when you need to. It’s money that gives you the confidence to stand on your own and drive your ambitions forward. 

So if you’d like to start saving and protect your future, we’ve covered in detail how you can take steps to build up your f**k-off or emergency fund. We look at how you can start by clearing expensive debt and build up a savings habit that works for you, your income and your lifestyle. 

As Nina says, the best thing about a f**k-off fund is the mindset it gives you. That mental shift from powerless to powerful. “It’s about no longer being retroactive but proactive, giving you more choices and more power.”

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Last modified: 5 March 2021
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