Over on The Billfold, a writer named Paulette Perhach published an excellent short piece about what she’s termed “financial self-defense” or, more euphoniously, a “Fuck Off Fund.” That is: the money you may need at any given moment to get away from your job, partner, or life. You need one. We all need one.
Beginning in 1839, under a set of state laws known as the Married Women’s Property Acts, American women started to assume a legal identity separate from their husbands, with the freedom to do things like own property and keep salaries they earned from work. By the early 1900s, banks were actively wooing female customers with “stocking rooms,” where women could retire to discreetly pull out wads of cash they kept under their skirts and deposit them in their very own bank accounts. Nearly a year ago, The Cut published a piece that both horrified and shocked me to shit, extolling the romantic and practical virtues of the joint checking account.
While combining one’s finances, in part or entirely, with one’s partner might be termed “true romance,” it could also be thought of—if you’re feeling a little less footloose—as “absolute and suicidal stupidity.” To be more tactful about it: we worked hard to get these rights, and all of your money should not ever be in a place where your partner can reach it.
In her piece, Perhach vividly extols instead the virtues of the Fuck Off Fund, the separate and private emergency kitty needed to make a hasty getaway from an abusive home situation, say, or a creepy boss. She constructs two timelines, the first increasingly dark in a way that might feel queasily familiar:
You buy a halter dress you know you can’t afford, because it makes you look like the successful young woman you want everyone to think you are.
Your boss tells you that you look nice in that dress, asks you to do a spin. Just to get the moment over with, you do.
Your boyfriend asks you how much you paid for it, says it makes you look chubby. You lock yourself in the bathroom until he bangs on the door so hard you think he must have hurt himself. After he falls asleep, you search Craigslist for places, and can’t believe how expensive rent’s gotten around town. You erase your Internet history and go to sleep.
A few weeks later, your boss calls a one-on-one in his office, walks up behind you, and stands too close. His breath fogs your neck. His hand crawls up your new dress. You squirm away. He says, “Sorry, I thought…”
You know what to do. You’re just shocked to find you’re not doing it. You are not telling him to fuck off. You are not storming out. All you’re doing is math. You have $159 in the bank and your car payment and your maxed out credit cards and you’ll die before you ask your dad for a loan again and it all equals one thought: I need this job.
We can all think of other scenarios: the decent-looking apartment that turns out to be overrun with roaches or a set of dangerously unstable roommates. The contract job that was supposed to turn into a full-time gig and instead evaporated suddenly after six months. The guy or girl who woos you to move in and then suddenly sprouts the short, coarse hairs indicative of a pending werewolf.
On Facebook, Perhach refers to the Fuck Off Fund as “financial self defense,” a.k.a proactively and zealously hoarding and saving money when and where you can, with the understanding that emergencies happen, and particularly in the lives of young women. Her scenario presumes you’re gainfully employed, making enough to cover expenses, with even a slim margin left over—pretty big ifs, one and all, and out of reach for the 45 million Americans living below the poverty line and quietly drowning amid the failed experiment of late-stage capitalism.
But if you’re one of the lucky ones, who can somehow manage it, the rewards are obvious:
You save up a Fuck Off Fund of $1,000, $2,000, $3,000, then enough to live half a year without anyone else’s help. So when your boss tells you that you look nice, asks you to do a spin, you say, “Is there some way you need my assistance in the professional capacity or can I got back to my desk now?”
When your boyfriend calls you stupid, you say if he ever says that again, you’re out of there, and it’s not hard to imagine how you’ll accomplish your getaway.
Society should be structured in such a way that a Fuck Off Fund isn’t necessary, that we’re not all constantly and frantically inflating our own leaky financial buoys. But it’s not, and if you can create one, however flimsy, the Fuck Off Fund is for the rainy day that is, in one form or another, absolutely coming for us all.
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