It’s a weird time in the world right now. Statistically, it is still the safest time ever in human history. But, sea levels are rising, and storms unprecedented in their destructive power are becoming the norm. And despite our growing online connectedness, the world is feeling increasingly fractured. People of all political persuasions find it impossible to have even the most basic conversations with those who disagree with them. This isn’t a political post (we have no intention of making this a political space), but we also live in the real world where a lot of people are feeling uneasy, and where some people’s rights are under attack.
That’s not something we can ignore, and in our lives outside of this space, we’re doing what we can to speak up on behalf of those who need allies. We’re also writing checks where they’re needed. As we posted on Twitter last weekend:
Those of us who are saving aggressively or who have already retired on a big stockpile have a responsibility not to hoard all of that money, but to use at least some of it to help others. Because, truly:
What is financial freedom worth if our other freedoms aren’t protected?
But this post isn’t about that. (Though if you’ve been meaning to give and want some suggestions, here are ours.)
This post is about why, with everything going on in the world politically and environmentally, there has never been a more important time to up your savings game.
The standard I tend to apply to most life decisions is “What will let me sleep best at night?” (Have you guessed that I’m a terrible sleeper? If only I was a better one, I’d be so much more compatible with all the work travel.)
So thinking about things going on in the world that might stress you out — and that’s bound to be different for each of us — the answer to the sleep-at-night standard in almost every case is: increase the amount of money you have saved.
Catastrophe Comes Quickly
We live in a wildfire area, and we’ve heard time and time again that if fire comes our way, we will likely get 30 minutes or less to evacuate. A half hour. To collect everything that’s important to us and get out safely. (That is why absolutely everything is backed up online and we keep few valuables in the house. We want to be able to grab our laptops and dogs, and peace the heck out.)
In most natural disasters, there’s little warning, and a home and most of the belongings in it could be gone in what feels like the blink of an eye.
While any one of us has low odds of falling victim to a catastrophe like that, the odds increase each year as our climate becomes more volatile. Coastal counties are at particular risk — and that’s 40 percent of everyone in the U.S.! So while we can hope that it won’t ever happen to us — and I certainly hope none of this happens to any of you reading! — there is no downside to being prepared, just in case.
Catastrophic Needs Arise Quickly
Thinking beyond ourselves, the needs of others are sometimes apparent before tragedy strikes, but often those needs arise in an instant. Think about Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti Earthquake, or the travel ban last weekend — overnight we went from status quo to desperate emergency, and people working to help those affected needed big money fast.
Having money saved that you can hand over when the need is there puts you in the powerful position of directly shaping the kind of world you want to live in.
The True Meaning of Financial Freedom
I’ve never liked the term “FU money.” I understand the concept, and think it’s absolutely wise to have enough money saved that you don’t need to stay in a bad job. What I don’t like is how blatantly individualistic that name for it sounds, as if I’m the only one who matters in the world, and I want to have the ability to tell everyone else to F off.
If you want to live like a hermit forever, then that’s a fine attitude. But if you understand economics, you know that we all prosper most when everyone has an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to society. And if you like living around other humans, and want to have some of them as friends, then an FU attitude may not serve you so well.
I get it, it’s just a cute name for money that gives you the flexibility to be jobless for a while. But what we call things matters. The names we assign things frame how we think about them, and we are what we think. If we think in FU terms, we position ourselves against the world, instead of as part of it.
What if instead of thinking in FU terms, we think in terms of our place in society and in the world. True financial freedom is not just having the ability to quit a job we don’t like, or even to quit working altogether, but to actively shape the world into the one we are most excited and proud to live in.
The Most Important Time to Save
We are as big of proponents as anyone of not scrimping yourself into misery, and making sure you’re still enjoying life on the road to FI. But depending on where you live and what you’re concerned about, this might be the right time to take a clear-eyed assessment of what it would take to save a little more. Or if you’re just starting to save, great. Keep at it, and look for ways you can continually up your game. Because there are a whole lot of reasons why you could end up being glad you have more cash on hand.
Saving more of your money gives you the ability to:
Come to the aid of others — With so many of us living near the coasts, where hurricanes and tsunamis are a threat, and others living in areas that could see tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes or flooding, chances are good that someone you know could lose everything. If you want to be able to step in and help, then save that money.
Donate to important causes in urgent moments — If you see images of people suffering in the aftermath of a natural disaster, or trying to escape from wartorn areas, or detained at airports, and you want to be in a position to help, then save that money.
Get out of dodge, if you have to — We all have homeowners or renters insurance, and that’s great and all, but what if you literally have to evacuate and fend for yourself for days, weeks, months or years? We’ve heard that if our house burns down in a wildfire, we should expect a rebuild to take two to three years, because we’ll have to get in line behind everyone else who also loses their home. Some areas after hurricanes or floods can’t be built on again, and your entire investment could be wiped out (insurance companies pay to rebuild, they don’t cut you a check). Or if something even worse should happen, and you need to evacuate your home, your area, your country, having that money saved could be the difference between being stuck and finding a way out.
Sleep better at night — If none of this bad stuff ever happens again, and you’ve saved up for it all just in case, then good news: you’re going to sleep a whole heck of a lot better at night. Knowing that you can take care of yourself and others is priceless.
Why Do You Save?
To some people, “emergency” means a car breaking down, while others define it in more apocalyptic terms. What is your vision of what your emergency savings are for? Have you decided to increase your savings in light of world events, or based on a commitment to do more to help others in need? We’d love, as always, to hear your thoughts on this stuff!
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Categories: the process
I’m not against the term FU money as much as you. Maybe it is because it freed me from doing software engineering work of minimal society benefit. Since then it freed me to help millions as a consumer advocate. And it’s not even like I have FU money, but enough to be a decent place.
I have advocated people having an emergency donation fund. Katrina really opened my eyes up to there being some disaster somewhere. I suppose there’s a balance between that and just fighting constant ongoing “badness” like hunger, homelessness, disease, etc.
Great attempt to not be political ;-). I don’t know if it’s possible nowadays. Even your mention of the environment is quite political. I look back at articles that I wrote 7 years ago and they suddenly seem political now. (Maybe that’s just a reflection of where my head is at lately.)
It was the MONEY that let you do that, not the fact that it was called your FU fund. ;-) I like the idea of the fund, just argue for calling it something different and more accurate, like “freedom fund.”
I completely love that you advocate for an emergency giving fund. You’re right that Katrina was a hugely eye-opening moment, and though it wasn’t in the US, I think the Haiti earthquake was similar. Seeing such huge need happen overnight has to make us all realize the importance of being ready and willing to step in and help.
And I’m going to push back on one thing you said: talking about climate change is not political. It is scientific fact and consensus. It is the discussion of what to do about it (or, more commonly, what NOT to do about it) that has sadly become politicized. But the Earth is getting warmer, and we all need to prepare ourselves to deal with that fact, especially if our elected leaders refuse to take action.
I have the FU fund that’s specific to leaving intolerable conditions at work (and I’ve BTDT!) but the rest of the emergency savings beyond that is the Oh Shit! Fund. Pretty universally applicable: oh shit, Haiti got hit hard. Oh shit, major earthquake in a rural area. Oh shit, it’s not safe to stay where we are, we have to leave.
We still save the same amount that we committed to at the start of the budget year, and we look for more ways to stretch the spending budget so that we can save a bit more in light of the world events. If we don’t need it, we can find another use for it later, whether it’s to pay down debt or help someone out. There’s going to be plenty of need for the latter in coming days, one way or another. Even taking politics out of the mix, that statement has historically proven to be accurate.
The Oh Shit! fund is a perfectly apt name, and implied no aggressive selfishness. :-) And I think you’re smart to be looking at ways to spend less and save more, generally speaking but also especially right now. You’re right that you can always use it to do good later on if you don’t end up needing it, but better to be safe.
I never liked the term FU too – it is 1) too self-centered and 2) celebratory of how self-centered it is. It’s like saying money is about saying FU to everything else, which is fine as a feeling but let’s not pretend it’s virtuous.
A concept I really like is that your money has a lifespan. $100,000 will last you just one lifetime, but when you save $1,000,000+ – now you start thinking about how that can pass onto others. With $10mm, it will definitely pass onto others. (In our case, our children.)
But money is not the only thing, the next generation inherits this world and what world do you want to pass onto them? Should you pass on $1,000,000 or $999,000 plus a $1,000 donation to the ACLU for protecting and speaking for people who cannot speak for themselves?
YES! You put it perfectly: celebratory of how self-centered it sounds. I should have you write my posts from now on. :-) And I love the money-lifespans idea. It’s definitely our hope that we’ll have lots leftover to give when we don’t need it anymore, but I’m totally with you in believing that we shouldn’t save it all for then. It’s important to focus NOW and every year on shaping the world as we go along so that it’s all worth passing on.
I’m continuing to save and invest as much as I can with an additional focus on pumping up my rainy day fund (savings) right now. Who knows if markets are truly over valued – but I’m betting that they are and that there will be a fall sometime soon. When there is, I want to be ready to pounce on all the good deals!
Another great reason to have cash at the ready, so you can buy when stocks are on sale! And who knows — maybe the markets will keep climbing for several more years. But there are still plenty of good reasons to keep cash on hand.
Absolutely. You never know when you might find a great opportunity (or decide to just up and quit) and need a little extra cash!
Amen brother! :-)
We live in a woods. It’s not a high fire prone area but the risk is still there. Even without it I’ve seen tornados take out buildings in the area. I’m sure no matter where you live in the world some type of external risk exists. Preparing for that rainy day is important. I’m not sure I’m personally any more worried now then ten or even twenty years ago, I’m just more aware of those risks. But either way saving for those possibilities is important.
Absolutely some type of natural disaster risk exists everywhere, and those risks are not short-term, low-cost risks. Though we all hope our odds are low of something like that happening, if it does happen it’s a major life upheaval moment.
I agree with all of this. Originally, one of my main reasons for saving was that the future looks like it will be increasingly automated, and I don’t want to be trying to learn a whole new field at 50. I figured that if I still liked my work and could still keep my job, then I would keep at it, but I wanted to buy myself options.
Now, I am looking at my savings and wondering if it is enough to take some time off from paid work and provide legal assistance to people that need it in this strange new world. Or whether it is enough to justify going into much lower paying political or activism work that could help people more than my current job. I am with you 100% that we should not be selfish about it and that if we are lucky enough to be in a position to work towards FI, then we need to be doing what we can to help those that are less fortunate.
It’s great you were always looking that far ahead! I remember hearing a few years ago a tech writer saying, “Everyone is afraid of losing their jobs to immigrants, but they should be afraid of robots!” So true. And I LOVE that you are considering taking lower-paid work that will let you make more of a difference in the world. We need more people thinking like you do! That’s a big part of what we want to do in ER — do that advocacy work for free so that it doesn’t matter if anyone can afford to pay us.
I slept pretty poorly last night. And we have a pretty sizeable stash. Frankly, when the rule of law is discarded, all the money in the bank won’t make a difference. There were a lot of Jews with a lot of money before the Holocaust.
But assuming we don’t get to that rather apocalyptic point, a bigger stash, and understanding how low we can go in terms of spending, is always better. It is allowing me the freedom to consider how I can get involved in the political sphere, and maybe that can help in some tiny way to pull our country back from the brink.
Sadly, I agree that having money saved doesn’t get rid of all anxiety, but think how much worse you would have slept if all this stuff was happening and you had zero saved. And I know we’re all hoping this doesn’t get apocalyptic, but getting completely selfish for the moment, having more money at least gives you a fighting chance of being one of the lucky ones who can buy their way out. I’d rather have those odds in my favor than not. (Again, hoping in every way possible that this is all just overly dramatic talk!)
We save for EVERYTHING. I think a car repairs and unexpected vet bills can constitute as emergencies, since you can’t really plan on when they’re going to happen. Obviously, the buffer fund needs to be large enough to cover the small stuff AND the big catastrophic stuff.
When I was 19, our house burned down in a fire. This actually DID happen to me. Fortunately, we weren’t home and the fire department rescued our pets. But, we were homeless and living in a hotel for months. My parents didn’t have a huge savings so we had to live on what the insurance said was reasonable. We were okay. But we could’ve been so much better with a sizable emergency fund. Little stuff happens all the time. The big stuff will happen, too. It’s just a question of when. I’d much rather be prepared than have sleepless nights. :)
Mrs. Mad Money Monster
You guys are smart! And omg — you actually had your home burn down?! I’m so sorry — that had to be crazy traumatic. I’m so glad you all were okay (and glad to hear the FD rescued your pets!). What a great case, though, for a robust emergency fund. Big emergencies are rare, but they do happen.
We haven’t changed a thing about our finances at this point. We feel like we’re in a pretty good place at the moment with our level of savings, which extends out to nearly 4 years of living expenses in short-term savings – which is WAY more cash than a lot of people would keep, but that’s okay. To each their own.
The overarching theme of this post is absolutely spot on. We can’t rely on any one or any thing to provide for us. We need to be smart about our money and make the best financial decisions that we can to ensure we’re in a good place, financially and otherwise. Giving to charity is absolutely awesome, but if we don’t have enough saved up to provide for *our own* living expenses, then we probably aren’t giving to charity either.
Put on your oxygen mask first before helping the person next to you. Ensure and protect your own position first and foremost, then focus on giving back and helping your community however you can. People have called me selfish for holding such a position, but it’s the truth. When we’re on shaky ground, it becomes nearly impossible for us to help others.
And – that’s exactly the point that you’re making in this post. Saving does allow us to do some pretty incredible things with our money. It enables us to give, but it also provides us with the time and motivation to get more involved. To volunteer our strengths to organizations that need it.
And I think you’re right – the more confident I am in my position in life and the choices I make, the better I sleep at night. It’s a very dependable cycle!
I think you guys are smart to keep a big cash buffer, so I’ll totally back you up on that! A lot can happen, and having to sell shares when the markets are way down or risk going into debt is no good — I’d rather give up some potential gains but have a lot more certainty.
And on the oxygen mask analogy, I totally agree in terms of not trying to do too much for others while on shaky ground. But I think there’s a big gray area, and a lot of people think, “Oh, I have debt,” or whatever else, and therefore don’t give even if they’ve reached a point of comfort. And the stats tell us that 80% of people have debt (http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/29/eight-in-10-americans-are-in-debt.html), so if only those who are in a totally perfect financial position give, then that’s a tiny slice of us, and not nearly enough. I think if you’re out of the emergency zone and can provide for yourself and save, then you have a responsibility to give back.
Interesting article. I keep finding myself in the minority in more and more ways.
I find this continuum of selfish to selfless fascinating and want to explore it more. That “big gay area” you mention is intriguing to me. One of the benefits of donating money early in life is to install that habit. There is some suggestion that if you don’t give when you have $1,000 you won’t give when you have $10,000,000. On the flip side is the idea that if you use as much of your income to become financially secure and then give, you can give with a lot lower chance that you will need that assistance in the future. I do not know what is “right”. I do think there is a personal overlay to this.
In the strong individual culture of America, we tend to seek security by taking care of our selves first then help others. In strong collective cultures like Japan, they tend to help others in society first with the expectation that society will help them when need it. Both can work, but rely on the society “rules” to be followed long term.
Defining the boundary of where taking care of oneself stops being beneficial to society and only selfish is very hard to locate. I think it is in “big gray area” you elude to.
Keep up the good work of pushing me to think.
Agree that giving earlier in your financial life is important for building the habit, but also for sheer numbers. 80 percent of people have debt or are otherwise not financially secure, and if only those who are fully secure — a tiny minority — give to causes, we won’t have nearly enough philanthropic giving. Especially because we know that rich people actually give far less than the poor. The individualistic vs. collectivist society question is a super interesting question, too, and I do think that’s true that in the U.S. people tend to assume we’ll be on our own in our later years, so it’s natural to want to secure our own affairs first. And I’d never argue that anyone should go broke by giving, but most of us pursuing FI can afford to give more than we think, and I am going to keep nudging all of us to do more. :-)
Great post. I think we all tend to live in a bubble until something bad happens. And it comes out of the blue, including medical situations. No one plans for that to happen. But a little preparation makes the situation just a tiny bit more tolerable. I was reading other comments about the fu fund. I’m a bit indifferent really. To me it’s just a name. I think if you are using it and have a really good reason to call it that and mean it, that’s a really tough situation to be in. I do think “Freedom Fund” sounds more liberating and empowering.
Thanks, Tonya! And I agree — “Freedom fund” is a better term because it still says what it is, but in a far less selfish and angry way. ;-)
I’ve been rethinking savings a lot lately. I’ve always held a very small amount in savings so that I could channel a lot of my money towards paying off debt…but this always made me so vulnerable to unexpected job loss or expenses. On our journey out of debt, we’ve had to go back into debt numerous times because we didn’t have enough savings. So now I’m switching my strategy and focusing more on savings. Once that gets to a spot where I’m comfortable I can then begin channeling some of that towards debt. That way I can pay off debt from a position of strength instead of from one of vulnerability.
Such a great example of why saving is so important, even if we’re in debt! And I think your current approach is smart — plus having that savings buffer will just help you sleep better at night, which is worth a lot! You can always pay the minimum on debt, but if you can’t pay for your housing or food, you’re in a far worse off position.
Our motivations for saving are admittedly selfish. Two years ago we were over our heads in debt and weren’t able to build savings or buy a house. We made drastic changes so we can live the life we want.
It’s still going to be a long road to FIRE, but my end goal is to give back once we’re out of the red. I would enjoy working at a shelter or volunteering part time instead of doing full-time work. Money is also important, but you can also donate your time as well.
I love that you’re thinking about volunteering once you FIRE! I bet that’s something you don’t need to wait until FIRE to do. There are worthy organizations everywhere who need volunteers, and they often have things you can do evenings and weekends.
You are so, so right. Nothing feels stable right now and savings are so important. Unlike all the smart people on a spending freeze last month, I spent a ton of money in January. And I found myself giving to so many causes that I feel are urgent — far more than I have ever given before. And I learned yesterday that all executive level people at my company would have to take a 5% pay cut. Stuff like that can happen at any time and with no buffer, it goes from an inconvenience to an emergency pretty quick. It’s definitely time for a conservative, prudent approach to finances with an emphasis on saving. I also think the stock market is in la la land right now. I’m contributing to my retirement investments, but I’m going to hold off allocating my monthly everyday savings into the market for the foreseeable future.
I love that you gave so generously! We did the same thing in January, even though that money could have accelerated our savings, just because it felt so important, especially right now. You’re so right that pay cuts can happen at any time, and same for layoffs. I feel thankful every day that we’re now at a point when layoffs wouldn’t be a problem for us, but we can only say that after years of saving aggressively.
Ideally, we save to be able to help friends, family, and organizations we care about while not being a burden to others.
In reality, we also save because–having grown up without a safety net–I now want a huge cushion between me and financial disaster. We save so that we don’t have to panic over money while we’re panicking over a cancer diagnosis, a terrible car accident, a fire, a lawsuit leading to a job loss, or even worse.
Both the best- and worst-case scenarios are very motivating.
I love how you put it: being motivated by BOTH the best and worst case scenarios. I think we’re the same, though I’ve never thought about it in those terms. But obviously we want to save to be able to make a positive impact in the world, and we want to save to stave off disaster.
A friend explains the transition of a fisherman/woman this way. As a kid being introduced to fishing for the first time, they are excited about catching fish, which quickly turned into How many fish can they catch in a day? Then the focus switches to the size of the fish. As the years go by, they enjoy the time outside being on the river (lake or ocean) in the moment, in nature either alone or with close companions more than even catching fish. Generally, it is individuals in this last stage that spearhead initiatives for passing on the sport to youth or preserving river access.
I share this story to show the progression of how focusing on oneself changes to focusing on something bigger than oneself. I see this same progression on the FI journey in my self and others. I think that is why a lot of the FIRE blogs begin with tracking savings rate including the tips and tricks related to saving or investing then morph into happiness/meaning of life posts.
I think selfishness has its place. One can be a lot more effective helper if they are not themselves in a constant state of need. Taking care of oneself today sets them up to be able to take care of others tomorrow. An extreme example is a parent who takes care of their health today, which may take away some time with child daily, so they are alive to parent their child in the future. Having money opens up options, which makes it easier to problem solve.
On my FIRE journey, thus far I have learned that I can make money, that my needs can be inexpensive, and I can be really happy without a lot of money. I think this knowledge and the confidence that comes with it will be more valuable than my pile of money when I need to tackle the next emergency. Yes, the pile of money will provide me more options in tackling the next emergency.
In a couple of years, I will be curious to learn about the individual park rangers who started and grew AltNP. My hunch is they are very passionate about the environment AND are in a position to be able to take actions that risk their employment. I have been thinking about similar thoughts in the past week and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.
I like this analogy, and how you put all of it. And I agree that, by necessity, most of us start in a selfish place. Nothing wrong with that — to a point. I do think there is a tendency in the PF blogosphere to stay in that selfish place, and I think we all have a responsibility to push ourselves out of it once we get to a certain comfort level, and so this post is part of that. I’m curious, too, about those park rangers, and I suspect you’re right that the individuals involved took action knowing full well they’d likely lose their jobs over it. That’s the very definition of freedom, right?
Heh heh, I never liked the term FU money either. You’re not 10 years old. There is no need for bad words.
Our area is generally pretty safe, but the big one is overdue. If that hits, then it’d be a huge disaster. We’re definitely not ready to move out in 30 minutes… I’ve been thinking about getting some gold coins just for an emergency backup.
Ha — well said. We are all NOT 10 years old. ;-) Does Oregon give you good earthquake protection, or do you have some huge deductible if a big quake hits? I know a lot of people don’t think about the larger EQ deductible, but that’s important to play for! And whether it’s gold coins or just regular cash, having some liquid assets in your go bag is a good idea!
I will be honest, I had a renewed dedication to paying off my debt after the election because I want to be agile and move if necessary. I’m a little bit torn right now about whether I should focus on saving or paying off debt, so we’ll see.
I get why you’re feeling torn! And I think you have to do what helps you sleep at night. I think if it was me, I’d probably try to focus on both equally, paying off that debt to give you flexibility, but also building up cash so you don’t have to go back into debt if some big need arises. Good luck!
I usually like to keep a very minimal emergency fund and prefer to invest the majority of our money instead. Lately, I’ve been more about the cash is king mentality, especially given the unease I feel right now. When I worry though, I try to remember that if all of our savings were wiped away, I know I have learned good habits that will help me rebuild.
So true — you can definitely rebuild, it just might be on a much longer timeline than you’d prefer. But we’re in the same boat re: cash right now. It has felt like a missed opportunity for years, but right now we’re moving more in favor of more cash. Though we need that cash buffer for retirement anyway, so it’s not an actual financial change, just a mental one. ;-)
The term FU never shocked me as I see it as money to use when the work situation is standing between me and my ideal life. Then, saying the F word to work is ok. It assumes you do behave sane and responsible in other areas.
We have an emergency fund and life happens fund as first two barriers again still bad times. Being mortgage freeshould be athird layer we add.
I have no problem with the F word. ;-) I think my problem is with the whole FU mentality, which is so selfish and adversarial. But the same thing called anything else is totally fine by me. Haha.
What is in a name? Call it what you want, it is usefull to have!
By that argument, it’s okay to call women “bitches” and people of color by a whole slew of horrible words. ;-) What we call things DOES matter. :-)
you are right, the extremes that you point out here are not acceptable. IT should be rephrased that you can call things what you not, in a decent way, not insulting people. That is my go to behaviour, so the extreme does not come to my mind :-)
I know that is not what you meant, to excuse the horrible and extreme stuff. ;-) But I think that we can communicate the same concept in a way that encourages less selfishness generally.
so true… Had a discussion with my wife yesterday on how not only what you say matters, also how you say it. Choice of words is an important part of that
I’m sure you must think about that a lot in terms of what you say around your girls!
I liked the article and a couple of the comments were very well said. I think Steve said it the way I currently think of FI and wealth. I want to be able to help people, but first I need to make sure I have the oxygen mask on myself. I look forward to the day that I can make a difference financially in family, friends, and causes that are important to me. Yes I want a better life to be able to explore the world and do fun things, but the ability to help others will be fun for me too.
You’re going to get the same push on this one: 80% of Americans are in debt (http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/29/eight-in-10-americans-are-in-debt.html), and if only those whose finances were totally buttoned up gave, there’d be very little giving. So get yourself out of the truly emergency financial situation first, but then make giving and helping a regular part of your financial life — that’s our view anyway. ;-) And I love how you put it: being able to help others IS fun and feels amazing.
Thank you very much for this post. I’ve seen surprisingly little written among the FIRE community about what current events should mean to us, but it’s something we should all be thinking deeply about right now. As Lucky Girl said above, there were a lot of Jews with a lot of money before the Holocaust. My parents and mother-in-law were also refugees, so it’s always in the back of my mind that you could have everything you worked hard for taken away from you in the blink of an eye, and have to escape with nothing.
I know you don’t want to make this political, but I just want to add that another reason to save is that it makes it easier to take a stand for your principles, say, if you are given orders in your job to do something you think is immoral. It’s much harder to do that if you know that losing your job would mean your family won’t be eating for the rest of the month.
Glad you enjoyed the post. This stuff has all been on our minds in a big way, and we felt we had a responsibility to address it. And all so true — many people have had to escape with nothing, but what is often not said is how having money saved can help give you the ability to escape at all, instead of being one of the unlucky ones left behind. That’s something we think about often now. And SO TRUE on having money saved so you can stick to your principles. Call it the “integrity fund” maybe. ;-)
Great post, ONL!
I haven’t really thought it before, but it’s true that those of us striving for FI have the ability to make a change in the world because we tend to break away from the shackles of having a job early on.
Personally for me, after I FI, I will most likely volunteer my time to help others to keep myself busy. It’ll most likely be in an animal shelter as I like animals or it can be in other forms, depending on my interests at that time and age.
Thank you! :-) And so well said — we DO have the ability to change the world, and I’d also argue we have the responsibility to do it. Because if we don’t, who will? And high five for planning to volunteer in the future — maybe give some thought as well to how you can have an impact, once you have more time, in a more systemic way, and not just a boots-on-the-ground way. Like we’re hoping to offer nonprofits effectiveness coaching, which we think provides a bigger bang than just walking dogs at the shelter (though we also plan to do lots of the latter!).
THANK YOU! (Also, I’ve always hated how selfish the term FU money is as well!)
Thanks, M. :-) You helped me write this post, whether you know it or not!
Maybe instead of FU money I’ll start calling it “I can afford to not put up with this $#!7 anymore” money. :)
We save for everything. Every paycheck has a specific % that goes toward Christmas, retirement, vacations, emergency, home, etc. etc. With a large family and only one income, we’ve found that it works best for us to operate like that.
Good stuff as usual, Mrs. ONL.
How about just the “walk away fund”? ;-) Says what it is without that weird adversarial vibe. That’s great you guys are so deliberate in your saving — I’m sure that gives you incredible peace of mind!
I think saving for personal emergencies is so important, butI love that you mention saving to give at times of need. About 95% of our family’s giving is pre-planned, but I think having that wiggle room to give when times call for it is critical.
Yeah, I think those big humanitarian crises and natural disasters tend to come out of nowhere, and it feels good to have some funds available to give when the need arises!
I’ve always thought my emergency fund was for things like a flat tire, or maybe a vet emergency (probably because that happened and I had to borrow money in order to get my pet the attention he needed). I didn’t considered that I might need it for a bigger reason. Forrest fires are common where I live, too. The small towns in this area have been evacuated (several times) in my lifetime. “But that will never happen to me” – right?
Wildfire is a super important reason to be prepared, especially because all the projections are that they will only increase in severity! And that would be a major life upheaval, not just a short-term inconvenience. So yeah, I’d say plan for that! :-)
Wow, great perspective! When I think about it, ultimately we save for the sole purpose of having the privilege to choose. I mean really, that is what I want in life – options. If I want to retire early-er than others then I can because I’ve worked for the ability to make that decision (without living in a cardboard box). If I have enough saved and something horrible happens in my neck of the woods – assuming I am still physically up for the task – I can just up and leave to a new area (city) (region) (country). And yes, if I have enough to provide for my own family (by not living paycheck to paycheck) then I am much more likely to be in a position to help others in need in a very practical and impacting way.
Thanks for the great post!
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post. :-) I love how you put it all — it is about choice 100%, including the choice to be able to step in and help others in need, whether they be next door or across the ocean.
The words we choose matter. I’m okay with profanity and actually like it so don’t have a problem with the term FU money; my personal business playlist has many versions of the song “FU, pay me,” and it does not make me feel bad even though I am in my business to help others. The FU is largely a reminder to myself that I’m not running a charity and charge fair prices, and that I should not let any potential client try to make me feel bad that my expertise has a cost.
I have looked at recent events and committed to having more cash on hand specifically to help others. There have been some reports of Iranian and Syrians in the US having their assets frozen this weekend. The Administration is behaving in ways completely outside the norms of our country and even if I only cared about the economy, the economy will be impacted by that. Organizations and friends will be impacted. Having bug-out cash is good. I’ve always been into preparedness.
I totally see your angle on the FU term! And I can’t totally articulate why, but I feel like it’s more appropriate in your case than for, say, a straight white male. And yeah, same here in terms of being prepared to help others. Who knows what’s coming next, but whatever it is, we want to be ready to step in and help. Otherwise, what good have these big salaries been for all these years? I don’t believe anyone can truly be happy if they only enrich themselves and never help others.
My wife and I were just talking about our emergency fund. I’m actually not a huge fan of the concept. Just having 3-6 months of expenses saved up for a disaster that might not come accruing minimal interest seems like a waste (and this is coming from a guy who was recently laid off). Aside from money set aside for near term goals (maintenance, home upgrades, vacations) we completely depleted our emergency fund and threw them in investments. Not that I am hoping for a downturn, but I think the markets will eventually go down in the next four years so it’ll be a good time to put some money in.
Great post, it’s a reminder that I do need to give back more since my family is doing so well in saving money recently. I will be making a donation as soon as I’m done with this comment. :).
I love that you were inspired to donate! :-) I don’t know… I know I’m more financially conservative than many, but given that you’ve been through a layoff and you have another kid on the way, I’d probably be comfortable with more of a cash buffer. But that’s just me! :-)
When I was laid off we didn’t even touch our emergency fund. So I think we’re good :).
If a true emergency arises I could either pull from our investments or pull from our HELOC (currently with a $0 balance) and I figure that between those two we can cover most things. I know it goes against what a lot of people think, but I’m confident we can make it work.
Do you have other money saved that’s not technically your emergency fund, or did your wife’s income cover things? And pulling from investments might not be a great move if it’s a widespread economic crisis and the markets are down. But what I think doesn’t matter! What matters is that YOU are comfortable with your plan. ;-)
I actually take it back – we pulled out money to buy a car in cash from our emergency fund. But that was after I found a job. Even after that we had way too much in savings.
We don’t have an emergency fund bucket – we just have $$$ in different savings goals (home improvement, vacation, baby’s birth). If something happens we could pull from both of those funds.
Our HELOC is at a low rate so I’m fine taking a little bit of risk and pulling out of it in the event of an emergency. If it gets too much I’ll cover it w/ some of our taxable investments.
I know it’s a risk if the market drops, but I HATE the idea of money sitting in a savings account losing value over time due to inflation.
It sounds like you have ample options to cover emergencies, so I won’t bug you about it anymore. ;-)
Yeah, the term FU money to me seems hostile and imply it’s for people not happy with their current situation. Generally, more money won’t help with that, and I agree that it also seems SO self centered and petulant which is why I probably think of it as hostile, lol.
I simply save for freedom. Freedom to not have to worry about the kids college, if they go, freedom to not have to feel tied to work for another 20 year, freedom to change my lifestyle to better fit my family’s needs, freedom to have time to put towards things and not just money. Since I can’t volunteer everywhere, I’ll still put money towards things. Essentially, saving and having that buffer, for me, is all about freedom to choose the life I want to live, not one I’m forced to live due to bills, debts, lifestyle, etc…
We realized early on we didn’t necessarily want to NOT work but rather just make a lifestyle change and that’s what spurred our initial savings. Since that has been happening already, happiness and other pleasant things are unexpected additions to those lifestyle changes. It’s nice.
I think calling it the “freedom fund” or maybe “integrity fund” or “walk away fund” are all good and less hostile. :-) Also, I admire that you don’t presume that your kids will go to college despite you and Prof SSC both having lots of education.
Totally with you, as you know, on the freedom and lifestyle stuff. And I’m super glad for you guys that you are already seeing some benefits of the lifestyle change. We’re similar in that we know we’ll do SOME work again in the future, we just never want to HAVE to work. ;-)
I really like Steve’s comments. Protect and Save yourself and then do what you can to help those around you. I think I see and feel your underlying pain for what is going on south from us up here in Canada. I don’t think though that I can truly understand it or know the emotions running through your minds on a daily as new things keep happening. I do know that you guys are wise and will find a way to make a difference, just keep being mindful like you are and make a difference. I would also then refer to this awesome article that I shared earlier this week… https://markmanson.net/not-giving-a-fuck
I’m going to push back a little, because we’re friends. :-) I don’t know the stats for Canada, but in the USA, 80% of people are in debt of some form (http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/29/eight-in-10-americans-are-in-debt.html). If we only gave after we are out of debt and in good financial shape, that means an incredibly small slice of society would be helping others, and that’s not good enough. I’m not advocating for folks to spend all of their money on giving when they’re totally underwater or barely surviving, but once you reach the point of statis, there’s absolutely a place for giving WHILE you work toward other goals. Plus, beyond charitable giving, knowing you can help out a loved one in need if you had to is priceless.
I’m glad you pushed back a little and wanted clarification on my reply. I have always given throughout my lifetime for any charity I was able to. I have always believed in supporting local charities and people that i could see a direct impact of my actions. I really like the rise of GoFundMe , these are real people that have real world problems. I believe I have given $1000 this year to various GofFundMe campaigns. I guess my point would be to act wisely with your charity, do so in a manner where a bit of sacrifice is able to afford the giving but not to a point that jeopardizes your own stability. I think the CND stats are as horrible for people acquiring debt but most I would think have enough income to be thoughtful and helpful to others. As for the shared article it is more about focusing on the important things in our lives like family and friends, don’t get dragged down by that which doesn’t add value to your life and lastly do good for others. Thanks for the opportunity to chat more on this and love the conversation you are creating for others to think about how they can help.
I love that you’re so committed to giving and it’s awesome that you make such a point of giving to local orgs and campaigns. Different causes speak to all of us (we give to local causes, too, but also think it’s important to fund those trying to change laws and fight at the systems level), and I’m all about following your passion on that stuff. Totally with you on not giving if it puts you on shaky ground, so I think it’s more about pushing the people who can afford to give but have convinced themselves that they need to save that money instead to give some of it. :-)
Totally ! So let’s keep inspiring others to give and if they can’t do it with money then share their skills , volunteer or put whatever skills they have to making a difference . Have an awesome night :)
It is always a good idea to save money. Thanks for the post and great reasons why we should be saving money now more than ever.
You’re welcome! Glad it was helpful. :-)
I am with you; I don’t care for that terminology either. Other names for the fund could suffice :) I think with the current political climate, I totally see a savings account in a different light. This uncertainty that we are experiencing is just so hard to grapple with and it is hard not to think about how this could affect all of us as a nation. Jobs, health care, the economy, etc… Having savings seems incredibly important right now :(
I’m leaning toward “integrity fund” now. ;-) And YES on savings. Same here — I have gotten used to seeing savings accounts as a missed opportunity, but now I do want to retreat back into cash a bit. :-/
I admire your courage to write about a difficult topic you believe in.
I don’t mind the term FU money because that fund gave me the courage to tell my boss no when he came to my desk after hours one day ask asked me to change documents in the system that were part of an SEC investigation-changes that would have my name all over them instead of his. Perhaps ethics preservation fund is better wording? That is different from financial independence in my mind.
Our emergency fund has shrunk as our investments have grown since we could access those in an emergency. But our experience has been that emergencies don’t always take turns and life can change on a dime. In under a month back in 2008 we went from healthy dual employed with insurance to layoff, no insurance, and health crisis threatening to keep the other out of work at the same time as the markets tanked. We have learned our biggest asset is flexibility to make it work no matter what.
I think the way to champion causes we care about is the personal in personal finance. If it was all about donating money then we should all keep working to earn more to donate and not retire early?
What if we call the FU money the “Integrity Fund” instead? Because I think that’s a totally valid purpose for it. No one ever wants to be in a position to have to compromise their ethics, values or integrity at work, and that’s the best reason there is to walk away. Good for you for doing that! And I’ve thought about your situation, actually, and it was one of the things in my mind when we pushed to pay off the mortgage super fast. While investments are nice, in a crash you can’t really sell stuff anyway, and it is more important to us to know that we can live SUPER cheap if we have to, especially now with no mortgage coming out each month.
As for donating, it’s so personal. You know where we stand on the question, but there are a lot of ways we can all do good in the world. :-)
Thanks for this great post, and for making the point that saving should not equal hoarding.
Glad you enjoyed. :-)
Back in the 80’s, we had massive job losses in the area. My parents were bankrupt, despite mum working 3 jobs and my dad finding another. The area was in freefall. Lesson: BANKS are not your friends, make sure you own that title to your home.
In 2008, we moved ‘home’ the area was recovering. With our daughter. We moved because the work was here. Child care was promised. We were going to make a real go of it, dual income. Then once we moved, this childcare offer evaporated. Then… my hubby was told that his job had gone to someone else. After we had moved our family. Unexpected! And we fell pregnant. LESSON: Words are just words until they are put into action.
We started our own business from nothing, to keep the wolves from our door. Lesson: Resilience and self reliance.
In Feb 2009 we were hit hard with bushfires. Be prepared. I had friends that lost their homes. Some were only recently rebuilt 2 years ago. That is 8 years of ‘shed’ living with 4C 2A. Not easy. The decision to rebuild in an area that you have lost friends is hard. Rebuilding costs more, even when insured. Every summer we hold our breath, our friends leave their home during the day of high fire bans and make arrangements for their animals and livestock. Friends lost parents, grandchildren lost grandparents. We lost customers, customers lost family members. Death. Destruction. Horrible. It was bleek. Bad times happen. Prepare. Lesson: Insurance, contingency plans and bushfire awareness- JUST LEAVE.
In 2009 we welcomed our second child. Down to one income, but happy. I worked casually. We lost twins. In 2013, we welcomed a much loved third baby. God is good. We were happy. Lesson: Grateful for life.
I returned to full time work in 2016. It was great. We had our family, we had sorted stuff. Business continues to be shaky, but it is still going. Time to get on with earning an income. Unexpected pregnancy #4. After a medical intervention. Lesson: Life throws us unexpected events, and you can’t plan everything.
2017, pregnant and expecting an arrival any day now. A major business sector in the area is shutting down. Massive job losses in this area once again. Another 1000 jobs or so cut. Seems like another wave. LESSON: No job is secure, learn from previous lessons and pay off that house. Make your own way. Do what you can, when you can and make sure you are in a position to be as secure as you possibly can be.
So we can’t afford “FU money” because to be honest, we can’t afford to be too picky with jobs. I don’t like the term either. It seems so ungrateful for the opportunities that do come your way. What we can afford to do is make every dollar count towards a life where we are stronger and in a better financial position to ride the waves that life throws at us. Hopefully enjoying all of life’s blessings a little more along the way.
Our “emergency” is our debt, the security of having a roof over our head is paramount and makes all of life’s hurdles a little easier.
Gosh, you guys have seen and been through an awful lot! :-( I appreciate you sharing your story and your MANY lessons here — it’s a real testament to your resiliency that you’ve made it through them all and retained a sense of positivity!
Saving and investing is key, especially in this day and age. My blog is all about smart investing.