go to hell

After you have built up your emergency fund, started saving for your children’s college education (if you want to make that choice, which I don’t agree with) and invested in whatever retirement plans are available to you, it is time to build up your “go to hell” fund.

That’s right.

Your “go to hell” fund.

If you are working for a living, you need to start building this fund as soon as possible.
With the shifting economic landscape you run a far higher risk of being part of a massive company-wide layoff than ever before. When that happens, it won’t matter who you are, whether it’s a good time for a layoff or a bad time, or whether you have enough money to pay for that new set of brakes you need on the car.

Let’s put this in perspective. When I was working in corporate finance, I participated in a “restructuring” project. This word is a euphemism for “firing lots of people to improve the bottom line and making the remaining people pick up the duties performed by the ones who got fired.” There are a million cute terms for it these days: downsizing, rightsizing, eliminating redundancies, even the old-fashioned “layoff,” which implies that your job will be given right back to you when the company gets over this tough little patch… awww, thanks, Mr. Smithers.

You will be fired at some point, or you will come so close to it that you will be asked to leave or you will fire yourself. The chances are very good – particularly if you work for a big corporation – that the glacial movement of your titanic company will inevitably smash your department into another through mergers or spinoffs or simple cost-cutting. You will be gone.

Alternatively, you may be frustrated.
You may not WANT to go from being the Assistant Associate Vice-Manager of Finance at Bank of America to being the Associate Assistant Vice-Manager at Citigroup. You may want to go spend a year starting up that flower shop, or that consulting business or that scheme selling freeze-dried soup over the Internet that you dreamed up over margaritas on vacation last year.

In every case, wouldn’t it be nice, when they call you in to discuss your future with Megacorp with quivering tears in their cold mechanical eyes, to be able to say “go to hell” and walk out the door?


I’m not actually advocating saying “go to hell”.
You have no need to burn bridges, but figuratively speaking there is no greater freedom – short of actually having financial freedom – than knowing you have enough money to walk away from a job for a few months and start your job-hopping again at a leisurely pace. That is true freedom in the corporate world.

Most importantly, if you have a “go to hell” fund, it won’t bother you when your company disappears from existence on a Sunday.

Creative Commons License photo credit: chatirygirl

25 comments

  • I really like the way you put this… the “go to hell” fund is a great name for it. Really I think most people consider their emergency fund to be this fund though… I’m not sure where the distinction is. Good post.

  • I love this post! I’m currently working on my emergency fund, so the go to hell fund is a long way off! However, I will call it my “go to hell fund” as I’m building it at ING (I love their subaccounts).

  • I really enjoyed this article. Knowing that you have the ability to say go to hell if you should so choose would really lend some peace of mind to situations that may desperately need some.

    My only problem is, it’s a large amount money that would only need to be accessed in a dire situation. So you’d need it at the drop of the hat. Which rules out it being tied up in say, a CD.

  • I love that picture. Love it! My go to hell fund is my start-up fund.

    And not to bring up the argument about paying for kids’ college, but my parents paid for mine (went to an expensive private school). I was the typical unappreciative brat too, and practically flunked out. In retrospect, they should have enlisted me instead. 10 years later, their generosity has paid off in unexpected ways – I recognize that education is the single key factor in reducing poverty and improving health status, and am dedicating the rest of my life to working towards providing education (and basic health) to people not as fortunate as I am. You never can tell…. 🙂

  • I call it my “drop dead” fund. I have a low overhead, so I have almost 14 months of savings that I can use if both my husband and I loose my job. But that is because we do not own a house nor have any kids. I am pretty things will be different once we get to that stage in our lives.

    It is a great feeling to have money in the bank. I do not spend much money compared to other women in my office or my sister. I really do not care that I do not have new and expensive clothes every month. But I go on vacations 2 times a year (traveling as if I am a college student again). I have everything I need plus a new luxuries. And I have my “drop dead” fund.

  • Nice way to look at it. Now is a great time to start thinking in these terms. I remember in the early part of the century (I like the way that sounds) how difficult it could be to find work in some industries. There was a period where I swear there was no turnover where I work because people couldn’t find other jobs to leave for.

    There’s a good positivity to your fund too. If you’re gonna get fired, do it knowing you don’t need them. Walk out with your head high because you have enough socked away to either start something new or wait until you find something you like.

  • What’s odd is that as I get more comfortable in my current ‘corporate’ job (mini-corporate) and I’m taking opportunities in educating myself, I’m feeling the stronger urge to keep a real emergency fund at hand, for when I feel the urge to leave (ahem, after part-time school is complete) and take the challenge on my own.

    I would think that as I became more comfortable I would need that “go to hell” less, but in fact I’m feeling uncomfortable in my growing comfort!

    Make sense?

  • I think “emergency” fund and “go to hell” fund are different things. Emergency is for emergencies, like lay-offs and illness (G-d forbid). “Emergency” fund is more for surviving, and “go to hell” fund is more for not taking any crap from anybody and live it up and be creative even for some time. I think everybody should start with “emergency” fund first (maybe about 6 months of living expenses), after that is covered move on. I heard on the radio today about this article: http://tinyurl.com/34jb4m

    Do you think she had “go to hell” fund? oh, wait, I meant “emergency” fund??? I feel bad for the children beacuase their mommy is so stupid.

  • Single Ma just quit her job but she has an F U fund which should help her through. And has been interviewing elsewhere and such. I think that would be a nice thing to have someday.

  • Yes, I think there are three distinct funds:

    1) Emergency: for a few months living expenses or some emergency that pops up that you could not predict,

    2) “go to hell” fund which buys you some time if you find you just can’t take your job anymore (or they decide not to take you anymore) and,

    3) the “F”-you amount which is the amount you need to permanently leave the work world (or at least be able to if you wanted to). You know what I mean–but the “F” could also mean “financially-independent”, right?

  • Steve, this is a great article. Most people never have that kind of financial flexibility (or the gumption) to do just that. The possibility of my job being made redundant or some other equally bad event occurring is just one of the reasons I am working so hard to create alternative income. Even if my “go to hell” fund isn’t enormous, having other income streams makes it easier to deal with the situation.

  • I don’t think there is any difference between an emergency fund and a go-to-hell fund. They both are basically the same thing: fund for an unexpected situation. Moreover, if you stash away a lot of cash in a high interest savings account, you will find that the value of your money is going down because of inflation. It’s better to have only one emergency fund and rest of the money can be invested in stocks or something else. You can further reduce the impact of being rightsized by having another part time job or opening up a side business.

  • Well, our fund was called the uh…”GFY”…fund. We combined it with the emergency fund. We figured getting stuck in a job so bad that you’d rather quit before you even found another job qualifies as an emergency.

  • Heh. I’ve always called it my FOAD fund.

  • I always called it my ‘KMA’ fund for kiss my posterior

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  • That Saddity Chic

    I call mine the “freedom fund”. I now work for myself but that fund really came in handy when I worked for someone else and quit. It also works great in relationships that go sour, especially if your living together and you’d need to move out ASAP.

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  • very clever name. I like it.

  • Dana Seilhan

    Funny… I was reading The Millionaire Next Door and it seems that the more successful millionaire parents *did* pay for their children’s educations rather than simply hand them cash. A sort of teaching-them-to-fish, if you will. The other thing the successful ones did was earmark seed money for their adult children to start businesses.

    Now if you’re not rich like that and you have to choose between your retirement fund and a college fund for the kids then by all means favor your retirement fund. It’s short-sighted to put your own future in jeopardy when there are financial aid programs out the wazoo for college kids but practically none for retirement.

  • Taleb mentions this idea in his book “The Black Swan”. The idea being that you can take those pointless quarterly reviews, or whatever stupid thing the corporation requires for no good reason and slowly, calmly rip them to pieces in front of your boss. Either fire me or excempt me from this nonsense. How sweet that would be. Indeed, you must have the funds to back yourself up in case your boss choses the latter.

  • My grandfather (Mom's dad) used this exact term! Whether it's you telling your boss to go to hell or the other way around, having a cushion of savings is very important – even if you never have to use it.

  • My Grandpa called it “F@ck You!” money… Gotta love it.

  • My Grandpa called it “F@ck You!” money… Gotta love it.