Posts tagged Savings
One Girl's Journey To Financial Independence

Jennie here. 

As a first generation Vietnamese-American growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I didn’t have a lot of money growing up. Both my parents had to work full-time minimum wage jobs just to support me and my three siblings. Then in the mid-90’s, my dad got laid off from his factory job and my family fell on hard times. We even had to go on welfare just to make ends meet. 

Based on these experiences, I realized from a pretty young age that I was going to have to fend for myself. And if I didn’t figure something out fast, I’d be stuck in the same cycle of poverty and financial dependence for the rest of my life. So at 14 years of age, I applied for a special work permit and got my first job as an ice cream scooper for Cold Stone Creamery.

I remember the company policy at the time required all Coldstone employees to sing for their tips. Ah, isn’t childhood trauma fun?  


I can assure you that they're dying on the inside.


Looking back on my humble beginnings, there were three pivotal moments in my life that set me on my journey to financial independence: 

1. Paying My Way Through State College (With Zero Debt)

1. Paying My Way Through State College (With Zero Debt)

1. Paying My Way Through State College (With Zero Debt)

Before graduating in 2011, nobody in my family had ever gone to college. And that could have easily been my path. When I was 14, my parents sat me down and told me that they couldn’t afford my education and that I would have to figure something out for myself. 

So for the next four years, I worked my ass off through multiple part-time jobs while attending high school. Unfortunately, by the end of those four years, I still couldn’t afford the $20,000 out of state tuition fees, even though I had good enough marks to get into more ‘prestigious’ schools. 

I had only two real options: go to the state school in New Mexico, or take on student loans to go to a ‘better’ school. If growing up poor had taught me one thing, it was to avoid debt at any cost.

So that was how I came to attend the University of New Mexico. 

Looking back, this turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made for the following reasons:

  1. I received several state scholarships and financial aid for simply being a resident of New Mexico (and for good grades).
  2. I could commute from home and save on fixed costs
  3. I came out of school not only with zero debt, but with a surplus of cash

I mean, when you really broke it down, how much should students really be paying for a certain ‘brand’ of education? 


 Outside of maybe Harvard or Stanford, is any school really three times better than your average state school to justify the additional cost? And is any of that worth the financial servitude? 

2. Self Funding my Study Abroad Experiences in Japan (twice!)

2. Self Funding my Study Abroad Experiences in Japan (twice!)

2. Self Funding my Study Abroad Experiences in Japan (twice!)

Studying abroad in Japan had been a lifelong dream of mine since high school, and when I have a dream, I’m damn well going to fight to turn that into a reality. 

I ended up studying abroad in Japan twice.  

The first time I was 16 (and extremely broke). So I started cold calling local businesses and doing my own research on available scholarships. Within six months, I had scraped together enough money and applied for the Youth For Understanding summer program. I didn’t even tell my parents that I got accepted until after I booked my flight out of the country. Where I grew up, people just didn’t see the value in travel the way I did. So I just didn’t bother to ask for permission. 

My second time to Japan was to Kyoto in 2008 on a different scholarship that I had clawed my way into. And that’s where I met Ivan (my husband).

3. Moving to Boston with no money, family, or connections and hustling my way to my first salaried position

3. Moving to Boston with no money, family, or connections and hustling my way to my first salaried position

3. Moving to Boston with no money, family, or connections and hustling my way to my first salaried position

After college, one of the toughest challenges I faced was finding my first full time job. It was made more challenging by the fact that I had moved across the country to Boston, a city where I had no family, few friends, and no professional network. I even had to get a $2,500 loan from Ivan just to stay afloat, while I worked part-time jobs for temp agencies (an underused resource) and Club Monaco (ah, retail). 

In the meantime, I talked to everybody. Customers, co-workers, friends of friends three times removed. I cold-emailed people in industries I wanted to work in and invited them out for coffee. 

Then one day, I was on a flight back from Toronto visiting Ivan and was sitting next to a woman who turned out to be an account executive at a well-known market research firm. We chatted and kept in touch. Next thing I knew, I ended up interviewing for two positions and got offered my first salaried job as a cyber-security researcher! 

So What Have I Learned?

You can only connect the dots looking backwards.
— Steve Jobs

Today, I’m living and working in Los Angeles directly because of that first position in Boston, having followed my mentor to a new cybersecurity start-up based in the West Coast. 


Ivan and I are debt-free and are saving at least 45% of our income towards a bigger dream of a sustainable and nomadic life abroad. One of the biggest things I’ve learned so far in this journey is to always bet on yourself and to never stop chasing a bigger dream.

Because that’s what freedom’s all about.

The Life-Changing Magic of a Fuck Off Fund

Ivan here. If you’ve been to a bookstore recently, chances are you’ve stumbled upon Marie Kondo’s international bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Do you enjoy flushing your toilet and thanking it for a job well done? When you brush your teeth in the morning, do you look at your toothbrush and ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” If so, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the book for you.

But you know what’s even more magical than tidying up? What will literally change your life and open your eyes to all that this world has to offer you? 

Having a Fuck Off Fund.

So lay off those bath salts, stop talking to inanimate objects, and embark on a magical journey towards financial freedom. 

Something tells me we’re not in Kansas anymore.
— Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

What is a Fuck Off Fund?

The Fuck Off Fund is hardly a new term and is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a sum of money you keep in your savings account in case you need to tell someone to fuck off. This could be anyone (or anything) from an abusive boss, a bad relationship, or a dead end job.  

Basically, the Fuck Off Fund serves as your first line of defense. It’s the antidote to late-stage capitalism. The match you use to set fire to Lady Fortune’s stupid wheel. More importantly, it's an invitation to an exclusive club called Freedom. 

The Fuck Off Membership Tiers


Did you know there are actually multiple levels of financial freedom? Here’s the rough breakdown:

1. The Basic Fund

At least 6 months worth of living expenses. This provides insurance for life’s small to medium sized emergencies. Everyone should have a basic fuck off fund. 

2. The Premium Fund

Debt free + 6-8 months worth of living expenses. Insurance for even the most catastrophic emergencies. 

3. The Domestic Fund

8-12 months of living expenses + enough to cover the moving costs to live and work anywhere in the country. For more info on this, check out our 20-Something's Guide to Starting Over.  

4. The International Fund

A full year’s living expenses + enough to travel and live abroad doing work you’re passionate about, from any country where you can legally get a visa. 

5. The Fuck Off Lifetime Status Club

Enough savings in the bank to cover one year's living expenses from interest and dividends alone, doing whatever you like, and answering to nobody except the law and your own mortality 

For example, if you’re comfortable spending $30,000 a year, divide that by a conservative 5% annual return and you get a fund of $600,000. If you don’t mind living in a smaller city, town or in the countryside, you could achieve lifetime fuck off status on much much less. 

5 Steps to Building Your Own Fuck Off Fund

1. Figure out your minimum expectations

Make a list of everything you need each month in order to (a) survive and (b) be reasonably satisfied with your life. The fewer Rolexes and mansions you have on this list, the cheaper you can buy your freedom. 

2. Track your actual spending for 3-4 months

Be honest with yourself and figure out where you stand today. How far are you from your goals?

3. Make a realistic budget 

A budget is like a marriage between reality and your aspirations. A reasonable budget means you don’t end up eating ramen by the end of every month. And don't try and compare yourself to others. Do whatever works for you (so long as you're doing it better than the person you were yesterday). 

4. Set up a separate savings account

This savings account should be out of sight and out of mind. Don't open it with the same bank where you keep your checking. 

5. Set up automatic transfers

Set it up so that a certain percentage of every pay-check goes into your savings first. If you don't have a Basic Fuck Off Fund yet, you should be holding off on non-essential purchases until you've achieved that minimum. Having the patience to buy your freedom first is worth infinitely more than the new (insert name of status seeking object here) you don't really need.  

And remember, over time, you need to make sure the balance of your Fuck Off Fund keeps up with your increased monthly spend.