By Laila Maidan
April 12, 2021
Diania Merriam enjoyed her job working at a brand management company in New York City. But soon, the company culture and work dynamic shifted and she began feeling like she was no longer valued, she writes for Insider.
- Having a walk-away fund of money saved can allow you to leave a toxic work environment or bad job.
- Depending on your situation, save at least three months' worth of spending — most likely more.
- The best time to save walk-away money is before you need it.
By the time she wanted to get out, she had been saving for five years already. She had 12 months' worth of income saved up and another year's worth in investible assets, which allowed her to walk away from a place she no longer wanted to be. Today, she's the founder of EconoMe Conference, an event centered around helping others reach financial independence.
Merriam wasn't always an avid saver. In 2015, she had $30,000 worth of credit card debt. But once she made the decision she wanted to be financially free, she paid it off in 11 months. Then, she started saving 60% of her income, which eventually became her walk-away fund.
Figure out how much you need to walk away
How much money to set aside will vary based on your financial situation. The first step is to determine your basic living expenses (like housing, groceries, utilities, and childcare) for each month. Brian Fry, financial planner at Safe Landing Financial, recommends having a minimum of three to six months of spending saved up in a separate bank account at any given time.
However, if you're planning on leaving your job and think you may be out of work for a year without any other sources of income, Fry tells Insider you should consider having much more: at least 18 to 21 months of your income.
It's important to have a distinct savings account for your walk-away fund to resist the temptation of digging into that money for other expenses. For example, if you're saving up to purchase a vehicle or home, that money should be in a different savings pot than your walk-away fund. You can set up a completely separate account to differentiate between your goals.
Find a saving strategy that works for you
Your other financial goals will help determine how quickly you can plan to save.
You'll probably want to strike a balance between putting money toward your walk-away fund and other goals on the horizon, like saving for retirement. "If the other financial goals are accounted for, maybe it's possible to save more aggressively towards the walk-away fund" Fry told Insider. "If the other goals are not accounted for, then it's likely important to continue saving towards other financial goals."
Even if you can only devote a little cash to your fund, it will add up. Once you've reached your fund's target amount, you can then allocate the money into a different pot for another goal.
To make saving easier, Fry recommends automating your savings, either through your employer or through your bank.
It all comes down to what will motivate you to save more money. Merriam enjoyed the process of doing it manually because she could track her progress, which encouraged her to increase the amount she saved every month. People who feel similarly might like budgeting apps such as Mint, which can make the saving process more fun with colorful charts and diagrams to track your progress.
"I think that the best time to save 'FU money' is when you don't need it," Merriam told Insider. "Don't get to the place where you hate your job and you want to leave, and now you're scrambling to save money. Just make saving an automatic habit that you do all the time."
When your situation changes, she continued, you'll have the money on hand. "I didn't realize I was going to quit my job until a month before I did. I think that would be my best advice: Save it before you need it."
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