Do You Have a Go to Hell Fund?

shutterstock_110769932Today I’m thrilled to share a reader’s submission on “what she wishes she knew then”.  She captures what many women I’ve interviewed wish…that they had a financial cushion to give them the freedom to take flight when they needed and / or to follow their dreams. It is a fresh take on a 40:20 mantra;  the best independence is financial independence. She advocates a “Go-to-Hell” fund. I love it!

The Go to Hell Fund

If I could only share ONE thing I wish I’d learned sooner, it was that money in the bank would be a far more effective weapon for me in life; and help me more than anything that I could wear, eat, or buy.  6 months’—and ideally 2 years—of real life living expenses enabled me to do a very powerful thing:  and that is to, when necessary, have the ability to tell others to “go to hell” and STILL live the life I want to live.

The late Steve Jobs said:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

The fastest way to find yourself living someone else’s life is to be desperate: for money, for love, for attention, for confidence.  Here are some examples of things desperate people do, all of which I have either experienced first hand or seen others experience:

  • Work for a company whose values they don’t agree with, or worse, that is breaking the law
  • Work for a manager who demeans them, undervalues them, or worse is bullying or harassing them
  • Marry a person for their money only and look away as he/she strays or worse, abuses them or their children
  • Endure friendships that are not fulfilling because the friend provides benefits such as sex, money, a vacation home, or other such lifestyle enhancements
  • Put up with a family who doesn’t support them because they don’t agree with their lifestyle choices, all because they hope to get an inheritance one day

The solution to making sure you can avoid or exit such sanity altering experiences is the “Go To Hell” fund.  That money in the bank can literally buy you the freedom to make the choices you want to make, not just to take what is given you.  Here are some examples of how someone with a Go To Hell fund can stay in control of her life:

  • Got a bully boss?  Tell him or her to “go to hell” by leaving before you become so distraught you undermine your own credibility— which you can do when you have rent in the bank till you find your next job.
  • Is your company doing unethical or illegal things?  Why risk going to jail?  You can quit at any time, because you can support yourself until you have your next job.
  • Want to marry a musician and your friends think you are crazy?  No problem, you can support yourselves.
  • Haven’t found the right partner yet?  Tell society to go to hell.   You don’t have to get married or even commit to one person to have a fulfilling life.  Travel, take classes, start a business.  You have the money to keep yourself fed.
  • Made the wrong career choice in undergraduate school?  Go back to school and pursue your passion without incurring the straitjacket of debt.
  • Husband’s an abusive, cheating jerk?  Tell him to go to hell, you have money to take care of yourself.
  • Don’t bother making friends with that passive aggressive person who never calls you to hang out or returns the favors you do her—you don’t need her.

So now that we’ve taken care of the most dramatic parts of life, I’m going to clue you in on a little secret of mine. The most surprising aspect of having a Go-To-Hell fund was this:

The knowledge in the back of my mind that I have financial security has made it much less likely that I would get into bad situations in the first place.

  • I don’t take jobs that don’t challenge or fulfill me
  • At work I have more confidence in my decisions and I speak my mind more frankly and with more conviction, which has made me a stronger and better leader
  • I don’t work with people who are jerks (and I ask them about it in interviews)
  • I don’t maintain friendships that are not two-way streets
  • I only dated men who made my life better in every way—and found my life partner that way.  We share the same financial values and life goals.

How to get your own Go To Hell fund

Instead of some abstract concept like a “savings account” or an “emergency fund”—make your savings much more explicitly focused on “go to hell:” ask yourself each time you buy a pair of Jimmy Choos, or eat at the average but overpriced sushi bar, what’s *really* more important in your life? Is it the shoes, or the ability to tell a jerk boss to knock it off?  This doesn’t mean you can’t spend anything at all, but I promise, once you get a taste of this freedom you will see how little designer shoes and mediocre food mean in the overall context of life.

In addition to focusing on the bottom line of saving to get to your “Go To Hell” fund; you need to work on increasing your “top line”–your income.  This means negotiating effectively to increase your pay.  Check out the book “Women Don’t Ask” which is a thoughtful, science based discussion of why women don’t negotiate and includes strategies to find your style of negotiation.

Now, it’s your turn:  What do you use your Go-to-Hell fund for?  How has it helped you get out of an unhappy situation, or make a happy situation possible?


I’m looking forward to hearing from more readers. What is your GTH fund for or what do you wish you had a GTH fund for when you were younger?  Thank you to the author, Melinda Byerley, for her submission. We are always open for advice, shared wisdom or questions!

About the author:

Melinda Byerley is an ecommerce leader with experience managing businesses at eBay, PayPal, CheckPoint Software, and Linden Lab.  Most recently she was the VP of Marketing and Product management at Plantsense, an internet connected device startup that ran out of money in August.  Only her Go-To-Hell fund made that experience bearable.You can follow her on twitter @melindabyerley


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