I’d like to tell you a story about what having a well funded emergency fund does for a person.
By profession I’m a project manager, a ‘highly skilled’ one too. I’m working with an advertising agency and the environment comes with peculiar challenges: people not respecting boundaries, race to book days off before somebody else does and even the expectation that you’ll always be working above your capacity (yes, being given 20%-30% more work than you should be doing is a norm). I like the work I do, love even, but I despise the environment. So when my emergency fund hit a level where I don’t have to worry about my income for the next 6 months, a switch flipped and I realised that my ‘enough is enough’ was so long ago that I can’t even see it behind me anymore.
I put in a resignation. Because the environment was not good enough. Because my time was not respected. Because my input was disproportionately greater to what I received in return. Because I CAN AFFORD to not work for the next 6 months if I so chose. Because my mental health and everything that comes with it are a priority, and when they’re under threat, that’s an emergency.
A resignation from a senior team member who is not going onto another job is noticed and questioned in my industry, same as in most others. Especially when the outgoing team member is good at what they do.
I was asked to stay for a while on alternative terms: less hours, more flexibility, shorter notice if I still want to walk out.
I said: only if I can have fixed term contract with a clear end in sight, a project which I started last year and which got given away to ‘one of the boys’ because my skills were needed on something I had no interest in, and a ringfence between me and another senior team member who I cannot stand working with. And if this would not work for them, then it would not work for me – I can afford to walk out. So we signed the contracts. And I stopped some things.
I stopped being worried.
I stopped asking for things like holidays and started saying: these are the days I will not be here.
I stopped bending to extra work and stared saying: this work will need to be delivered by another team member.
I stopped accepting meetings outside, at the start and at the end of my working day: instead I asked for meetings to be scheduled at times that suit me.
I stopped working late. I stopped letting people interrupt me. I stopped answering emails outside of working hours.
I stopped being afraid of what would happen if I lose this job, if I can’t find one tomorrow and if tomorrow turns into a month or two, or longer. Because I know how good I am at what I do and because the recruiters keep asking. And because I am not worried for what happens if I don’t get paid this month.
This is what having an emergency fund does. It helps you to stop being afraid of the ‘what if’. Will you make one?