The Fund that we don’t talk about is the one we really need. Kiran Manral talks about the stories of secret savings in her column The Married Feminist

It’s been called by various different names over the years. The Fuck You Stash, the Fuck Off Fund, the Woman’s Secret Savings. And across continents, cultures, countries, married women have been known to keep away a hidden stash either in a bank account, or in cash, away from their husbands, whether in happy marriages or not. Money that was theirs to own and spend, away from the intrusive, controlling eye of the spouse. Money that gave them, whether earning an independent income or not, the financial security of some degree of financial autonomy, because of course, running a house, child raising and housework is still not perceived as work with value nor remunerated accordingly.

We all grew up with it,  mothers who had little plastic packets of saved money tucked between the sarees they mothballed, and the woollens they stashed away in trunks

In the USA back in 1839, a set of laws called the Married Women’s Property Act empowered American women to assume a legal identity separate from their husbands with the freedom to own property on their names, and keep their salaries if they were earning an income, for themselves. Back then the banks had what they called a stocking room for their female customers, where they could go in and remove their ‘stocking money’ discretely, money they had stashed away to be deposited in their personal savings accounts.

Kiran Manral The Married Feminist SheThePeopleWe all grew up with it,  mothers who had little plastic packets of saved money tucked between the sarees they mothballed, and the woollens they stashed away in trunks, taken out and checked ever so often to ensure the silverfish didn’t get at them. Perhaps many of us do the same, instinctively, keep some of our money aside, build up a nice little nest egg, “for an emergency.” Aunts who would keep savings at relatives’ homes to be taken back when needed, the maid who asked you to keep a bit of her salary safe for her in safe custody for her children’s school fees. If she took it home, there was no guarantee it wouldn’t be taken from her under coercion or threat.

We all grew up with it,  mothers who had little plastic packets of saved money tucked between the sarees they mothballed, and the woolens they stashed away in trunks, taken out and checked ever so often to ensure the silverfish didn’t get at them

That emergency saved for is never clearly defined. But then an emergency comes along burning rubber, without the bells and gongs it should rightfully announce itself by. There is no preparing oneself to meet it. Death, illness, divorce. Abusive marriages escalate rather quickly into life threatening situations. In most cases though, for women who are homemakers, the prudent secret stash is purely money they have painstakingly saved from the money they get to handle household expenses. More often than not, this is not saved with an intention to walk out of a marriage, if at all, these are savings to help fund a child’s education, to pitch in if ever a serious illness strikes one of the family, or even for something as prosaic as being able to buy a designer outfit without having to explain the credit card statement to a tight fisted spouse if one is not earning an independent income. Sometimes, it is ploughed right back into the family pool. A spouse who isn’t fiscally prudent, perhaps. A husband who finds his business dipping a bit and needs some financial support. Relatives who need short term emergency loans for a crisis. A child who needs financial help to pursue an expensive field of education.

Perhaps the worst hit during November 2016’s sudden demonetisation were the millions of women who had been saving up for years. Stashes hidden in rice bins, under mattresses, in trunks laden with woollens, the notes now infused with the scent of mothballs, inside jars meant to hold pickles high up in the kitchen. Money that was theirs to have, and theirs to spend as they chose. Because in that money, and the decision to spend as they chose was their empowerment.

in the UK, research has found that more men than women have a secret savings account, created for the specific reason to be able to bail out of their relationships if required.

The secret stash or the fuck off fund, or the fuck you money, whatever you might choose to call it is not limited to the women in marriages. Interestingly, in the UK, research has found that more men than women have a secret savings account, created for the specific reason to be able to bail out of their relationships if required. According to the reports, “One in seven (13%) married people said they were keeping a stash of money “on the quiet”, with common reasons being that the person with secret savings wanted “financial independence”, or that they were worried their partner would spend the money if they knew about it.”

Financial issues do contribute a lot to domestic violence, something that we don’t discuss enough and controlling finances is a major part of most emotional abuse women face in marriages.

Even if we don’t call it an F-Off Fund, a small emergency stash only you know about makes a lot of sense. Financial issues do contribute a lot to domestic violence, something that we don’t discuss enough and controlling finances is a major part of most emotional abuse women face in marriages. Financial abuse is as capable of dis-empowering a woman as is keeping her confined or physical violence. More than the fund with the unmentionable nomenclature, perhaps what we need is to ensure that we are a legal and fiscal identity separate from our spouses, with our own investments and savings. We perhaps need to educate ourselves on money, investments. So many women aren’t really clued into the fiscal status of their investments, and I say this with complete empathy and identification. I am guilty of being an ostrich myself regarding money, something I need to rectify and keep promising myself I should do so.

Do we need a secret stash? The jury might be out about what it means for a marriage, but an article published on The Billfold, last year had the author call the Fuck Off Fund ‘financial self defence’. This to me is perhaps the most apt coinage of what this little stash symbolises. And god knows, we women need all the self defence we can get, whether in a marriage or out of it.

Picture: WomenBerry

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