I previously introduced the idea of an opportunity fund and know it may sound controversial. That’s intentional. Why save for opportunities when everyone tells you to save for emergencies instead?
Because you’ll be operating from a place of abundance, not scarcity.
It’s valuable for each family to have a cash emergency fund that can be tapped for true emergencies – like a car breaking down or furnace repair in winter – but this needn’t be more than a few thousand dollars. Once you’ve comfortably saved for an unforeseen, short-term emergency, then you can turn your attention to bigger goals.
Let’s Get Real
It was devastating to our family when my husband Bryan lost his job in summer 2016. It was a shock to both of us! He was fortunate to have a severance package, but that only covered a few months of unemployment. Fortunately, he found a new position before the severance package was depleted. In 2016, we were grateful that we didn’t have to draw on the emergency fund. I use the term “emergency fund” because both Bryan and I were then operating under a scarcity mindset.
Bryan is a highly educated, hard-working, and ethical man. He attended college on a full-ride scholarship and graduated with undergraduate and graduate accounting degrees in 4 years. He even earned his MBA in 2013 while working full-time. Bryan is also an outgoing, charismatic “people-person.” He easily strikes up conversations with strangers and makes each child on his team feel special when coaching t-ball or soccer. Unemployment wasn’t even on our radar in 2016. In hindsight, Bryan’s job loss was a blessing in disguise. We needed a new game plan for our family.
Using an Opportunity Fund for Overseas Travel
The story doesn’t end here. The opportunity fund enabled our family to take a big risk and pursue my dream of living abroad earlier this year. Read How We Funded 3 Months of Travel for the nitty-gritty financial details.
Bryan worked long hours, came home exhausted, and rarely exercised in 2017. When I asked about his day, he rarely had anything to say. Emotionally and physically, I could tell the stress of this job was wearing him down. Our family life was also suffering. We were financially strong, yet crumbling on the inside. Something had to change.
Bryan and I decided in late 2017 to take our three boys to Spain for three months. We traveled to Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, and Seville, witnessing the beauty and magnificence of these historic cities.
As an entrepreneur who leverages technology to serve clients locally and remotely, I was able to work from my laptop while overseas. Bryan’s position, on the other hand, couldn’t be handled remotely. Bryan left his position in December 2017, promising me that he would use time in Spain to re-evaluate his career. He also agreed to be the primary caretaker for our sons and homeschool them while living in Spain.
I was now the breadwinner, and Bryan was the stay-at-home parent. This role reversal did not come naturally to either one of us, but we fumbled our way through it. My employment income was unpredictable as a relatively new business owner. We heavily relied on the opportunity fund while living overseas and again when we returned to the U.S. in April 2018. Bryan’s search for employment continued over the summer, and childcare and camp expenses were hard to fund on my income alone.
The opportunity fund was valuable for two BIG reasons:
1. It enabled us to live in Spain, and
2. It provided financial security during Bryan’s subsequent job search.
Bryan became a Management Resources professional in August 2018. Akin to a baseball bench coach, he connects companies with project-based accounting and finance needs to experienced candidates who provide the services. I’ve been married to Bryan for over eleven years, and this is the first time he seems invigorated about work. Faith in God’s plan and an opportunity fund made it happen!
Are You Engaged?
It took Bryan a long time to find a career that closely matched his personal strengths and passions. Career fit and engagement are interconnected. According to Gallup, only 13% of employees are actively engaged at work. That means 87% are disengaged. Are you in that 87%?
Being professionally engaged means you have purpose to your work life. Setting and achieving audacious goals is realistic. Because you are in a state of flow, it doesn’t feel like you are “working” most of the time.
If you are lazy or apathic at work, you probably fall into that 87% group and should strongly contemplate alternate career paths while building an opportunity fund. Also consider talking to managers who may be able to assign tasks that play to your strengths. Leaving the organization altogether is not the only solution – you may be able to move to a new department.
When your personality traits, values and job responsibilities are in alignment, you are more likely to be engaged at work. Work satisfaction spills into other areas of your life as well. You become a better parent, spouse, sibling, son or daughter, friend, and neighbor.
In other words, career choice matters. To better understand if you’re in the right profession, take this quick, free assessment.
Just because you start down one path does not mean you cannot change it a few years later. Consider reading Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work if you know you are stuck and want to uncover your calling.
The concept of job satisfaction is closely tied to an abundance mindset. As Henry Ford once said,
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
Staying stuck in a scarcity mindset not only lowers your ability to find a fulfilling career but also mentally prevents you from building an opportunity fund. Your brain may still tell you to build an emergency fund, equal to 3 to 12 months of living expenses. Only you (and your professional advisor, if you have one) will be able to provide direction on the amount of money to save in an opportunity fund. It’s specific to YOUR goals and dreams, not some arbitrary number.
What are you waiting for?