Thursday, February 05, 2009

Women, spend some time with 'Money'

Ladies, if you haven't already had a "come to Jesus" talk with yourself about money in this recession, now's the time. And Liz Perle's "Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash" is just the book to start the conversation. I've been recommending it to friends and co-workers, and now I want to suggest it to you as well.

Let me tell you up front that this is not easy reading. After the prologue I had to put the book down for a day or two, to steel myself for what was to come. This paragraph is partially what did it:

"Long ago, and not entirely consciously, I made a quiet contract with cash. I would do what it took to get it -- work hard, marry right -- but I didn't want to have to think about it. I simply wanted to know I would be financially secure. This intentional avoidance eventually exacted its price. In the service of sidestepping, whenever possible, my anxious feelings (if not my facts) about money, I've signed over a lot of power to anyone or anything that promised to make me feel financially safe -- no matter what the consequences. I've left my emotions about money -- the fears and ambivalences -- largely unexamined. I've avoided facing my contradictory feelings about the whole subject, such as the fact that I want to have my own money with the independence it gives, while simultaneously hoping someone or something will step up to the plate and take care of me. I've invited these highly emotional and unstable sets of feelings into every relationship I've had, and they have silently accompanied and influenced each one -- with my father, my work, my friends, my bosses, and my husbands. (there have been two -- oddly, both named Steve.)"

Any of that sound familiar? I thought so. And that's just in the prologue. It came soon after Liz talked about how her husband decided he didn't want to be married any more ... and they'd already sold their apartment in New York and had all their belongings steaming across the ocean to join them in Singapore, where they moved for his job. Liz's husband told her to go back to the States and take their 4-year-old son with her. He gave her $1,500. And that was it.

Most women's financial problems aren't as dramatic as that, and Liz interviewed plenty of them for the book. Trust me, as messed up as you think your situation is, there are chicks in the book who will make you feel better about it. Women who get into credit card debt because they buy pretty things to make themselves feel better. Women who are the breadwinners in their family, and they resent their husbands because of it (and the husbands resent them right back). Women who steal cash from their husband's wallets to squirrel away, "just in case." Women who've grown up thinking they'll "marry well," and that's their career plan.

But there's also examples of women who have their lives together, and input from financial experts and sociologists and psychologists who offer explanations of our behavior and some guidance. And throughout, author Liz tells her own story, and shares how she overcame her own manias and misconceptions. Women, no matter where you are in your life, "Money, a Memoir" will open your eyes to your own financial foibles. Oh, and it's available for free at the library. :o)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I married a man who has similar saving and spending habits to me, so we don't fight over what we purchase with our own money. And when it comes to the joint account, we are pretty good there, too.

Where we get into stressful territory is when we look at sacrificing good-paying jobs to explore more meaningful careers. We're both struggling with letting go of family expectations that connect college degree with getting and keeping a good paying job, versus settling for less pay to lead more fulfilling lives.

Like the author, a therapist says: "Money is not just about money. It represents a lot of things. It represents power, self worth, territoriality, and we're not really taught how do we deal with the fact that we're individuals but now we have to be a couple. We need to be a we. Money speaks to all those challenges."

So we're trying to support our marriage as "we" but have "me" career dreams that call for compromise and sacrifice.