I’ve always maintained that I don’t like talking about money because it’s crass, but the real reason is that the topic has always overwhelmed me. Despite my reticence, I recently talked about demystifying this taboo subject as I co-facilitated, with Lilith editor in chief Susan Weidman Schneider, a sold-out Lilith salon, “Money Matters,” at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC. About three dozen women came in from the rain for an honest, smart conversation about money.
I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t the only one who feels shame about having what feels like an unhealthy relationship with the dollar. Lisa Yochelson of Not Your Bubbe’s Sisterhood, Sixth and I’s women’s programming arm for 20s and 30s, introduced the evening by asking each of these accomplished, professional women to say one word they associate with money. Some of the angst-ridden responses: stressful, overwhelming, necessary, disorganized, illiterate, relevant, complex, and socially constricted.
A few women said they’d come to the event because they wanted to expand their knowledge, but even more of them described a chasm between their substantial professional accomplishments and their ignorance about the basics of money management. So I found myself asking them: Despite our professional advances, do we have any more financial agency than our mothers? “My mother used to hide clothing bills and shopping bags from my dad,” one participant said, and we laughed—partially at the subterfuge, and partially, shamefacedly, out of recognition too. (I confessed to hiding parking tickets from my husband, but kept silent about the Banana Republic bag I recently slid into the recesses of my closet).