There’s nothing like 4 am for all the good haunts, money being at the top of the list. This morning, I realized: We need to start talking about money. Period. Throw aside your east coast cranky Yankee “T.J. Max’s finest,” your mid-western farm-stock “Hand-me-down,” your mountain-mama “Made it myself,” your mildewy PNW, “5 bucks at a thrift shop,” your southern belle, “Oh, this old thing?”
The other night, I spent two hours on the phone with a dear old friend of mine. We have a very specific and special friendship. We were roommates for a semester in college in a foreign country. We have never lived near each other. We have never had mutual social engagements or group interactions. It’s always just the two of us on the telephone, hashing it all out. We go deep, fast. And because of that, we also go months, sometimes years without talking. It requires a large window. But we figure—this sort of friendship is rare. And we don’t get to see each other in real life– I think we’ve seen each other three times in the last two decades in person. And still, somehow, we love and trust each other like sisters. Sisters who need each other. All of a sudden. When the shit hits the fan.
So our friendship is based on these epic phone calls, when we both have a wide open window. And it’s usually when we’re both in pain and really need a friend. We are both, at age 51, financially independent women. No hubbie taking care of us. And whatever’s in the bank, has everything to do with our ability to put it there by mining our talents, creating businesses, and being highly adaptive. In other words, neither of us has done it the way we were “supposed to” do it. And that has had its rewards in spades. Just not necessarily in dollars.
“Can we talk about money?” I said to her. “Like really talk about money? In all the ways we need to, but aren’t really supposed to?”
I went past everything I’ve been taught, and launched in. I told her what I have in savings. I told her what I have in my business account. And I told her what I have in my personal and retirement accounts. I told her how much my house was appraised for and what I pay for my mortgage every month.
And then I added, “I’m alone in this. And even though I have great people on my team…I’m really doing all of this alone. And it’s all been baptism by fire. I really had no idea what I was doing when I started my business. I didn’t even know what a mortgage really was, never mind the word amortization. I still don’t have a clue what that is.”
It was her turn. She told me her versions of all of the above. It felt positively liberating. I trust her. She trusts me. And we’re not lying in bed talking about boys and dreams. We’re talking about the shake down of all of that. The other side. The raw reality that we are both faced with. Will we always be alone in this? Will we ever have other people in our lives who help us financially? Will we get a break or will we be the sole generators of income for the rest of our lives? How can we fortify our financial future? Our dreams? Can we even afford to dream?
What I love about us is that we are still those little girl dreamers we once were. But we now have seasoned reasons why some dreams are worth wrangling right now for sanity’s sake than others.
“I’m so glad we’re having this conversation,” she said. “Women need to have this conversation. And I can tell you: most of them aren’t.”
Why, I wonder? Is it shame? Is it that we think we are weak when we speak our truth, especially about money? Do we think we’ll be judged? Do we think being stoic is powerful? I can tell you…it’s not.
What would it take for women to have these conversations? A completely non-threatening woman in your life who you’ve never had to compare yourself to in waistline or social prowess or cocktail party cleverness? Someone you never shot the shit with in the school pick-up line, or with whom you felt the pull of gossip or push of bandwagon or zing of local political divide? I hope not.
I hope that we can have this conversation with exactly those people you’ve rolled around with in your town, in the local heartbreaks and purchase. I hope that at your next gathering, you can grab a woman who you know is going through the exact thing you are—divorce, re-invention, empty nest, troubled kids—whatever, and pull her into a side room where no one’s listening and say,
“Sister. We need to talk. Are you okay? And I don’t mean just your heart. I mean…do you have your affairs in order, financially? Because I learned baptism by fire, and I have a great financial advisor, and you need to be on top of this. There’s no shame here, and if there is, it’s time to chuck it out the window. You are going to be old one day and we live in a country where our Social Security is not enough to live on! You’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to plan. The future is going to happen, if it in fact happens, and you have to be prepared.”
I frankly cannot believe these words are coming out of my heart and mind and onto the page. Even as I write them, I feel loath to push Publish. What will my mother think? What will my WASP kindred say if they read this? But I don’t want for you what happened to me. The cold hard reality is this: The rugs of life get ripped out from underneath us. No matter how perfect we think our lives are or how hard we’ve worked to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s. And we need each other. We don’t have to do this alone.
So ladies…take a deep breath, gulp, even roll your eyes a little…but think of that friend you can trust, and call her. Ask her if she’d be willing to talk money with you. And if she says yes, then get in that mosh pit together and roll around in that mud until you come out knowing you’re not alone, with some pretty good ideas, and a very good plan. Rinse. Repeat. Because that, is priceless.
My dear friend is here.
Here’s a piece I wrote about how I re-invented, in the former editor-in-chief of More Magazine’s new brain child: Covey Club. May it inspire you to mine your passions!
Come wander in your words at a Haven Writing Retreat in 2018! You don’t have to be a writer to come. Just a seeker who dearly longs for your voice.
Now Booking! Click here for more info.
April 18-22 (full)
May 16-20 (one spot left)