Liz Smith reflects on why financial independence, above all else, is a woman’s greatest asset
“What are the most important things in life to you? What are your priorities?”
This seems to me to be the kind of question people are frequently asked. So, let’s just confine this discussion to women. I would say the invariable answer is this: “The most important thing to me is my significant other. Second, my family. Third, my friends.”
A few stalwart believers in the hereafter may say instead, “My relationship with my Creator” or “God” or “getting into heaven.” (It is too tiring to go into the religious side of things so let’s just accept a yes to the question on spirituality as “a given” and leave it at that.)
When I consider this question, I realize that once upon a time, when I was young and foolish and beset by my hormones and my ideals, that I would have romantically and foolishly said “my significant other.” Then “family” and “friends.” (Occasionally, when I think of the problems that have often occurred in my family, I might even put “friends” first.)
But, my darling readers, last year we were offered government findings that seem to shatter ancient shibboleths as to what constitutes poverty. There was a horrid statistic doubling the number of elderly poor (people over 65) to 47 million.
And so I want to say that now, regarding the answer to the question of what’s most important for women should always be – a healthy regard for money, how to earn it, how to invest it, how to save it so that it staves off emergencies as well as a possible old age of desperation.
This single thing is more important than significant others, family or friends. I don’t say abandon any of these. You can and will probably work at them all your life. And you should. But I think the most important thing for every woman is to become and remain financially independent.
I’VE BEEN lucky. After working in journalism and TV production for many years for a pittance, I finally won a byline, got a column of my own, found myself in demand, became a TV performer and made a lot of money for a while. I also wrote a bestselling book or two. I was careless about spending and giving away.
Later, I was advised by a giant friend to put my money in guaranteed Treasury Bonds and not touch it, which is what I did. And that saved money is what I live on now. Here’s the catch: I have never believed I have saved enough money to be really comfortable. So after I lost my last journalism job with The New York Post, I began to worry again. These days I sometimes stay awake at night, obsessing about money, security and safety, the same way I did when I was a poorly paid, ink-stained journalist. I fear not having quite enough. So the mythic worry is almost as real as the real thing. I sometimes drive myself crazy with anxiety. Over money!
I wish now, way back when I was at the University of Texas, instead of spending an extra year there working on my masters in advanced English, I had gone into the business school and learned the mechanics of handling money.
And a friend of mine, who is a giant of ethics in journalism, said to me the other day, “Oh, my God. If I knew then what I know now. I would have traded a few of my training years, clawing my way up the journalism ladder, for just three years of working in high finance and feathering my nest first. In other words, why wasn’t I an investment banker for three years?”
People like me, who were always proud of their idealistic cultured approach to learning, now wish they hadn’t been so cavalier about long division, fractions and, yes, even adding and subtracting.
JUST ONE more thing. If you pay attention to math, to making money, to saving and investing money wisely – your family and friends will like you much better than because you can quote Shakespeare. In fact, the better off you are, the more they’ll adore you and try to get along with you.
I’m sorry to have become such a philistine, but money and security is No. 1 for happy women – dames with money in the bank can bake cookies and geisha around if they want to while they are “treating” their friends and making everybody else feel safe and secure.
Now let the damning of Liz to hell for her materialistic take on life begin. I enjoy a good argument.