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Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash Paperback – December 12, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having attained the right to earn and spend their own money only decades ago, women have a more complex relationship to cash than men, argues Perle (When Work Doesn't Work Anymore) in this eye-opening audiobook. Much less a memoir than a call to action, Perle's audio uses her own unhealthy relationship with money as a springboard for a provocative discussion about women's finances—how money anxieties influence a woman's life decisions; how a woman's financial preparedness affects the way she feels about herself; and how, despite their tremendous buying power, women stand a greater chance than men of going bankrupt and of not having sufficient funds for retirement. Perle delivers this material in a measured, matter-of-fact manner. Indeed, some might accuse her of reading too slowly, but her deliberate pace makes it easy to grasp the impact of her weighty revelations. Although the audio lacks a clear organizational structure, it succeeds in driving home its primary message—that women need to be less ambivalent about money and more active in investing in the future—and in urging listeners to think about money in terms of not only what it can purchase, but how it has shaped their lives.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Money, A Memoir
THE ONLY TIME I EVER HEARD MY ELEGANT GRANDMOTHER use a Yiddish word, I was nine years old. Sitting on one of the twin beds in her bedroom (it had been years since she'd slept anywhere near my grandfather), I watched her search through one of her bureau drawers as she kept up an uninterrupted monologue detailing her version of the facts of life. These had nothing to do with biology, but with an unwritten but inexorable code of behavior to which all young women must militantly adhere. My mother had died a year earlier, and ever since that bewildering August day, I had been the regular recipient of tokens of my grandmother's philosophy: white gloves, random costume jewelry, a sanitary napkin belt that looked like a medieval torture device, embroidery lessons, and other flotsam that reflected her sense of what a girl needed in order to survive and triumph. Mostly this involved serious training in the artof becoming a marriageable young woman (that being the end goal of everything).
This day, she was on a tear. Drawers opened, stockings shoved aside, scarves pushed into corners, each new thrust released the scent of Chanel No. 5. Her search took on a kind of urgency I hadn't seen before. Finally, she pulled out a strange and tiny woven metal sack from the bottom of a drawer of underwear. The object fit in her hand and seemed to be made of spun gold. It had some kind of cap on the top and a pin so a woman could securely attach it to her clothing.
"It's a reticule," she said, opening the mouth of this misshapen and minute bag. Seeing my completely blank expression, she continued. "It's something a woman wears to keep her valuables hidden."
This I had never seen.
My grandmother went over to her pocketbook, a black patent leather rectangle with a silver clasp that I liked to snap open and shut. She removed a $20 bill, folded it twice, and stuck it into the bizarre purse, which she then handed to me.
"This is the beginning of your knipple," she said, pronouncing this alien word "kah-nipple." "It's a woman's private stash. Every woman needs one. A just-in-case account. Every woman needs money of her own that her husband never knows about. So she can do what she wants. What she needs. Remember that."
Long after my grandmother died, I recalled thisconversation and its promise of secrecy and peril. It would be thirty years, though, before I would really understand what she meant.
SO IT WAS that before I learned the facts of life, I was instructed in the facts of money. Money would take care of me. I should do whatever it took to get some and squirrel it away. Money would come from my husband and possibly protect me from him at the same time. With it, I would be safe. But this path to security was indirect, extremely secret, and very, very important.
I received one other explicit money instruction from my grandmother. It had to do with not talking about it. On one of my frequent afternoon visits spent playing with the earrings and necklaces in her white leather jewelry box, I asked her if she and my grandfather were rich or poor. "You never talk about money," she pronounced. "It's private."
End of story.
In my grandmother's hierarchy of what mattered in life, money silently reigned. She believed that at the end of the day, a woman's safety and security (not to mention social position) depended on it. It clearly didn't matter by what desperate or devious means a woman acquired this money--just so long as she had it. But God forbid anyone should talk about it. This big important thing that would be so critical to my safety and freedom.
Until a few years ago, my grandmother's message satpristinely in my gray matter, intact and unexamined, largely because I wasn't even aware of its presence. But that didn't stop her perspective from informing my thinking. Sure, my understanding of money and income had been updated. On the surface, I behaved like a financially responsible and frequently rational fiscal creature. I worked, saved, and paid my bills (well, most of them). Experience had taught me that my grandmother was right--that with my own income, I was sovereign over my life. But emotionally, my feelings about money's importance hadn't advanced much. Unfortunately, my stubborn refusal to look at these feelings led to occasional outbreaks of indirect, often manipulative behavior around people who could supply cash, erratic episodes of compulsive spending followed by anxious hoarding, and a general and omnipresent lack of trust about who could best provide for me.
WHETHER WE WANT to admit it or not, each of us has a relationship to money that goes beyond the getting and spending. Money is never just money; it's our proxy for identity and love and hope and promises made and perhaps never fulfilled. It's our social sorter. It's the ticket to our dreams. Yet there's a conversational force field around the topic that repels discussion. "Don't count your money in front of the poor," a friend once snapped at me after I'd mentioned how much I'd paid for a leather skirt. For the life of me, as I looked around, I couldn't see the poor person to whom shewas referring. But all these many years later I can still feel the sting of humiliation at being exposed as insensitive, selfish, and greedy. Few topics are as guilt inducing and taboo as this one.
Our silence doesn't serve, however. It seals in dubious advice (like my grandmother's), allows outdated moral prejudices to persist (money is filthy lucre)--not to mention gender roles (it isn't ladylike to be materialistic)--and protects serious social inequalities like the fact that men and women remain unequally compensated for the same jobs. The need to be secretive robs us of a way to examine our ambivalent feelings about our materialistic and emotionally dependent attitudes and impulses. Silence shields us from seeing how, unconsciously, we broker invisible deals to make sure we get what we want and stay safe and secure. And it keeps us from examining the toll those agreements exact. Finally, our silence means women can't be released from the low-level and often undetected feelings of anxiety, guilt, envy, anger, hunger, and fear that money inspires.
There's nothing I want as badly that I'm more ashamed of wanting than money. No wonder I don't like to talk about it. Yet how will I ever address my relationship with this forbidden subject if I don't?
WOMEN RELATE TO money much differently than men do. There are many reasons large and small why this is true. When I ask Stephen Goldbart, a prominent psychotherapistand codirector of the Money, Meaning, and Choices Institute, about these differences, he tells me that they are ancient and deeply embedded psychologically and biologically in both sexes. These differences are so old, so deep, and such a part of our basic wiring that they cannot be ignored. "There are strong gender differences when it comes to money--differences of identity and of historical roles. For men, the interplay of money and love and power has not really changed in thousands of years; they have always been the providers, and their identities and power come from this old survival-based role."
Goldbart has spent years observing how both men and women commingle money and power, which, he says, they need to do in order to survive. While men directly equate money and power, women, who have traditionally had no access to money, combine the two in a very particular way that has a lot to do with romantic love.
"Historically, money was melded with being provided for and taken care of. Thus it's a challenge for women to separate out love and money," Goldbart points out. "The degree to which a man provided for a woman has been her sustenance and her life. Therefore, for a woman, a man's success and his sharing of that success financially is more than just what we see in her lifestyle. On an unconscious level, it has to do with knowing that she and her children will survive. When we talk about money, we're talking about providing for basic human needs; this is basic human wiring. And while these providing and dependent roleshave changed in the last seventy-five years, to brain stem psychology, that is no time at all."
The way we're raised also has much to do with the different approaches men and women have to money. Somehow I sincerely doubt my grandmother pulled either of my male cousins into her boudoir and handed them a secret sack with a $20 bill in it. They weren't told that their social and financial security would be determined by their marriages or that talking about money was "not done," immoral, selfish, tacky, or just plain bad manners--quite the contrary. Joline Godfrey, the CEO of Independent Means and author of Raising Financially Fit Kids, reassures me that my family experience is far from unusual. Godfrey, a financial educator, feels that our culture remains stuck in the belief that we must take care of girls. She observes that we still expect too much from boys financially and too little from girls, and explains that for boys, the issue around money is shame because money is more directly tied to their manhood, whereas womanhood is still very much connected to a girl's beauty and to her ability to connect to others in relationships. Godfrey believes it is easier for women to disconnect from financial responsibilities because our identities aren't at stake if we do. But for boys and men? Money and providing determine their feelings of self-worth.
My male cousins understood quite clearly that they'd be judged by their abilities to go out, club the money dragon over its head, and haul home that cash. Holiday dinner conversations centered on what happened in the stock market,other people's (lousy or lucrative) investments, football, and "Did-you-...

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (December 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312426275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312426279
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,502,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
People have a hard particularly time being honest about their attitudes towards two things:Sex and...money. For whatever reason, women may find the path to financial literacy stewn with obstacles...perhaps even more so then men.

Whether you believe this or not, I'd urge you to read this book, especially if you are one of those women who happens to hate books about "money" and/or "finances". This one may change your mind and, at the least, get you to think more deeply about how your finances impact every area of your life. Is it enlightening? It certainly was for me and I've read quite a few financial books, from the classics to the downright silly. This is one I'd recommend.

If you are looking for a deeply researched and detailed sociological study of money and women, this is not THAT book. It isn't chock full of charts, graphs, statistics and all that. Instead, it is a brave, honest expose' by one women concerning her fears, impulses and patterns when it comes to money -and spending and saving it. In the process, she delves into the subject of women and money, going beyond her own individual feelings and into the larger community, talking to her friends, to other women, etc. She also doesn't take herself too seriously, which makes for a book that had me chuckling in places, even laughing out loud.

The author does have a point to make, focusing on how and why women need to understand how their emotions and values affect their spending patterns, for better or worse. She makes this point repeatedly. It is a point well worth repeating...to drive the point home.
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I learned of "Money: A Memoir" while listening to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR. I was riveted to the radio as the author, Liz Perle, recited the statistics about the numbers of women who will end up living in poverty in middle and old age. At 63, divorced, the alimony having ended, the home equity loan no longer a blessing with interest rates going up and up, and having been a performance artist since I was eight-years-old (It takes constant hustling to earn one's living as a professional storyteller, historic portrayal artist, and folksinger), I heard myself as part of those statistics. However,I also heard that if I change my attitude towards money and separate emotions, fears, and what the "Joneses" think and instead focus on my particular needs and realities, I stand a chance of not seeing my (and millions of other women's) worst nightmare come true: that of becoming a bag lady. I promptly ordered the book and read it as soon as it arrived. I could not put it down. I felt like I had found a friend who knew what I was going through and what my fears and feelings of inadequacy were. Though I would have liked a greater variety of examples of women's stories and experiences to be included in the book, Ms. Perle's own story affected me deeply. When her divorce occurred and the savings were almost gone, she sat down and looked at her own necessities minus frills. She prioritized, added, and knew what she must earn to fulfill these needs. I am now in the process of doing the same. I gained strength and courage from her words and examples. Most-importantly, reading the book somehow took away my feelings that I was no one, nothing, the scum of the earth because I am not rich and don't have a retirement plan and may even consider renting a room or two in the four-bedroom townhouse I live in alone.Read more ›
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My biggest beef with this book is that 80 percent of it was a non-fiction discussion of finance for women, while only about 20 percent of it was truly a memoir. All the same, Perle included a ton of great info on women and their relationships with money.

Another niggling item: while she loudly calls for the need for women to be more open about their relationship with money, Perle herself kept much hidden behind the veil. She alludes to "six-figure salaries" and "what I realistically needed to live" but never names numbers.

I also found the idea that she would let her ex -- who dumped HER -- take his stock options and run to be ridiculous. She said she traded those options for a good relationship with him -- Hmmm, sounds like the "inner stewardess" she so decried in earlier chapters was not quite as dead as she had claimed.

I felt that the book ended on too much of a Pollyanna note. "I made peace with money and so can you!" she says, without sharing enough of the dirty details with us. I just didn't buy (pun intended) the notion that all was as rosy as she purports. This book would have been more valuable to me if she had focused more on telling her own story and tracing her relationship in more detail, rather than glossing over her own history in favor of one more quote from the "experts."
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Liz Perle takes a look at how us women see money and handle our finances. She spoke to about 200 women to get her research. The results are inside. A lot of women don't like to handle it or talk about it and let our emotions get in the way and let our husbands deal with it. Liz herself, had let her husband deal with the financial side of their marriage and later found herself divorced with a four year old child and out in the cold. She talks about money myths; things we tell ourselves about it. Some of those myths are; I bought it on sale, I don't buy for myself, If I ask for too much money, I will lose the job. She stress's that we have an emotional relationship with our money but if we get our emotions out of our finances we will be better off. Start taking responsibility, take control over our money and we will be happier, and hopefully not one of the many women down the track either widowed or divorced without knowledge of our finances. We then can have some power. I have learned quite a bit from this book. She gives good insight into what we should all be doing to help ourselves avoid getting into financial messes. I liked this and think many people could gain good information from reading this interesting look into why we do what we do with our money.
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