How Gloria Steinem discovered the value of money: financial lessons you can learn from a feminist icon.

Author:Tisdale, Stancey
Position:MONEY MANAGEMENT: 3 Most Important Money Lessons - Interview

LAST YEAR, DURING WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH, feminist icon Gloria Steinem--author of New York Times bestseller, My Life on the Road (Random House Publishing Group; $16.66)--deeply inspired the be audience by sharing her observation that black women created the feminist movement.

"I realize that things being what they are, the white middle-class part of the movement got reported more, but if you look at the numbers and the very first poll of women responding to feminist issues, African American women were twice as likely to support feminism and feminist issues as white women," said Steinem.

Against this backdrop, we thought it was fitting to review financial empowerment as well. As such, this represents our kick-off to a new series--"The 3 Most Important Lessons I've Learned About Money"--in which we share stories and reflections of thought leaders, familiar personalities, and others to help us improve our relationship with money. We start our series with Steinem's insights.

What for you, front and center, is your most valuable money lesson?

As a child, I used to go with my father to Household Finance--a high-interest lender for people who couldn't qualify for bank loans--and listen to my otherwise funny and independent father as he made a brave, but nervous case for his dependability and our family need to an impervious guy behind a desk. At home, my mother used to save change and dollar bills in a big glass jar in the closet, 'just in case' our car was re-possessed or there was some other disaster. Neither the Household Finance guy's condescension, nor my mother's worry, seemed to have anything to do with who my parents really were.

For better or worse, I've never borrowed a penny in my life, no doubt because I didn't want to be vulnerable to a humiliating guy behind a desk. I've also never owned a car; something you can get away with in New York. As a freelancer with an irregular income, I've worried a lot about money, yet I've noticed that friends with a lot of money worry at least as much.

Altogether, we each deserve enough to eat, a home, and a little dancing. But after that, I've discovered money doesn't change who we really are.

As a feminist, you've impacted the lives of millions. Does gender play a role in any of your top money lessons?

Yes. I would say that lesson 2 in my top 3 is that I could support myself and buy freedom, despite all the instruction to my generation of...

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