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Excerpts

Ignorance Is Bliss
Laurie Abraham

“For me, money is a brittle skin; when it’s stripped away, I feel almost raw. For protection, I’ve cultivated a cocooning haziness about the family finances. Every time I pay our nanny, I have to ask her ‘How much is it?’ Or I say ‘I’ll sign the check. Can you just fill in the amount?’ Ahhhhh. I feel so much better when I don’t have to ink out that large sum. It’s like it’s not happening; the outflow is staunched.”

The Wages of Sin: A Personal History of Economics
Kim Barnes

“My boyfriend doesn’t care that I am his equal: what he cares about is that I am his. So that when a boy I think of as only a friend buys me a Coke after Sunday night service, my lover is enraged. He calls me a whore, and then shoves me from his car to the pavement, where I lie for a long time in the dark, believing that I have earned this, that this is the payment for my sin.”

For Richer or for Poorer
Marisa Belger

“Love couldn’t save us now. When Paul pulled me close, I had visions of a future filled with late charges and coupon snipping, and I became distant and cold. I was supposed to marry a man who could easily fill in the financial holes that would inevitably arise as I pursued writing. This was how it was supposed to be. This was the plan.”

The Price of Admission
Leslie Bennetts

“In the rarefied world of Manhattan’s elite private schools, my husband and I – both journalists – had always been out of our league financially. The lifestyles of our children’s fellow students were characterized by conspicuous consumption at a level so extreme to resemble parody; in some circles, the bestselling Gossip Girl books and the television series chronicling the ludicrously profligate antics of its teenaged characters seemed more like reportage than social satire.”

Rich Little Poor Girl
Bliss Broyard

“My friends treat me because they want to spend time together, and it doesn’t cost a lot to have me join them at the nail salon or for a meal. They do it because they believe I shouldn’t be penalized for the fact that my chosen career isn’t as valued monetarily as others. They do it because it’s hard to spend time with a friend who has a vastly different standard of living. They do it because they need someone like me in their lives.”

Disco, Motherhood, and the Art of Survival
Veronica Chambers

“I was about six months into my pregnancy when I came to realize that my money nightmares weren’t about how I would take care of my child when I was alive; they were about what I would leave him or her after my death.”


Who’s Your Daddy?
Amy Cohen

“What was I thinking, taking tennis lessons? Why did I book that trip to Vietnam? How could I not have at least planned that I would end up alone? All I knew now was that I wanted a child more than anything in the world. I vowed to make it happen – even if I had to work around the clock, even if I had to borrow from my family.”

Tool Belts, Not Tuxes
Abby Ellin

“This leads to a mortifying admission – especially for a feminist who was taught that every woman should posses both her own bank account and the ability to be self-sufficient. On some level, I always believed that eventually, someone else would take care of the big stuff. And that someone, of course, would be my husband.”

Love and the Bottom Line
Joni Evans

“Mine was a highly public divorce. We were a high-profile couple, as we worked together in the same field: book publishing in its most gossiped-about days. My husband was head of one of the most successful publishers in the country, instilling fear and excitement into the industry with his take-no-prisoners style. He was rich, powerful – and worse, he was my boss.”

The Perils of the Privileged Poor
Laura Fraser

“Some women wake up at forty-five and realize they forgot to have children. I realized I forgot to make money.”

Money Matters
Julia Glass

“Although I have always kept my nose about the rising tide of bills, and am, as of three years ago, paying a mortgage and supporting my family—I’ve even made a will and set money aside for the retirement I’m sure I’ll never earn—at the core of my soul I believe myself to be a financial cretin.”

Planned Parenthood
Lori Gottlieb

“In the end, I had to choose between my two children. Admittedly, this wasn’t on a par with Sophie’s Choice – and nor did I actually have two children. But that’s how I felt when I considered shaking the already tenuous financial ground on which my son’s survival depended by having another child.”

The Cost of Living
Marnie Hanel

“I thought about what Greg was proposing. It was instant adulthood, an Easy-Bake life. At twenty-four, I could have what many women dream of – a gorgeous apartment and a handsome millionaire boyfriend. We’d look good together, and even if we didn’t have much to talk about, we’d be happy enough.”

Count the Ways
Kathryn Harrison

“On the day she discovered she could no longer walk or even stand without assistance, my mother ordered seventeen pairs of shoes, one pair at a time, from various catalogs spread over her bed. Only forty-two years old, her bones crumbling from cancer that had metastasized from her breast, she was a no-longer-beautiful woman whose vanity had long been focused on her size 7AA feet: perhaps the only part of her withered body that disease hadn’t marred.”

Rescue Mission
Sheri Holman

“Each morning, a line of men formed outside my bedroom window. They were the newly minted “homeless,” and they used the term with a sort of tentative pride. A young man in his late twenties stood out as one of the few white faces. He was tall and lean with wild blue eyes and a head of cherubic blond ringlets. Soon, I found myself obsessively thinking about kissing him.”

A Tale of Two Bank Accounts
Ann Hood

“My parents disapproved our decision to move in together. “He’s too stingy,” my father said. When they came to visit our spacious apartment in a beautiful brownstone, I took down and hid the list Douglas kept on the wall:

Milk: $2.39
Eggs: $1.89
Wine: $12.00
Ann owes me: $8.14”

>Till Debt Do Us Part
Rebecca Johnson

“The fact that my stepson was not tortured by his joblessness seemed odd to me.. My parents were poor, so I had to work. My stepson’s tuition bills were paid for, as was his housing, his clothing, his food, his books, his iMac, his iPod. Why would he knock himself out looking for work? If that’s how he wanted to live his life, who was I to question it? Live and let live. Or so I told myself.”

The Secret Economy of Women
Karen Karbo

“My mother believed that men were born to make the money and women were born to be pretty and pleasing. She died when I was seventeen, so I never had the opportunity to shoot my mouth off when I was twenty-two or so, telling her that she had wasted her life, that a wife needed to be more than an ornament, a house gnome, and a consumer. Now, after spending my adult life as the primary breadwinner in most, if not all, of my relationships, I’ve changed my tune. I think my mother was pretty brilliant.”

The Wages of Love
Lucy Kaylin

“My hope for this year is that you will get off my back about money,” my husband said, lowering the champagne glass, his blue eyes turning stormy. “ My hope is that you will stop hounding me about my credit cards and what I spend. Because if you don’t, we’re not going to make it. I’m serious about this.”

Severance
Jennifer Wolf Perrine

“The implications of this arrangement – in essence, that we were paying support money to the biological parents of a baby they might, in the end, decide to keep – made us shudder. Legally, they had the right to change their mind at any time and keep all of the money we had thus far funneled their way. We agreed to all of it, though, because Kelli and Wayne could make babies and we couldn’t. They agreed to it because they were broke. ”

The Inheritance
Dani Shapiro

“Someday, you’re going to die, and Michael will remarry.” I was on the phone with my mother when she issued this existential news flash. I wasn’t sure which was more disturbing: that she was gleefully informing me of my future demise -- or that she was certain that my husband would make quick work of finding a new bride. “That,” she continued, “is why I’m redoing my will.”

The Cheapskate
Amy Sohn

“The first time I realized my dad was weird about money was when I was eleven and he made me duck the turnstile at the subway. “But I’m too tall to duck anymore!” I cried. “Just give me a token!” “Shh,” he said, eyeing the station attendant through the glass. “Just do what I say.”

A Change of Fortune: Letter to My Oldest Son
Susanna Sonnenberg

“Like healthy eating habits and good ethics, we’re supposed to teach you to be good with money. Like many of the jobs of parenthood, I come to this one ill prepared, winging it as I go, making snap decisions and trying to disguise that I’m almost as unsure as you are.”

Keeping Up Appearances
J. Courtney Sullivan

“I often heard my parents talking about money in the hushed tones that every child knows are designed to keep her from hearing -- and I realized with some alarm that although they had never denied me anything, my parents were struggling. Among the other kids, I had always seemed to be the over-privileged one, and for the first time this made me feel guilty and embarrassed. In real terms, my family wasn’t rich at all. We were merely playing a part and had done a good job of fooling the people around us.”

The Lost Lexus
Melanie Thernstrom

“When we had gotten engaged, we were financial equals. But shortly before our wedding it became clear that the business Michael founded was going to be acquired by a giant computer company. When that happened, we would become distinctly, dramatically unequal. The unhappily paired in his circle counseled him to make a prenuptial agreement.”

My So-Called Financial Life
Rebecca Traister

“Instead of embarking on a successful quest for funds that would keep me in cheese and wine, I have lived more than three decades before having enough money to open a savings account; I have demurred rather than fought for raises; I have turned down high-paying jobs. My eyes have flashed green in their day, but seem always bigger than my stomach, which lurches queasily at the actual procurement and investment of wealth.”

My Brother’s Keeper
Elizabeth Williams

“My little brother is a con artist. And when I’m being honest, I worry that I’m partly responsible.”

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