Women With Money Book Review

August 2019

“Women with Money: The Judgment-Free Guide to Creating the Joyful, Less Stressed, Purposeful (and, Yes, Rich) Life You Deserve” By Jean Chatzky

                                Reviewed by WLALA Board Member Arezou Kohan

In this comprehensive book, Jean Chatzky, a financial expert, talks about an often-taboo subject: money.   She explores what we, women, want from our money and how to make more of it.  She notes that men and women want different things from money.   For many men, money is the target and the definition of success (#winning).  While, for women, the life we want to create with the money is our measure of success (#lifegoals).

Chatzky observes that, while there have been upteen studies about why women still earn less than men, reasons include the fact that women a) don’t negotiate for it, and b) don’t go out there and get offers from other employers so that they can go back to their current one with proof that they should be paid more.  In other words, we don’t advocate for ourselves because we don’t want to rock the boat or appear “unlikeable.”

What I most appreciate about this book, as an integrative business coach, is that Chatzky does not shy away from discussing the internal landscape of what stops women from making more money – i.e. our  “money story” and beliefs about our worth and deservedness.  “Underearning happens because of what is going on inside of us.” Sometimes, it has to do with adopting our parents’ unhealthy mindset around money. 

However, the issue runs deeper.  Money is many things to many people.  It is security, independence, freedom – and power.   Powerful women were burned at the stake.  Chatzky explains (and this is something I am running all over town raising awareness about!), is that there is an understanding in our collective unconscious that we have been punished for speaking up, taking up space, and assuming positions of authority.   We feel vulnerable because, subconsciously, we don’t want to be killed for being powerful – again.   As such, many of us “water ourselves down so we don’t make waves.”

As it stands, women face subconscious wounds as well as societal gender bias.  Chatzky cites accounts where popular Economics text books refer to men four times as often as women – and when the women are referenced in examples, they are more likely to be shopping or cleaning rather than, say, being the CEO of a company.   In another example, when presented with equal-on-paper applicants, the men were rated more competent and given higher starting salaries by more male and female evaluators. 

The book is divided into three parts.  Part I explores women’s relationship with money.  Part II discusses being in control of money, including getting paid what you are worth + tax, investing in the market, starting your own business, and buying real estate.  Part III explores using money to create the life you want, including raising kids who launch and flourish, caring for older parents, and leaving a legacy.  She includes a cliff-note “What we have learned” and “Where do we go from here” page at the end of each chapter. 

Again, what I appreciate the most is that the author understands that emotions drive behavior.   She advocates for understanding what we, individually, want from our money. In other words, self-reflection about what is at stake. What is the money for? 

While it would appear that the book’s message is bleak, it is quite the opposite.  Chatzky notes that about 38 percent of American women have already become the primary breadwinner for their families.  More than 50 percent of women are single.  Adding them into the mix, the primary breadwinner count soars to 60 percent.  For every 100 men who graduated from college last year, 132 women graduated. Women are also poised to inherit 70 percent of the $141 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfer expected over the next 40 years.  An astonishing statistic is that, by 2028, women will control 75 percent of the discretionary spending around the world and by 2030, 66 percent of America’s wealth.   Finally, in households where women earn as much or more than men, spouses reported that they were happier with their relationships, “as much in love,” and had better – “hotter” – sex.  In fact, Money Magazine reported “the most satisfied partners of all were husbands in equalitarian and female-breadwinner marriages” –  in case you wanted one more reason to level-up and make more money.

Arezou Kohan, CPCC is a WLALA Board Member and a business coach who specializes in helping talented women rise up in leadership, power, influence, and philanthropy.