This article is the compilation of our learnings from 12 global dinners held in 2019 and 2022.
This month, we hosted dinners on the topic of “money” in 7 cities across the globe. From Amsterdam to NYC, Chicago to Miami, money may be the most complex topic of all. Always present and playing a role in all of our relationships, our relationship with money goes hand in hand with our relationship to ourselves.
And now our key takeaways…
Our complex relationship with money starts young
Across our tables, we heard strikingly few stories of women growing up with parents or caregivers who had healthy and confident relationships with money. Rather, our earliest money role models related to money through a scarcity mindset — acting out of the belief that there was not enough and would never be enough (regardless of what their financial situation was).
Compounding what is happening at home, women today are newer to the workforce, have historically (and still do!) make less money than men and (often) hold less professional power. So, it can be hard for many of us to feel valued in a dominant culture that equates money with success.
Money and self worth — a mirror reflection?
While technically we use money as a way to assign value to “things” (that sweater is worth $40 to me — I’ll buy it), so many of our conversations with money were around our own self-worth, or lack thereof. Lacking in aspirational “role models,” women are seeped in disparaging money narratives. For some, we tell ourselves “I’m not good with money,” so we avoid getting really intimate with it. For others, we tell ourselves “I feel guilty asking for money or even talking about it,” so we devalue our abilities and don’t ask for what we’re worth.
Ultimately, so much of our relationship with money lives in the shadows, governed by fear, guilt and envy. And most of all, money acts as a cruel benchmark, putting us in direct comparison with others and our idealized selves -– a mirror forever telling us that we do not have enough, and therefore, are not good enough.
Money and power go hand and hand…(and that power has been predominantly held by men)
Many of our mothers and grandmothers did the arduous work of child rearing while our fathers and grandfathers were out climbing the career ladder. Men have been cultivating, refining and growing their relationship with money (and therefore, power) for decades. Today’s women are ushering in a new era of relative workplace and income equality, pioneering our paths with few female role models to show us the way. And so, we find ourselves amidst a challenging paradigm — when we feel like we do have money, it’s a ticket to power and control of our own lives. But when we don’t, it’s scarcity has power over us.
The money paradox(es)
Money, with all of its complexities and inconsistencies, is filled to the brim with inconsistencies and enigmas:
Money is rooted in “shadowy” emotions (fear, guilt) YET it operates on the surface
Money is the most tabooed topic YET it’s the one thing everyone in the whole world needs.
Money plays a role in every single relationship in our lives YET we never talk about it
Money is always there YET we do everything we can to ignore it
We crave deeper intimacy with money YET we behave in a way that is entirely transactional
It is time to create a more intentional relationship with money
Ultimately, money equates to freedom. We have a choice in how we spend our money and our time, and therefore, money is not something we have to be controlled by. But how do we establish freedom with something that feels so all-encompassing? It starts with breaking down false belief systems and evolving our self-sabotaging approach to money to one of openness, curiosity, and even compassion.
Many of us struggle with the question — how much is enough? There’s no magical number here — it’s less about a figure and more about accepting that the nature of money is fluid and uncertain (it comes and goes, always changing). When we have an intimate relationship with money and know our own value, we can let go of all of that money guilt — allowing us to ask for what we deserve, be more generous in how we give (and donate) because we can actually trust ourselves.
It’s time to talk about money, with other women, and with men too. We need to empower ourselves and one another. Money is everywhere and at all times — with our partners, clients, bosses, children and friends. It is high time to be clear on the role we want it to play so it doesn’t play us. This is our path to freedom.
Our attendees in Venezuela live in a country with a 40,000% inflation rate. There were months this year in which the price of food would double within a month. Within this cultural context, it’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with money — it’s hard to grasp what money really is or how it is valued. Many of these women have had to reinvent their careers and completely change the way they spend their money.
As with most of our dinners, all different life experiences and points of view graced our tables. We had women who grew up in poverty seated across from others who grew up with incredible privilege. Opening up and sharing our stories can be awkward and uncomfortable at times. But this is how we are able to suspend judgement and create more empathy, understanding and compassion for one another. We may come from different places but more often than not, we experience our emotions, struggles and joys in remarkably similar ways.
Find the time to have a conversation about money that you’ve been avoiding. Whether with your boss, partner or a friend, open up a dialogue around money to create more trust and openness in your life.
Find a female money role model. Go out and find a woman (a boss, mentor, someone on instagram) who handles money with confidence, intentionality and openness and see what they have to say.