Does talking about money make you uncomfortable? That’s okay. Do it anyway.

A cartoon of a couple sitting at a table at a restaurant. The caption reads, "Honey, we have to talk about money in case one of us gets hit by a bus."
Original cartoon by Liza Donnelly

As published on LinkedIn as part of the SheMoney monthly newsletter.

I have been having a lot of difficult conversations lately, and many of them are about money. Despite how much I read and write about this topic, I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to my own relationship with my financial resources. And as it turns out, it’s not just me. I know this because over the past several months, I have asked friends of different ages and financial circumstances to share the difficult money conversations that they have either had or really need to have with their loved ones. And every day, that list keeps getting longer. To date, the range of topics covers every possible category of life, including education, family, friendships, dating, marriage, investments, and so much more.

For example, a friend entering into a serious relationship wondered when it was the right time to talk about money values with her prospective partner. Another friend, who is in the everyone-is-getting-married phase of her life, doesn’t know how to tell her friends that she really can’t afford to be a bridesmaid or attend a destination wedding. A very wealthy woman told me that she stopped asking her husband about their financial situation years ago, and now she doesn’t know how to ask about it without fear that her husband will think she does not trust him. I could go on and on.

A photo of Jacki Zehner talking to a group of women with a board full of post its in the background.

A photo of Jacki Zehner, talking to a group of seated women. There is a big board full of post-its behind her.It was questions like these that inspired last month’s ShePlace event at the Kiln in Park City, where we hosted our very first Money Mingle. For this event, we curated 11 introspective questions on the topic of money to help facilitate a discussion around our individual and collective challenges when it comes to caring for our financial well-being. We hung these prompts throughout the space and invited our guests to anonymously write their responses on post-its. We then shared these responses with the group and used them to guide our discussion. It was incredible how much there was to learn from one another, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to really discuss the barriers we all share in common when it comes to engaging more fully with our financial resources. The top barriers that attendees listed and we discussed? Time, self-confidence, a feeling of being overwhelmed, and not knowing where to begin.

All of us at ShePlace were blown away by the event attendees’ willingness to be honest and vulnerable about their experiences with their money. Of course, it was simply not possible to solve everyone’s money challenges in one meeting. But we did get the conversation started and encouraged everyone to just do something. Not everything. Something.

Curious about the 11 questions? Click here to take a short money survey. I guarantee it will get you thinking about your own money story and the conversations you may need to have. All responses will be anonymous, but we will report back on the results, along with resources to address the most common questions.

So what was the difficult conversation about money that I most needed to have? For me, that difficult conversation revolved around “What if?” As in, what if I die prematurely? What would happen then? I had a health scare last year, and while I am okay now, my husband and I realized that our thinking, and our planning, was very outdated. I needed to have that conversation with my loved ones, because talking about the financial implications of your death is one of the most important conversations we all simply must have.

It is also essential to have a will. Full stop. Every adult needs a will. But if you don’t have one, don’t know where to start, and/or truly can’t afford to do it, I get it. As of May of last year, 68% of all Americans did not have a will, and while I really do not want to scare you, you really don’t want to die without one. To do so is called dying “intestate”, which means that instead of your estate being distributed as you would wish, it will be distributed according to intestacy laws. These vary country by country, and in the US, they also vary state by state. They also tend to be overly complex and difficult to navigate.

That being said, in general, when a person dies intestate, their estate is turned over to probate courts to be distributed among surviving spouses and descendants. While this may seem logically sound, it can have enormous negative implications on anyone in non-traditional families and/or those whose closest loved ones are not blood/legal relatives. Studies have also shown that the widespread phenomenon of unintended intestacy is greatly contributing to the problem of income inequality in the US. And data shows that intestacy unfairly and disproportionately affects minorities and other marginalized communities in many other negative ways.

So with all of these well documented downsides, why do nearly 70% of Americans still not have a will? Testamentary freedom, meaning the right of an owner of property to control its disposition in death, is a right that is enshrined in the US Constitution. And yet only 32% of Americans take advantage of this right? Academics have studied this issue to try and discern the reason, but like everything else in life, there are no easy answers. For example, some have theorized that psychological resistance to thinking about our own death is the main reason why so few adults have wills. And that makes sense to me. Both money and death can be taboo topics, so who wants to talk about wills, a topic that combines both? And yet people aren’t adverse to setting up other forms of non-testamentary transfers, such as life insurance and account beneficiaries, so that can’t be the whole reason. It has also been speculated that the entire process of creating a legal will is and/or is perceived as being too complex, unwieldy, and costly. And this is probably true. But there are lots of resources available to help guide people through the process of creating their own will. I plan on sharing these in the coming months through an upcoming series of ShePlace money guides, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, please start talking to your family about what will happen to your estate when you die. Create and/or update your will. And make sure that your loved ones are having these same conversations about their own estates. Make no mistake, being willing to have these difficult conversations means being willing to be vulnerable, and that takes so much courage. And if you need some guidance on this, I suggest you look into the work of Brené Brown, a researcher who has spent decades studying courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame. I have not yet had the privilege of meeting Ms. Brown, but she is at the top of my list of people with whom I’d love to have dinner, and I highly recommend all her work, including her books, podcasts, and Netflix special. There is so much to say about all of it, but she says it so much better than me.

A close up headshot photo of Brene Brown looking straight into the camera and smiling.

So here is my main takeaway as it relates to difficult conversations about money. Just do it. Be vulnerable. Yes, it will be hard. But the benefits will outweigh the cost. I promise.

And… Happy Holidays! Wishing you and yours the very best.

As always, thanks to Lisa Donnelly for her collaborative and original cartoon.

11 Steps to Becoming A Financial Superhero

A cartoon of four women standing in a line, all dressed as superheroes, with monetary bills for capes.
Original cartoon by Liza Donnelly

As published on LinkedIn for the SheMoney newsletter.

I have been writing about women and money for well over a decade. And if you are a longtime reader of mine, you will know that I am somewhat obsessed with the character of Wonder Woman. As in, I-have-a-whole-room-full-of-Wonder-Woman-memorabilia level of obsessed. While the story of Wonder Woman began back in 1941, I did not discover her until much later, and my introduction didn’t come from the comic books. Instead, when I was a little girl, I used to watch the television show starring Lynda Carter, as well as the animated television series, Super Friends. Like so many other little girls, I wanted to be Wonder Woman. I twirled, I lassoed the bad guys, I pretended I had an invisible plane, and I dressed up in that iconic costume.

A photo of author Jacki Zehner sitting in front of a wall filled with Wonder Woman memorabilia.

But then Wonder Woman went off the air, and I kind of forgot about her and went on with my life. Or so I thought. I fearlessly rode horses. I started working at age 14. I graduated top of my class from high school. I became a Canadian Junior Body-Building Champion. Yes, really. I got into an elite program at the University of British Columbia that allowed me to become the first undergraduate recruit from the school to be hired at Goldman Sachs in New York City. And in 1996, I became the youngest woman and first female trader to make partner at Goldman. I also became a wife and a mother of two. I realize now that I was busy trying to become my own kind of Wonder Woman. One who had a successful career, served her family, was there for her friends, and gave back to her community.

It was at the height of my struggle to try and balance it all that I rediscovered Wonder Woman. The year was 2001. At the time, I was working in Goldmanʼs executive office reporting directly to the most senior leaders of the firm on issues relating to the firmʼs culture, diversity, compensation, promotion, retention, and most importantly, leadership. I became obsessed with the concept of leadership, and I would devour anything that was written on the topic. One such piece was an article written by Tom Peters in Fast Company Magazine called “50 Rules of Leadership”. It became my favorite resource, and I would pass it along to anyone and everyone because it represented diverse, creative, and bold thinking. Peters left one rule blank at the end of the list, and he invited readers to submit their own rule of leadership. I sat there trying to determine what was missing, and for whatever reason, the following popped into my head.

Leadership Rule # 50: Be a SuperHero. Remember what it was like to jump out of bed on those Saturday mornings so you could rush to turn on the TV to get another does of Superman, Batman, or in my case Wonder woman! These characters inspired you to change the world, to do the right thing, to fight evil wherever it reared it’s ugly lead. To be an example, and yet hide your true identify because it was not about personal glory!! They never asked “what is in it for me?”, they never get the bad stuff get them down. They had a job to do and damn it they approached with with absolute enthusiasm and discipline. Be a Superhero!

I typed up this statement and shared my idea with a colleague. She added some great visuals of superheroes to my new motto, including Wonder Woman of course, and I proudly displayed the finished product on my desk. Wonder Woman was back in my life, and this time, she was here to stay. From that moment on, whenever I was facing challenges at work, at home, or in life in general, I would think to myself, Be a Superhero Jacki. Be a Wonder Woman. Not THE Wonder Woman. A Wonder Woman. In all the years since that day 20 years ago, I’ve never stopped wanting to be a superhero. *

Fast forward to a recent morning when I woke up knowing that I had an article to write. An article about women and money. And then the thought popped into my head. What if every woman, girl, human were their own financial superhero? What would that look like? I imagined it would look something like this:

  1. A financial superhero has a healthy relationship with her financial resources. In last month’s issue of SheMoney, I talked about how money, despite being a resource that we all need to survive, somehow remains a taboo subject. Most people have habits, beliefs, and/or issues around money that are complicated. Often, people’s relationship with their money is downright negative. But a financial superhero knows that the most important thing about money is to have a healthy and positive relationship with it.
  2. A financial superhero has an abundant mindset. For me, this means knowing that there is enough out there for everybody. It also means knowing that YOU are enough.  I am currently rereading the incredible book The Soul Of Money by Lynne Twist, and right in the opening pages she says that “this book is about finding a new freedom, truth, and joy in our relationship with money, whatever our circumstances.” She speaks brilliantly about how scarcity, “this mantra of not enough carries the day and becomes a kind of default setting for our thinking about everything, from the cash in our pocket to the people we love or the value of our lives.” As an alternative, she invites us all to adopt a sufficiency mindset, which she describes as “an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.”
  3. A financial superhero is financially fluent. By this I mean she has a basic mastery of the role that money plays in our world. She knows what financial products are and do, and she knows how to budget, spend wisely, save, invest, protect her assets, and give philanthropically. Her knowledge extends in to the emerging, and hugely important, areas of cryptocurrency and blockchain! (I will be writing about these areas soon) And not only does she know what to do, but she actually does it. Over the past 25 years, I have studied how to deliver financial education to women. In fact, one of my portfolio companies, SmartPurse, does exactly that, as did one of my earliest direct investments, Learnvest. I chose to invest in these companies because report after report continues to highlight the fact that so many women lack this basic financial literacy, and the results are profound. There are so many resources out there to help you achieve financial fluency, and I will continue to share them with you in future issues of SheMoney.
  4. A financial superhero does not over-consume. You might have seen the news last weekof a woman crashing the Louis Vuitton Paris Fashion Week show with a sign that said, “Overconsumption = Extinction”. When I saw her, I knew she was talking to me. Earlier this month, at the ripe old age of 57, I bought my first Louis Vuitton bag as a birthday present to myself. It was a used one, but still. Did I need another handbag? Absolutely not. There is actually nothing in the categories of clothing, shoes, accessories, beauty products, anything really, that I actually need. I am a huge over-consumer, and I justify it because I can afford it, and because most of what I buy is used. But I can’t justify it any longer. Overconsumption is hurting our pocketbooks and our planet.
  5. A financial superhero is a conscious consumer, meaning she cares not just about buying less, but about buying products and services from people and companies that demonstrate they care about their employees, communities, and the planet. Taken a step further, a financial superhero tries as much as possible to buy from companies that share her values. For myself, I care a lot about gender and racial equity, so I try to make an effort whenever possible to buy from companies that are female and BIPOC founded. If the company is public, I try to check to see how they rank in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and whether or not they have shown a commitment to doing what they can to address climate change. I recently attended the Gratitude Railroad Investor Conference, where I heard from one of the most educated and powerful voices on climate change, Nat Keohane, President of the Center of Climate and Energy Solutions. He referenced a new report, IPCC 2021, in which scientists from around the world make irrefutable scientific claims about the state of our planet. As you’ve probably already guessed, the consensus is not good. In fact, it’s pretty darn bad. I admit I have had my head in the sand for years, doing so little to help the planet, and that stops now. A financial superhero makes it her business to make sure that the skies she flies in, the soil she walks on, and the water she drinks from is tended to for all future generations.
  6. A financial superhero strives for financial independence and knows that “a man is not a financial plan”. I remember hearing that quote at some point early in my life and it has always stuck with me. I understand that in today’s world of student loans, medical debt, and the insane cost of housing in major cities, it is so hard for so many to imagine a life without debt or financial worries. I also know that many women make the choice to leave their careers to be the primary care-giver of their children, and in so doing become dependent on their partners earnings. Additionally, due to so many circumstances, you may be in a situation where you are dependent. Imagining a life where you have your own financial resources to care for yourself and your dependents may be out of reach, somewhat unimaginable, but imagine it anyways. Strive for it, anyways.
  7. A financial superhero knows her worth and is ready, willing, and able to negotiate for it.  Sometimes, when I am awake in the middle of the night because I can’t slow my brain down, I stare at the ceiling and imagine a world where certain things are true. One of those things I try to imagine is true is a world where everyone, but especially women and girls, knows that they are valued. Valued not because of what they look like, what they can do, what they own, or what titles they hold. But are valued simply because they are human beings. I also like to imagine a world where we are all paid fairly for our labor. Unfortunately, the gender wage gap still exists, especially for women of color, and while we can all hope that companies will do the right thing, it is up to each of us to negotiate our salaries and be willing to change jobs if needed.
  8. A financial superhero uses her investment capital as a tool for positive change. She is an impact investor, and incorporates a gender lens when making her investment decisions.  “Simply put, gender lens investing is the deliberate incorporation of gender factors into investment analysis and decisions.” Sound complicated? This awesome book, co-authored by my friend Jackie VanderBrug, makes it easy to understand and apply.
  9. A financial superhero knows that money is a power tool that can be used to hurt and control others, and knowing this, she does not do it or put up with it. I’ve already written a full article dedicated to the topic of financial abuse because this point is so important. Especially since women are much more likely to be victims of this type of abuse. That’s why we need to know our rights, help ourselves, and help each other. Financial abuse is abuse. Full stop. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful and effective methods of keeping a victim in an abusive relationship. As financial superheroes, it is our job to fight back against this abuse in all its forms. In terms of not using money as a power OVER tool I admit to not being as aware as I need to be regarding how financial privilege affects, well, almost everything. Again, such a huge topic that I look forward to writing more about.
  10. A financial superhero is generous. Generosity is the outcome of an abundant and caring mindset. Financial generosity takes on a number of forms including helping a friend or family member in need, charitable giving, and more regular activities like being a good tipper. It also includes what we pay people that may be in our employment. With respect to giving, in the United States, 70% of all giving dollars are donated by individuals. Meaning it is people, not companies or corporations or foundations, that hold up the non-profit sector. How financially generous we can show up in the world is certainly related to our own financial circumstance, but what I know for sure is that many of us could be more generous than we are.
  11. A financial superhero is a good investor. My husband suggested this point when I asked him what he thought I was missing from my list. But what constitutes a good investor? Frankly, I am still figuring that out. I have been an active investor for over 20 years, and I have done so many things wrong. But I’ve also done a few things right. I’m going to make it my mission to create a separate list of what I think it means to be a good investor, of course informed by the experiences and insights of many others. Stay tuned.
A cartoon of four women dressed as superheroes, flying in a row, with their capes flowing behind them. The capes are made of monetary bills.
Original cartoon by Liza Donnelly.

So there you have it. My list of 11 ways to be a financial superhero. I know these sorts of things usually come in the form of top 10 lists, but I have always had a special affinity for the number 11. Especially 1111. That said, this list is far from complete, and therefore I welcome hearing from you and what you think is missing, or for that matter, not resonating. In addition I want to acknowledge that I am a wealthy, white woman writing this article. Though I grew up in a more modest way, I no longer have to deal with financial stress in the same way that most people do. My hope in writing this is that we might all aspire to be financial superheroes. I have a long way to go myself, but I know that attention and intention are a precursor to action. Here at SheMoney, we are on this journey together.

*A number of years ago, together with my editorial collaborator Laura Moore, we wrote a report called Why no WonderWoman? Yes this was way before they finally made the first movie. Check it out here.

Introducing SheMoney! What’s Your Money Story?

As published on LinkedIn as part of the SheMoney newsletter.

Why is money called dough?

Because we all knead it.

I know, I know. Not the greatest joke about money. But I’m about to start talking about something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and so I thought I’d open with a joke.

But puns aside, let’s talk about money. That’s right. Money. Let’s say it together shall we? Money.

Money is any object that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context. The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange; a unit of account; a store of value; and, occasionally, a standard of deferred payment.

When you think about it, it’s a rather small word for something that means so much. Like air and water, money is a resource that we all need to survive. It is something that shapes all of our lives in countless ways, and yet, for many reasons, money remains a taboo topic. Especially among women.

I want to change that.

That’s why for the first anniversary of the SheInvests newsletter, I am changing the name to SheMoney. I want to broaden the conversation beyond just investing, because money is so much more than investment capital. Importantly, SheMoney will continue to employ a gender lens, because as a woman and a financial feminist, my primary goal is to help other women on their money journeys.

I should note that writing about money is not new for me. The SheInvests newsletter may have only launched last September, but I have been writing about money since 2008 when I started blogging under the tagline, “On women, money, and changing the world.” Nearly 800 articles later, I’ve learned a few things. And as I look ahead to the next 800, I know there are a lot of things that I have yet to learn. But one of the things that I have definitively learned is just how many people have money “issues”. Heck, I have money issues. I have a history with money, beliefs about money, and habits around money. Some of them are serving me, and some of them are not. And I’m sure the same is true for you. So I’m inviting you to join me on this money journey to explore how we all might positively engage with our financial resources to better serve us, our loved ones, and the world more generally.

Money is like an iron ring we put through our nose. It is now leading us around whever it wants. We just forget that we are the ones who designed it. – Mark Kinney ( and pulled from the highly recommended book The Soul of Money by the incredible Lynne Twist)

A great place to start is with an invitation to you to think about your money story. What are some of your earliest memories about money? What did your parents teach you about money? What did they not teach you? Do you remember the first time you got paid for your labor and how that felt? Do you have a propensity to be a saver or a spender, and where do you think those habits might have originated? Do you have any fears around money? Have you had any extremely negative or positive experiences with money? Right at this moment, how would you rate on a scale of 1 to 10 your comfort level as it relates to talking about money issues with your partner and/or best friend?

Are you uncomfortable yet? I told you this wasn’t the easiest topic to wrap your head around. So in the interest of getting the ball rolling, I’ll start. Here is a bit of my money story.

No alt text provided for this image

I grew up in a small town in Canada called Kelowna. I had very hard-working, awesome parents. For most of my life, my dad worked at, then managed, then finally owned a grocery store. My mom worked in insurance, real estate (their Century21 Real Estate photo), and other jobs. My mom’s family was lower income than my dad’s, and my grandmother, who lived until the age of 97, was a housekeeper for most of her working life. Her name was Sadie and I wrote about her in this article a few years ago. My sister and I are first generation university graduates. We were a family that had enough, but we only had enough because my parents worked their butts off to provide for us. Of course, there were many times when my parents had financial stress, but they pretty much kept it hidden from us as children. It is only now when I have asked them about their money stories that I have learned just how much they struggled, especially when they mortgaged all they had to buy the a business, a grocery store, when interest rates were 18%.

Looking back, the primary lesson I learned from my parents is that money is what you earn when you work hard. It is what you are paid for producing a good or a service. I also learned that money went into a bank account where you would earn interest, you should never spend more than you earn, you should only borrow money to buy a major asset like a business, car, or house, and finally, that money should not be wasted! Both my parents, but especially my dad, has ‘fairness’ as a thinking talent , and how that manifests is paying the ‘fair and right’ price for goods and services. I have that embedded in me too. To this day I get a lot of anxiety when I feel that I have overpaid for something, which is not the same thing as paying a lot for something. Overpaying is connected to feelings of being taking advantage of while buying something that may cost a lot is a choice.

Before I had a bank account, I had a piggy bank, and in it would go the coins and bills that somehow ended up in my possession. I remember liking the clinking sound when another one was dropped in, and I understood at a very early age that having money meant you could get the things that you wanted. Not needed, that was mom and dad’s job, but wanted. And what I wanted was to be rich.

No alt text provided for this image

Rich like the people on the shows Dallas and Dynasty. People who had mansions, great clothes, nice cars, servants, and lived in Texas. They were also all white, but I wasn’t socially aware enough at that point to realize the social and societal implications of that just yet. Nor did I understand the enormous amount of privilege I had growing up in a white, middle class family, with ample social structures designed to support people like me. That awareness and knowledge would come later. All I knew as a kid watching those shows was that I wanted to grow up to wear expensive jackets with shoulder pads and attend fabulous parties.

My first job was working at a concession stand at the local hockey arena, and I think my pay was around $2.75 an hour, which was the minimum wage in 1977. Let me tell you, it was an awesome job for a 13 year old hockey loving Canadian girl. I got to do math in my head all day long, I got paid a fixed amount per hour (plus tips!), I got to meet boys, and I got to snack on popcorn for free whenever I wanted. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite foods.

Awesome first job? Check. And this is very important, because it meant I had very positive early experiences around money and math. I was both money confident and math confident from a young age, and I know that that made a huge difference in terms of why I ended up having the career that I did. This confidence followed me from job to job, and I went on to work at Dairy Queen, Footlocker, Fashion Corner, and as a cashier at my father’s grocery store. Being a cashier in those days was a whole different experience than it is now. It meant a lot of memorization of prices and codes, handling cash, and making change the old fashioned way. There was no computer telling me that if the total was $17.50 and someone gave me a $20 that the change was $2.50. Again, money and math, all before I turned 20. Looking back, I always had a job growing up, and the vast majority of the money I earned, I saved. What I did spend was very intentional and on things I really wanted and loved. I was very money motivated, always. In fact, in my high school yearbook where you capture your aspirations, I said, “I want to make a million dollars by the time I am 30”. The year was 1982.

After high school, I went to study psychology at a local community college. I was planning on following that up with law school, because all the wealthiest characters on TV seemed to be lawyers. However, on a trip to Vancouver to visit the University of British Columbia, I happened to attend a party at my cousin’s place with all her commerce and business school buddies. Far too many beers later, they had convinced me that business was the way to go, and I applied to the faculty of commerce the next day.

No alt text provided for this image

Luckily I was accepted, and I was working towards a marketing degree when I heard of a brand new program being created at the university called the Portfolio Management Program. Six students would be selected to manage a real endowment fund, and I was fortunate enough to get picked. I quickly changed my major to finance, did internships at a brokerage and money management firm, and graduated with several job offers in the field, including one to become an analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York City in the mortgage finance department. The professional world of money was now my world.

Slight side note. I feel I need to acknowledge that college was very inexpensive in Canada at that time, and due to scholarships, bursaries, my savings, and help from my parents, I did not incur any college debt. I’m also very much aware of what an extraordinary privilege that was. The carry forward of educational debt is a huge issue today, and it will be the subject of a future article in terms of its magnitude, implications, and inequities, as well as tips on managing it. But back to my story.

I still remember my first day at Goldman Sachs. I arrived so early that I sat on a bench outside 85 Broad Street in downtown Manhattan and wondered how in the world someone from small town Canada could ever end up there. But I was there, and it was at Goldman Sachs, perhaps the most prestigious Wall Street firm, that I truly learned about financial instruments and markets, economic systems, and the power of money. I went from my starting position as an analyst, to the youngest woman and first female trader to make partner in just eight years. My husband, now of over 25 years, also made partner the same year as me, and we became Goldman’s first partner couple.

No alt text provided for this image

During my time at Goldman, I worked for many men. In fact, I only worked for men, and many of them were legends in the field of finance. Three of them went on to become Treasury Secretaries of the United States, including the most recent one in the Trump administration, Steven Mnuchin, who was my direct boss for many years. Throughout my career, I had many sponsors and champions, but I also experienced some pretty extreme sexual harassment. I saw first hand how few women and people of color were in leadership roles, both at Goldman and in financial services more generally, and I made it my job to try and change that. For me, money was, is, a resource, but it represents something so much bigger. It represents careers, institutions, power, the patriarchy.

For example, I received many big pay checks while working for Goldman, but I also knew that I was underpaid at different points of my career relative to some of my peers, almost all of whom were men. Early on in my career, I found myself working for someone I did not respect and who did not treat me with respect. As a result, I interviewed outside of the firm and got a job offer that was double my Goldman salary. However, when I went in to resign, my boss at the time, Michael Mortara, would not accept my resignation. Instead, he took me to lunch in the partners dining room and asked me why I was leaving, and I went on and on about how I was treated and underpaid. Together we came up with a plan to make things better. While he could not match the competing salary, he promised me that he would effectively be my sponsor, keep a closer eye on my career, and look to move me away from my manager at the time. I grabbed a pen and wrote his commitments down on the back of a cloth napkin, including a line that said, “I will do my best to help Jacki get paid $1 million dollars one day”, and he signed it. I still have that napkin.

That was the experience where I learned to self advocate. I learned to ask for what I wanted, and to make sure I had a sponsor who believed in me. And I did. I had an incredible sponsor in Mike Mortara and I made partner. By 1997, I was married with our first child, and despite our combined salaries, we were living well below our financial means, living in the tiniest make-shift three bedroom apartment you could find in New York. My husband had a similar financial upbringing as me, and it worked for us. However, in 1999, Goldman went public, and I was suddenly and very officially a very wealthy person. It was weird, and I worried a lot about how it might affect relationships. That feeling was driven home one day when a dear friend told me, “Jacki, I don’t think we can be friends anymore because we are now in very different socioeconomic classes.” I challenged her, arguing that I would continue to be as cheap as ever, and we laughed it off. But it was something that has stayed with me all these years. I’ve known a lot of rich assholes, and I vowed never to become one.

I ultimately left Goldman in 2002. I was the mother of two young kids, we had moved to the suburbs, and we were financially set because both my husband and I had benefited greatly from Goldman’s IPO. But as the saying goes, with great (monetary) power comes great responsibility, and I felt the weight of that responsibility greatly. That’s why I was determined to manage our wealth in a way that would also benefit others. It is a value that my parents imparted on me from a young age, especially my mom. Even though we didn’t have a lot of extra money when I was growing up, I absolutely consider my mom to be a philanthropist. She cared for and served others in countless ways, and she taught me to do the same.

Therefore, my new professional mission was to “give back”, and I embarked on a journey into philanthropy that lasted for over a decade. I joined a campaign called Women Moving Moving Millions, which sought to inspire high net worth women to give a million dollars or more to support women and girls’ causes. I became WMM’s founding President, and spent the next decade building that community into a global philanthropic network. As a result, I was recognized as cofounder alongside Helen LaKelly Hunt. Side note: the show Dallas is actually somewhat based on Helen’s family, the Hunt oil family of Texas, or so the rumor goes.

No alt text provided for this image

There were so many money moments and learnings from the decade I spent in women’s philanthropy. Far too many to list here. But one of my big takeaways was the fact that philanthropic capital will never, ever, be enough to solve the world’s problems. It’s why I’ve changed course in recent years and focused more on investing, and it’s why I continue to encourage other women to do the same. I will never fully understand why so many high net worth women are completely comfortable writing large checks to a non-profit, but are completely uncomfortable writing that same sized check to a fantastic female founded start up. But research shows us time and time again that while women tend to give more charitable dollars at every income level than men, we are not as engaged as investors. There is so much unused power in our collective investment capital, and it is one of the main reasons why this newsletter began as SheInvests.

That being said, most of my experiences with money as it relates to my decade with WMM were amazing. I met countless women (and men) who were profoundly generous and humble, and who realized just how fortunate they were to be in a position to give away significant amounts of money. I also met women, and men, who were the opposite. Over the years, I even met some who thought that if you have a lot of money, it meant you were right and that you knew what was best for people who had less of it, and they wielded their money power stick in ways that were as gross, if not more so, than some of the masters of the universe I encountered on Wall Street. Turns out there are assholes everywhere, and I tried my best not to be one.

But back to the present. I will wrap up this origin story knowing there is so much more to it in terms of my money beliefs that are both serving and not serving me. Today I describe myself as a financial feminist. I want to use my wealth to invest in, and with, those who are traditionally excluded and underserved by our current financial systems–financial systems that are exploitative, extractive, and patriarchal. Yes, I benefited greatly from Wall Street. But I also had a front row seat to the injustice of its operations, and I want to help change that. That is why I have spent the past 20 years building up my experience and knowledge around money. I have used my wealth and resources to create, build, and partner with like-minded people, products, and companies, to create new systems that are more just, equitable, generous, and generative. Not just in investment, but in every type of monetary exchange, because there is power in them all.

At the end of the day, I aspire to be holistically financially intentional and generous. I want to have a healthy relationship with money, seeing it as a means and not an end. And I try to recognize the fears of scarcity that still show up for me, as well as my fears around how money affects relationships. To counteract these fears, I try to stay grounded and honest on my money journey.

If you have made it this far, I encourage you to think about writing your own money story. Have fun with it. See where it takes you, and try to end with a summary statement of some sort that can help keep you grounded and well on your way to having a healthy relationship with your financial resources. You might just be surprised where this journey will take you, but I promise it will be worth the trip.

And please join me on Clubhouse @JackiZehner and the new group SheMoney. I have yet to start conversations on this explosive new platform but I will soon.

No alt text provided for this image