Issue #92/ March 15, 2019

✨ Catch up on what ya missed this week ✨

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  • BRIBED: About 50 celebrities, financiers and other wealthy folks were indicted this week for allegedly bribing college athletic staff to accept their children or for bribing a college test prep center to change their children's entrance exam scores, The New York Times reports. If you want deets on the financiers involved in the scheme, check out Institutional Investor's story. 

  • DOING THINGS: Ever wonder how Outdoor Voices become so popular? Jia Tolentino profiled the business for The New Yorker this week. 

  • BANKRUPTCY: Not all companies that file for bankruptcy close their doors. Vox explains why. 

  • WARREN BUFFETT'S BIG PROBLEM: Berkshire Hathaway, the veritable empire of companies owned by legendary investor Warren Buffett, has a problem: its workers' compensation unit is being investigated by New Jersey regulators, the New York Post reports. 

  • SAFE SPACES: Autostraddle has a great piece on making activist spaces safe for everyone. 

  • WOMEN'S HEALTH: New York had a busy week when it came to women's health care. Thousands of backlogged rape kits were tested, and as a result, 64 attackers were convicted, The New York Times reports. But pelvic exams can still take place without consent in the state. A set of new bills introduced this week aims to change that, Politico reports. 

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Liv GaGNon On Building Her PR Business From the Ground Up

Liv Gagnon and I met serendipitously at a barre studio in Brooklyn nearly two years ago. We were both studio regulars, so one day after class we started talking about our careers. I learned that she worked in public relations in the financial services sector. Given that I was a business journalist, we made a networking connection immediately. 

Since our initial meeting, Gagnon has made some major career moves. She left the corporate world to start her own public relations company, Portaga Creative, and now serves several clients of her own. Gagnon and I caught up over the phone recently. What follows is our conversation. 

Editor’s note: this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

How did you get your start in public relations? What did you like about the field? 
I started at a startup PR firm geared toward the financial services industry. I had the honor of being one of the people that built that company up, which was cool to see. The nature of PR is crazy. The thing that I hands down enjoyed the most was being able to articulate what executives and companies couldn’t articulate themselves. 

Tell me about your new company, Portaga.
Portaga is a brand strategy and content firm. I work with companies to figure out who they are and then use that to build a branding platform. On the other side, I do content, whether that’s web copy, white papers, press releases or marketing brochures. I primarily work with financial services clients.

What made you decide to start out on your own?
I’ll kind of give you the real story because that’s what I tell my clients to do. It’s never just a professional decision to make a huge career switch like this. Almost two years ago, my mom, unfortunately, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was a crazy and kind of surreal eight months. She unfortunately passed away. 

Everyone always talks about how life is short. Everyone recognizes that but we don’t think about it that often. It took being faced with this reality to kind of propel me to ask really hard questions and figure out if I’m happy, what I want to do, et cetera. I didn’t really know the answer. I realized that there was such a need to help people who were really passionate about what they do. I came to the decision that I want to add a little bit of humanity to the corporate world. 

How did you prepare to make the move? 
I made countless arrangements. I sublet my apartment in Brooklyn and I figured out whether I could do work remotely upstate. The turning point was this one single thought in my head: i am going to be as terrified to do this in ten years as I am today. The only difference will be that ten years have passed.

What do you like about working for yourself? What are some of the challenges? 
I think one of the best things is to feel like you’re waking up every day on your own terms. Even if it’s a shitty day, it's your shitty day that you created. I don’t go to bed on Sunday night with a pit in my stomach anymore. The cons are that it is hard to keep yourself accountable and motivated with nobody looking over your shoulder except your clients. I think that will always be a challenge. It’s an ongoing lesson in balance for me. 

What tools help you to get your job done? 
When it comes to tools, the mentors around me have been a huge tool. I was lucky to have left my company with some continued mentors. Just having people to kick all the ideas to has been a huge help. I use Toggle to track my time and I use Quickbooks to track my finances. 

What advice can you share with your readers? 
If it’s something you really want to do and something you just can’t seem to get out of your head, chances are you’re meant to try it. People have this misconception that if you try it and fail, life is going to be over. If you try it and fail, you just have to get another job. It’s not a life and death situation. I know that financially, everyone is in a different place. I’ll be honest and say that I did not have a comfortable amount of money in my savings account. I’ve really taken a big chance here. I think that you don’t need to start with all of this money all of the time. It depends on your overhead. I would pull a Nike and say just do it. 

Since your company is geared toward women, I also think it’s important that women know we need to lift each other up. I’ve been really lucky to have women around me. I have met some really empowering women around me. I’ve been given some really great advice. To know that the community is out there, it helps me to sleep at night.


Shopping Diaries: Exactly How Much I Spent On Clothing In Two Months

I recently engaged in a bit of an experiment when it comes to my spending. I tallied up everything I spent in one category, clothing, over the past two months, and how many items I spent that money on.

Inspired by bloggers like Sophie With a Blog and The Luxe Strategist, I wanted to become more mindful about what I added to my wardrobe. The first step in that, of course, was figuring out what it was that I was already doing (I knew it felt excessive).

The Numbers

In the past two months, I added 21 items to my wardrobe for $287.37. Those numbers were both better and worse than I expected. The total retail price of these items is around $976.03. In other words, I paid just 30 percent of retail value for these clothes.

I take home $1,459.93 twice per month. During the two-month period of this experiment, my income totaled a bit higher than that, because I received a bonus from work. In total, during the two month period, I made $7,273.27. As a proportion of my take-home pay for the two months, I spent 3.9% of my income on clothing. That said, the bonus was a bit of a surprise to me, and I socked it away in my savings account almost immediately. Had the total spend been a proportion of my expected income, it would have been 4.9% of expected take-home pay.

In two months, I added two pairs of jeans, two blouses, two pairs of tights, two sweaters, one skirt, one swimsuit, six “basic” tops, one pair of shoes, one dress, one purse, one pair of earrings and one scarf to my wardrobe.




We're sharing the spending secrets of one woman each week — completely anonymously. This section draws inspiration from Refinery29's Money Diaries and New York magazine's Spending Diaries (gotta give credit where it's due, right?) Click here to take our anonymous survey on spending habits. 

How a 24-year-old Washington, D.C.-based policy adviser spends:

  • SALARY: I make $51,000 per year as a climate change policy adviser in Washington, D.C. The first time I asked for a raise it went OK, but it was way lower than I asked for. The second time around it went much better.

  • SAVINGS: I have $4,000 in my savings account. 

  • MONTHLY EXPENSES: I pay $1,200 per month for rent. I contribute to a 401(k) every month, but my company pays for health insurance aside from the copays. I pay $35 per month for ClassPass, $15 per month for WiFi and $30 per month for utilities. 

  • DEBT: I am not in debt. 

  • INVESTING: I contribute to my 401(k). 

  • SPENDING VICTORY: The best thing I ever spent money on was a parka. 

  • SPENDING REGRET: I regret buying clothes that I don't need too often. 

  • CHARITY: The last charity I donated to was Planned Parenthood.

  • IF I WON THE LOTTERY:  I'd pay for a vacation!

  • GOALS: I want to increase my 401(k) contribution, invest money outside of my 401(k) and save enough money to have a cohesively-decorated apartment with my significant other.


Updates, blog posts and other important things:

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