Issue #93/ March 22, 2019

✨ Catch up on what ya missed this week ✨

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  • HARASSMENT ACCUSATIONS: Hedge fund magnate and the co-founder of Birthright Israel, Michael Steinhardt, allegedly engaged in sexual harassment, the New York Times reports. 

  • CAT MARNELL? TAXES?: New York party queen, author of "How To Murder Your Life" and former xoJane columnist Cat Marnell pays taxes now, The Cut reports. A gem from the interview: "Everyone’s always like, 'Oh, she has daddy’s money.' First of all, that’s very sexist. It was always my grandmother’s money."

  • GLOSSIER SURPASSES $1B: Beauty startup Glossier has surpassed a $1 billion valuation, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

  • UNDERSERVED: Ro, the startup that brought you those risque subway ads, has launched a platform called Rory for women with menopause, Fortune reports. 

  • BAD BLOOD: Have you watched the Theranos documentary on HBO yet? If you can't get enough (and if you've already read the book and the news stories, and listened to the podcast), Tavi Gevinson has a spot-on imitation of Elizabeth Holmes.

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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.


Ask A Financial Planner: How Do I Budget Once I Pay Off My Loans?

We recently partnered with the owner of Brooklyn Plans, Kristen Euretig, to bring you a new monthly feature called "Ask A Financial Planner." While we aim to provide helpful advice through our She Saves section, finances can get really complicated. Send us an email with your personal finance questions, and Kristen could answer them in an upcoming newsletter. 

Dear Kristen,
So many of the budget strategies I see online are complex and geared towards paying off lots of debt. What is the best technique for using a budget if you’re not trying to pay off any debt and already have a separate retirement fund?

Loanless & Lost

Hi Loanless! 
At Brooklyn Plans, my financial planning firm, we conceive of budgeting a little bit differently than other folks. We look at our clients’ take-home pay, subtract their fixed or committed costs and then come up with a monthly, weekly and even daily “safe to spend” number. We advocate our clients view this number as an allowance.

While it takes some upfront calculations, it eliminates the need for expense tracking going forward because ultimately as a financial planner I don’t care how much my client spends on eating out versus on entertainment and neither should they. If their savings goals are met and they are living within their means, that’s all that matters to me.

That’s probably why a lot of budgeting tools seem overly complicated - I agree that they are! The big-picture purpose of a budget is to spend within your means and have room to save. Some people have a better intuitive sense of the give and take that requires. If you know you can’t go out to a friend’s birthday dinner and pick up your part of the tab, buy a new iPad and go away for the weekend the same week, then you are, in a sense, already budgeting.

Whatever method you choose to manage your spending - whether it’s our allowance system, an excel spreadsheet or an app, don’t lose sight of the reason we manage our expenses in the first place: to live within our means, avoid relying on debt and save for future goals. If you can make that happen without a complicated budgeting tool, then it’s safe to say you’re effectively managing your money without it.

Happy Budgeting!



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 35-year-old Chicago-based vice president of marketing spends:

  • SALARY: I make $175,000 per year as a vice president of marketing. I also have an equity bonus. I have asked for a raise before. I asked for a $30,000 raise when I was promoted to my current role, and I managed to get $25,000. 

  • SAVINGS: I have $9,800 in my savings account.

  • MONTHLY EXPENSES: I pay $1750 per month for rent. That's my portion of our apartment payment: my fiance and I pay $2500 per month and he picks up the difference. I pay for my own health insurance and contribute to a 401(k). My fiance and I split payments for Netflix, HBO Now, cable, internet, gas and electric. I also pay for Hulu, Evernote, Over, Adobe and Shine each month.

  • DEBT: Just my car. No student loans or credit cards or home loans. I make $600 monthly payments on the car. 

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

  • SPENDING VICTORY:  The best thing I ever spent money on was a condo with my now ex-husband.

  • SPENDING REGRET: I also regret buying that condo with my now ex-husband. We bought it in late 2007, and we divorced in 2011.

  • CHARITY: The last charity I donated to was Cradles to Crayons.

  • IF I WON THE LOTTERY: I'd buy a house. 

  • GOALS: Currently we're saving for a house, honeymoon and wedding. Which is a lot all at once. 


Updates, blog posts and other important things:

  • FACEBOOKIN': We talked about budgeting methods in the Facebook group this week. Join us!

  • CONTRIBUTE: Support us through Patreon! Your patronage can help us continue to create tools that empower women to hammer away at the glass ceiling. 

  • PATREON SPOTLIGHT: Shoutout to Patreon supporters Alexis Andreas, Jacob Bell, Lauren Bonner, Mimi Chiahemen, Emma Court, Rachel Creager, Maria Eisenberg, Gaby Garcia, Sara Guenoun, Christine Hinojosa, Ellen Kern, Tim Livingston, Duncan Magidson, Carolyn McElhaney, Hanya Moharram, Emily Munson, Gracie Raver, Julia Reinstein, Bill C. Smith, Carmilla Tan, Anita Whitmore,  Ally-Jane GrossanIdaliaKristina KingLaura Porter and Sara Rosso. Couldn't do it without you!  


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