by Savvy Ladies member Dawn Drzal
Even before I stepped through the sliding glass doors of Lisa Zeiderman’s beautiful Westchester home onto her sunny deck, I could hear animated voices. A group of Savvy Ladies were clustered around the sparkling infinity pool to celebrate the organization’s first in-person 2021 Annual Gala Kick-off fundraiser (joined by some members who had Zoomed in for the occasion). I paused before going to meet them, struck by a stylized sculpture of three women dancing at the far end of the pool. They looked free enough to levitate into the blue sky beyond, and it seemed an appropriate image to celebrate an organization founded to liberate women from their financial fears.
When more Savvy Ladies (and gentlemen!) had arrived, enjoyed the outdoor sculpture park, and sampled the sumptuous spread laid out under the tall trees, Founder Stacy Francis shared a few poignant words about the origins of the organization. She told us that her beloved grandmother had stayed in an abusive relationship for almost 70 years because she didn’t understand money. Stacy founded Savvy Ladies at the age of 26, in 2003, determined that what happened to her grandmother wouldn’t happen to other women. Since then, Savvy Ladies has helped more than 20,000 women take control of their personal finances.
A Savvy Ladies Success Story
I was one of those women. My interest in Savvy Ladies grew out of my own painful and protracted divorce. I suddenly had the responsibility for my teenage son and—abruptly—next to no money. At the same time, I discovered that I had absolutely no idea about money except how to spend it. I certainly didn’t know how to budget. I poured generic milk into the Horizon Organic carton in a pathetic attempt to pretend to my anxious son that nothing had changed, but it was pretty obvious when we moved from our large apartment to a smaller one, then to a still smaller one. I still remember the moment he asked, “What’s next, Mom? A refrigerator box on the street?” I must confess that in the dark hours around 3 a.m., that scenario appeared pretty likely to me.
But my amazing divorce attorney (who also happens to be Executive Board member Lisa Zeiderman!) gave me a crash course in financial literacy. I slashed my expenses, wrote a book, took the modest settlement I received and invested it wisely. I get a thrill every quarter when I receive the statement and see the balance slowly inching up. I am earning money, although as a writer, the amounts are not large. I have learned to keep an eagle eye on my expenses, and I am unapologetic about what I can and can’t afford.
Recently, my son graduated from college (debt-free!) and started his first job in another city. I finally breathed a sigh of relief that I managed to help him, help us, navigate the treacherous shoals on which we almost foundered. It could easily have been otherwise if it had not been for the Savvy Lady who helped us.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
One wonderful thing about Savvy Ladies is that it’s the gift that keeps on giving. My son tutored inner city Chicago high school students on financial literacy. Unlike his more affluent classmates, who were insulated from financial realities, he learned about money from me, because he had to. But as we’ve sometimes discussed, that’s a good thing! He knows how to talk about money, so he will be able to discuss it with his partner. People talk about generational wealth, but this is generational savvy, and it’s something to be proud of.
Forget about that old adage about teaching a man to fish! If you teach a woman finance, you will feed her for a lifetime.
The 2021 Annual Savvy Ladies Gala
Executive Director Judy Herbst then said a few words about the upcoming Virtual Gala on November 18th, which will help build awareness and raise funds to support the Savvy Ladies free financial helpline and educational programs. She explained that the technology that matches women with financial professionals is expanding rapidly, and as all Savvy Ladies know, that requires funding!
She detailed many ways to contribute. You can attend virtually, or you can find out how to attend or host an in-person “watch party” at a private home with five or ten other members. To learn more, including opportunities for Gala sponsorships and advertising, reach out to [email protected].
Join us at the Savvy Ladies 2021 Annual Gala and share the joy of passing on the savvy that keeps on giving!
Dawn Drzal is the author of The Bread and the Knife: A Life in 26 Bites. A former book editor, she has published articles and essays in the New York Times, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Food & Wine, O, and the Antioch Review. She has been a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review since 2006. When she is not ghostwriting or blogging, she is hard at work revising her first novel. Visit her website.