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A Wealth of Advice

Alums’ Personal Finance Newsletter Reaches Out to Young Women

By Sala Levin ’10

A Wealth of Advice

Illustration by Jason Keisling

Illustration by Jason Keisling

A few months into her career as a business reporter, Alicia McElhaney ’15 realized her professional and personal lives didn’t match. Even as she covered big-dollar Wall Street happenings, her meager salary as a young reporter wasn’t exactly supporting a life of luxury.

McElhaney had noticed something else, too: Most mainstream financial advice—whether from newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, books or other sources—was geared toward “a white man in his thirties,” says McElhaney. (According to Nieman Lab, the Financial Times itself recently found that 80% of its subscribers were men.) “Women need a resource that isn’t talking down to them.”

So last year she started one. She Spends is a weekly e-newsletter, website and online community for young women navigating the complex world of personal finance. Readers can find suggestions based on McElhaney’s own research and consulting with financial experts on a variety of issues: negotiating for a higher salary, managing student loan debt and saving on everyday expenses. Q&As showcase how women reach career milestones. News roundups cover the financial highlights of the week.

“I wanted to create a space to talk about personal finance but also systemic issues” that contribute to the wage gap and overrepresentation of men in executive roles and board seats, says McElhaney, who studied journalism at Maryland and is now a reporter for Institutional Investor magazine.

She Spends distinguishes itself from other women-focused financial newsletters by focusing on parity in the workplace and intersectional feminism, McElhaney says. “We try our best to discuss privilege through a financial lens and do what we can to even the playing field for everyone, not just white women.”

She juggles her day job with She Spends on nights and weekends—and did it just with the help of designer Jemma Frost until McElhaney’s college friend Amanda Eisenberg ’16, a reporter for Politico New York, stepped in. “I’m a total grammar nerd,” says Eisenberg. “Anytime I see a misplaced comma I have a slight aneurysm.” Eisenberg “begged” McElhaney to let her join the team as a writer and editor. (She’s since moved on to the role of chief operating officer.)

She Spends hopes to be a corrective to financial advice that’s “often focused on shaming women—whether that’s ‘You spent $200 on shoes instead of saving it, you’re dumb,’ or ‘Why are you spending money on lattes, girl?’” says Eisenberg.

McElhaney hopes that another lesson that reaches She Spends’ 1,400 newsletter subscribers is about tenacity. “Here I am a year later still working really hard to grow this little baby, and I think it’s really worth doing something that’s been kicking around in your brain,” she says.





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