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The Joy of A Secret-Free Life with Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Haley Paskalides  |  August 30, 2023

Letty Cottin Pogrebin has spent her career helping women share their secrets – only to discover that her family was keeping their own.

The women’s magazines we grew up on, like Elle and Cosmopolitan, are now taking deep dives into topics like politics, health and the gender wage gap… But how did they go from tips on how to have better sex to delivering such thought-provoking content? Ms. Magazine is to thank — and Letty Cottin Pogrebin is one of the magazine’s founding editors. She discusses the magazine’s journey — and her own — with HerMoney CEO Jean Chatzky. Not only did Ms. Magazine spark 26,000 subscription orders and over 20,000 reader letters within weeks of its first issue, it also lit the flame for judicial and policy changes, and forever altered how women think about money. 

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Letty Cottin Pogrebin helped shape what feminism could look like in a liberated America, and her decades as a leading feminist activist saw her inducted into the Manhattan Jewish Hall of Fame in 2018. In addition to her work at Ms. Magazine, Pogrebin is also the author of twelve books, including her newest title, her life story: “Shanda: A Memoir of Shame and Secrecy.” (Shanda is a Yiddish word that means disgrace, embarrassment, and humiliation.) Letty discusses her life growing up as the child of Jewish immigrants, and says “there was a Shanda around money problems, around poverty, around bad marriages – because everyone thought all American marriages were happy.”

LISTEN: Let Go of Financial Stress, Shame, and Guilt

After discovering several “shandas” in her family, Pogrebin began to reflect on what shame and secrets can do to a person. She categorizes shame into two buckets — good and bad. She says “bad shame is corrosive because it makes you feel you’ll never be a good person no matter what you do because of something you did or something you lived through,” yet good shame is something we all need to listen to —  it’s our conscience. (For example, good shame is what makes us pick up litter when nobody is watching.) In this powerful conversation, Letty Cottin Pogrebin dives into her best life philosophies around the secrets we keep, why we keep them, and how we can move forward. 

In Mailbag, a listener asks what financial responsibility (if any) they have to their estranged parents. We also hear from a woman who asks a complicated question — is she entitled to survivor benefits from her deceased ex-husband’s pension? In our money tip of the week, we explore the best items to buy in bulk to save money at the grocery store. 


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All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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