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Money can't buy women happiness but it can give them choice, freedom, health and security

By Mary Kenny

There's a bit of a trend at the moment of older people giving advice to their younger selves - or, older women giving advice to younger women. Although there's also some research which claims that advice is often irrelevant and outdated and seldom heeded anyway.

But the advice I'd proffer either to my younger self, or to any school-leaver today, would, I believe, stand the test of all time.

I'll repeat here a narrative I've had cause to mention before, but deserves revisiting: asking a group of my female peers what, during their lifetime, had made the greatest difference to women's lives, different individuals came up with different answers - the washing machine, the Pill, the motorcar, education, the availability of jeans, cheap air fares. But my late friend, the novelist Clare Boylan, came up with the most apt answer of all: money.

Money made the greatest difference to women's lives. From seeing their mothers scrimp and save from sometimes meagre 'housekeeping' funds bestowed at the discretion of a husband to the opportunity to earn, direct and maintain financial independence was the greatest freedom.

You want liberation? Lady, you've got it with money. You want equality? With spondulicks, you can be equal to anyone in the world. You want confidence, and self-assurance? Nothing imparts a glow of self-esteem like lucre in the bank.

You want good health? Notice that the rich live longer. The rich get better health treatment. They have better teeth and dental care - regard the perfect set of gnashers that Hillary Clinton displays - and when, in later life, they start to need hearing aids, they don't have to plump for the budget version.

You want to be a good person? Money can buy virtue. Bill and Melinda Gates have practically wiped out malaria from the planet by judicious application of money.

You can be ever such a high-minded liberal when you have the cushion of money. When you have money, strangers call you 'Madam', not 'love' or 'sweetheart'.

A woman of means will never be patronised, put down, disrespected, or told she doesn't know what she's talking about when she expresses an opinion. Wisdom and judgment will be attributed to her every articulation.

In the RTE documentary No Country for Women, which went out during the past week, former Irish president Mary Robinson advised young women: "Don't be afraid to interrupt. Don't be afraid to assert yourself. Don't feel that these adjectives about being strong and assertive are making you somehow shrill and boyish and wrong."

But a woman in possession of money will never be afraid to assert herself, to interrupt, to command the conversation if need be, and it will never cross her mind that she's being shrill (anyway, she will probably have an expensive voice coach who shows how to project authority by using lower tones on the vocal register).

So, young lady: in your path of life, ask, 'Where is the money?' Choose a career with financial rewards, and yes, a good pension - or several, if possible. Go into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) not some dopey arts world where you can 'follow your dream'. Unless you're exceptionally fortunate, you'll seldom find your fortune in literature or the arts (many writers want to be members of the Republic's Aosdana not just to contribute to an elevating discourse on literary matters, but because they desperately need the €17,000 annual emolument).

Go into business and entrepreneurship. Take every opportunity you can get to acquire property and land. Money makes money, so invest.

Go into politics. The political class looks after its own and they are seldom short of a shekel, even when they step down. An ex-politician can usually be found a cosy sinecure and, probably, another pension somewhere.

But don't depend on winning a lottery to get rich. Firstly, you have as much chance of being hit by lightning as winning Euromillions. Secondly, hoping for a lottery win is passive, not active, based on nothing more rational than a 'lucky' number.

And don't marry for money, but don't go courtin' where it ain't'.

St Paul famously said, "The love of money is the root of all evil", and I'm not advocating loving money for itself, much less illegal or immoral means to wealth. The miser is a despised and pitiful character in all European literature. What I'm advocating is the sensible and constructive acquisition and use of money for the enhancement of life and the pursuit of liberty.

Happiness is a more elusive question: money probably doesn't buy happiness, but it does buy empowerment, choice, freedom, health and security. So go for it.

It is true that money brings its own responsibilities, as Felix Dennis, the self-made billionaire, pointed out in his book about acquiring wealth, How to Get Rich. You have to focus on wealth to acquire it and then you have to focus on keeping it - and defending it.

But of all the regrets of my life - and I have plenty - one of the greatest is my stupid, Bohemian, artsy-fartsy and strangely snobbish youthful attitude to money. In my advice to my younger self, I am now with Iago: "Put money in thy purse!"

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