Ten Money Questions for Jennifer Chrisler
Jennifer Chrisler is the executive director of Family Pride, a national non-profit organization focused on promoting equality and justice for all loving families, especially those that make up the LGBT community. We asked Jennifer to share her views on money, relationships, equality and happiness.
1. Who taught you the value of a hard earned dollar?
My grandma used to say “watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves”. During my time at Family Pride, I’ve learned this lesson again and again. We operate the organization on a tight budget — so every dollar has to have impact. It only cost us $3,000 to have LGBTQ parents and their children participate in last year’s White House Egg Roll — but it generated over $1M in press coverage. By doing this we can leverage the dollars we have to make the biggest impact for LGBT parents.
2. You were recently quoted in the NY Daily News on the topic of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy and noted that Heather Poe will not have a legal relationship with her child. It’s ironic that Ms. Poe will spend the next 18 years financially providing for their child yet will never be recognized as the legal parent. What is Family Pride doing to help change this?
Family Pride is at the forefront of this battle, working to ensure that all loving parents have both an emotional and legal relationship with their children. By educating the public, working with parents to train them as advocates, ensuring that schools provide safe and just environments for our children, by empowering local parents groups and defeating legislation that would restrict the rights of LGBTQ parents, we are helping achieve equality for all loving parents, including Heather Poe.
3. Is there a price attached to activism?
Yes – a price… and an enormous reward. You make plenty of sacrifices — everything from time away from your family, financial sacrifices and opening your life and your family’s life up to ugly criticism. However the rewards are numerous — making a better world for your children, working with thousands of humble, unsung heroes everyday, knowing your time on earth was meaningful and achieving equality for the millions of children who have an LGBTQ parent.
4. What is your most significant memory about money?
I have two — the first is that my mother was the “finance director” of our family. She worked almost full-time outside the home most of my childhood and she made the money decisions. It taught me that women are just as capable and competent in managing finances.
The second is the financial support I received from my alma mater in grants and scholarships. I had applied to the State University system in NY as well as to Smith College. I got into both — but Smith ended up being the better deal financially because of the generous grant aid they gave me. It was in that moment that I learned the power of well-endowed non-profit institutions to do amazing good in the world.
5. I understand that at one time you served as Finance Director for a special election in Massachusetts so you must know a thing or two about money. That said do you have any bad habits when it comes to your personal finances?
Of course, don’t we all? On the whole though, I’m pretty disciplined with my spending habits, but my children are a weak point. Like most parents, I have a hard time saying no to them when it comes to something that they really love, like new construction paper or Berenstain Bear books.
6. If you could buy one thing right now what would it be?
Hands down, a winning lottery ticket worth hundreds of millions. I would put aside enough money for my children to go to college and my mother to retire comfortably and then I’d sink the rest into Family Pride, enabling the organization to do even more amazing things!
7. My partner and I are spending a lot of money trying to get pregnant. As a mother of twin boys, what advice would you give to queer couples trying to manage the costs associated with the baby-making process?
Be prepared. Do your research before you start, and try to maneuver your health care coverage to your best advantage. For example, when I got pregnant I was living in Massachusetts and my health care coverage included infertility treatments. I made sure I knew how many attempts we needed to have to qualify for infertility treatments, what was covered and what wasn’t. Also, try to think of it as the best financial investment in your future and in your happiness that you will ever make. Your child will bring you far more happiness than the most beautiful house, the fanciest car or the dreamiest vacation.
8. Do you and your spouse see eye-to-eye on money?
Well, she’s 5′ 10″ and I’m 5′ 1″ — so it isn’t quite eye-to-eye. But, by and large we have similar philosophies. We think securing our retirement and our children’s education is extremely important. We believe in giving back to our community and to the causes we care about. We think a little indulgence now and then is a good thing, especially if we enjoy them as a family.
9. What is the most important lesson you hope to teach your kids about money?
That money gives you options and stability and that the best thing you can do with your money is to use it to help others. Mostly, we want them to see money as a way to make the world a better place, not a way to build their own empire.
The lessons have started already because our 4 year old, Tim, is very motivated to find and collect coins. We are trying to respect his budding interest in having a lot of coins in his coin jar (which he insists will do four things — buy a huge jet engine toy, pay mom & mommy’s bills, save the trees in the rainforest and pay for houses for homeless people), we also want to teach him that there are more important things than how much money is in his coin jar.
10. Does money buy happiness?
No and yes. Clearly true happiness comes from within, from your family and friends and from living a fulfilling life. However, financial security — resources to support your children’s education, resources to live in a safe community, resources to have good health care and resources to support your family’s needs — all help you have a happier life. Ultimately, every family needs resources to help them protect and support their children — and every loving parent wants to do that for their children.
More about Jennifer Chrisler
A seasoned advocate for LGBT rights, Jennifer Chrisler has extensive experience in all aspects of nonprofit management and is currently the executive director of Family Pride. She was a fundraising consultant for political campaigns and LGBT organizations and served as Finance Director for special election in the Massachusetts 9th Congressional District. She was honored for her work in the LGBT community in 2002 by the Massachusetts Freedom to Marry Coalition and in 2001 by the Human Rights Campaign.
Family Pride partnered with Queercents last week to bring readers a full week of Queercents “guest bloggers” with posts found at the Family Pride blog.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.