Photograph - Safeguard Business Systems (SGB), New York Stock Exchange, March 5.1980
I was born in Boston to James Freaney, a first generation Irish immigrant, and Dorothy Biddle, a Canadian immigrant; Dorothy’s mother and father immigrated from England to Canada before her birth.
I attended public schools in Weymouth, Massachusetts, qualifying for the advanced math program in high school. I didn’t particularly like math, but I loved my classmates and their intellectual curiosity about so many subjects.
I learned business from my father, a small businessman working in garbage and sewers. My father and I did the payroll together every Wednesday night at the kitchen table after dinner. I learned to value employees and their importance to the success of the business, that income had to be more than expenses or my father couldn’t pay the mortgage on our home. I understood the importance of balance so the system worked for everyone.
I left Boston to get a BS in Accounting from Syracuse University. I moved to New York City after graduation to work for a “Big 8” accounting firm, one of four that hired women at the time.
I learned the importance of neighborhoods when I was 22 years old and visited Heather Holland, my penpal from age 10, and her family in the West Country in England. I met Uncle Jack, a boarder who came from London to live with Heather’s family during the World War II. Uncle Jack proudly showed me his flat in Council Housing, an affordable housing model superior to anything in the US today. Heather’s mom lived across the street in the house where Heather grew up.
Heather and Dave moved to Bristol to work for the post office shortly after they were married. They still live in the same house 50 years later. Their son, Paul and daughter, Melanie both worked for the post office. Paul and Melanie and their families live close. Heather and Dave are frequent caregivers for their grandchildren.
I learned the importance of the pub at the corner, to meet neighbors for a coffee in the morning or a pint in the evening.
I have been seated at the table – rather, more accurately, been seated behind the white men seated at the table and told to hold my tongue – at the launch of some of the most radical new business models of the last century.
I have had a front row seat for every new finance and/or economic theory that came down the pike.
This is a dubious honor. I have watched these same new business models crash and burn, take jobs, destroy families, make ghost towns of cities, compromise our health and well being, and rob us of our happiness. With the economic meltdown of 2008, I watched as my retirement fund plummeted 42% percent from the top of the market in 2007 to the bottom in 2009.
I arrived in Portland on December 1, 2008, on a mission to find out why Portland was a favorite of Richard Florida in his book, The Rise of The Creative Class. A week later, the snow began to fall. The whole city shut down for three weeks. This response to snow was a far cry from the northeast cities where I had lived – Boston, New York, Philadelphia. There was a lot to learn in Portland, Oregon.
As I watched the snow fall outside my window, I thought about what was happening to the financial system, to all the money I had that was supposed to be there until I died.
I slowly began to realize that I had to leave the Wall Street system and start investing My Own Money. I had to trust myself; the experts had failed me. In 2008, I still believed that financial markets would recover. I reduced my expenses by 60% and took contract work at 10% of my previous fee level. I am grateful that I have always been a saver and lived below my means so I was able to support myself without taking money from my retirement fund.
In 2013, my retirement investments recovered to the balance I had before the meltdown and I began selling my Vanguard mutual funds. I hyperventilated for a week when I sold the last mutual fund. I began investing My Own Money in my community, and founded Rooted Investing.