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The Price of Freedom

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I've been following the buzz around The Third Metric, and all I can say is why (as women) did we wait so long to start redefining what seems so obvious? When I was in my 20s and 30s, success meant money and power because that's how men defined it, and I modeled my success after theirs, as did most women. My opinion about money and power has changed over time, and as a working woman over 50, I can tell you that power doesn't have the same connotation as it did in my earlier years, though one thing remains constant: money. Let me explain.

In my late 40s, after twenty years of a demanding and exciting career in Washington, D.C., I decided to take the plunge and get out of Dodge City. My husband and I wanted a simpler life, where we could spend more time in nature and not have to work 60 hours a week. Well, we have that, and guess what? I miss my big fat salary from D.C. You know why? Because money provides you the power to be free -- free to buy that airline ticket to visit your best friend who's been living in Senegal for five years; free to fly clear across the country to your nephew's wedding and give him a wonderful gift; free to have the funds to send your granddaughter to Shakespeare camp in the summer; free to help a friend whose home is about to go into foreclosure because she just lost her job; free to hire someone to clean your house every week so you don't have to spend the weekend cleaning; free not to worry about the cost of everything you do.

So, one can opt out of the fast life and redefine success, but the trade-off is often lower wages, because big salaries and big benefits go with big cities and, until I left DC, I didn't actually know that on a gut level. Nor did I know how poorly a well-educated person could be paid. I see women every day, working passionately in a job they love, earning low wages. Women work hard, often without benefits, and it's not always because corporations don't have the resources to pay them. Sometimes, those businesses don't give benefits simply because they don't have to. You see, where I live, and where many Americans live, some folks think if you're earning $40,000, that's a good wage. Oh sure, I live in the mountains and have a great view and wouldn't go back to the big city, but even in small towns, women are overworked, overwhelmed and basically depleted. For many working women over 50, retirement is nowhere in sight.

My women friends and colleagues aren't complaining about wanting more success or power in conventional terms. We're not even complaining about working, being a parent or cleaning the house; we just want more money when we work so we have more choices when we are not working. We'd love to go to Bali with our girlfriends for a retreat and we'd love to have more time for our aging parents, not to mention the resources needed to keep them comfortable during their elder years. So for men and lots of women I know, money is still high on the ladder of success. Only it doesn't represent power in an egocentric or dominant manner -- it represents freedom, pure and simple.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.