Hillary Clinton’s focus on money born out of uncertainty after Bill lost 1980 election

Hillary and Bill Clinton seen in a 1980s photo. (Instagram)

Political pundits as well as some of those in Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s inner circle have often wondered why she agreed to give paid speeches at events organized by Wall Street banks. Aside from appearing to contradict a life dedicated to public service, doing so served up a ready-made controversy to whomever her political opponent would be (sure enough Donald Trump has exploited that fact, calling her “totally owned by Wall Street”).

In a feat of psychoanalytical journalism, New York Times reporter Amy Chozick delved deeply into Hillary and Bill Clinton’s personal finances going back to the late 1970s when they became public figures and spoke with friends who knew the couple during those formative years and who are familiar with Hillary’s upbringing to paint a portrait of Hillary’s bullish outlook on earning money.

Two highlights of the picture that emerged are that Hillary’s parents had a deep influence on her. One old friend said, “Her mother came from nothing and her father was self-made, so there’s always been an awareness of working hard to earn a living.” She started working small jobs at age 13 and her father preached fiscal responsibility to her — and taught her how to understand the stocks pages in the newspaper.

Perhaps even more influential, though, was Bill’s 1980 election loss in the Arkansas gubernatorial race. The Clintons had spent the previous two years in the governor’s mansion, but his defeat was psychologically crushing. He was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even face his supporters, so he sent Hillary to thank them personally. As Bill licked his wounds, Hillary recognized the loss was more than merely political. It also meant the loss of income and residence — and they had a 9-month-old baby Chelsea to care for. “It was up to her to just keep holding things up,” Nancy Pietrafesa, a college friend, told the Times. Bill was re-elected in 1982, but those two years out of office were trying and marked by uncertainty. They also factored heavily in Hillary’s outlook on earning money. “Hillary had a couple years of the taste of what it means to be a working mother, without any help, to have to take care of a small baby and care for your job,” James B. Blair, a close family friend said, adding that Bill’s political ambitions took priority over family finances. “He was never interested in money, ever,” Blair said. “She is the one who had to be sure Chelsea was going to be able to afford college.”

A mix of practicality and investment savvy would carry Hillary and Bill into the White House years and beyond, as Chozick discovered. Early on, Clinton, with a little advice from Blair, made a wise investment of $1,000 that turned into a whopping $100,000 in just 10 months — money that was critical given that Bill was one of the country’s lowest-paid governors.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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