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Susan Flynn-Hollander

Episode 42: How to Embrace Change and Opportunity, with Susan Flynn-Hollander

Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Lynn S. Evans and I am the host of Power Of The Purse Podcast. There was a time in my life, not long ago, when I believed three things about money. One, women are not supposed to talk about or be included in any conversations about money, two, women don’t have the natural ability to understand anything about money, and three, men know best how to manage money.

Those truths I made up about money guided me for years, until I realized money was not a foreign language or some other obscure academic exercise, and it was something I could not only understand but teach to other women.

Too many times I’ve heard stories from women who ought to know better but didn’t until they were forced to because of divorce, widowhood, job loss, or the approach of retirement. This podcast will add another chapter to a rich history of successful women who, when faced with some personal challenges, found the ability to step beyond them.

We’ll examine some of the truths they made up about money from their life experiences and how that’s shaped the paths they chose. My mission is to help women have a healthy, positive relationship with money. With that in mind, my guest today is attorney Susan Flynn-Hollander. Susan is the vice-president of legal department at the True North Practice Management Associates, LLC, and she’s also a private consultant.

Just a little bit about who she is. In 2016, she was named one of the best women in business from the New Jersey Biz Magazine. In 2014, she was the Salute to the Policymakers Award from Executive Women of New Jersey. 2014, she was Nonprofit General Counsel of the Year, and then she’s been a presenter, lecturer, and panelist.

Most importantly, she did some time, shall we say, with the New York Law School on the Spotlight on Women. I want her to talk to us about that story because it’s really good. She’s been a member of community boards, executive member of New Jersey Health Foundation, and Foundation Venture Capital. Welcome, attorney Susan Flynn-Hollander.

Lynn, thank you. First of all, I certainly want to say I am glad you disabused yourself of those three truths that you knew then about money and women.

Took a while. Took a while, but I did it.

How long was a while?

I mean, we’re talking about maybe 20 years.

Well, good. It’s good to hold on to those beliefs that you have.

That do not serve me.

That do not serve you. It’s also good to let them go whenever that can happen, so congratulations on that.

Thank you, thank you. I appreciate it.

Your letting go of them, I’m sure, has benefited many women.

It sure has. Sure has. Let’s talk about… I want to go back to that story you were just telling me about when it was that you became… You had the Spotlight on Women who were from the New Jersey… I’m sorry, New York Law School. You had a great story about how you felt completely… There’s a term for this, the imposter syndrome, that all of us who think that we have really little to offer the world, even though our resumes speak otherwise.

Many of us suffer from Imposter Syndrome & feel we have nothing to offer, even though our resumes speak… Click To Tweet

It’s difficult every once in a while to just actually own that. The imposter syndrome makes us always feel like we’re doubting ourselves and that “Maybe I’m really not this person that they think I am, and they’ll figure me out sooner or later.” You had a great opportunity. Tell us about that story when you were named on that particular spotlight.

You are so right, Lynn, and it’s easy to say we should not doubt ourselves, but we look around us and we feel there’s so many others who have accomplished more or who would be a better choice and who frankly won’t put us in that spotlight. Nevertheless, I accepted the honor of being at Women in Spotlight for New York Law School, my alma mater.

I arrived there in New York all ready to see my friend from law school, Roberta Peterson, who was very close with me. We were in the same study group. We went through having babies together during law school. We hit a lot of those early challenges. Both of us were members of a very small mid-year class that was admitted I think probably on an experimental basis. They no longer admit that class.

We had a lot in common, and frankly, we found each other, we liked each other, our lives have taken us in different directions, and for that reason, when I did receive that recognition, the school had reached out to Roberta to ask her to be there for me and let me know that. I was so thrilled that she had accepted to be there, to stand up with me there, because I wanted to talk about her during that time when I would be giving a few comments to people there.

The school offered this spotlight to a small number of women each year when they did it, and so were probably four or five of us that year. I just felt, as you have adroitly pointed out, that these other four women, let’s just say I thought they were far more accomplished than I was. I was still fairly young in my career at the time and while I had been very fortunate in being young or youngest in almost everything I’d done in my life, these are the kind of poignant moments where you really feel the youth or the inexperience rather than the success.

There I was, standing outside, when someone from the school came to tell me that Roberta unfortunately had sent her regrets at the very, very last minute. I was just so deflated. My comments were all about her. It wasn’t that I was going to be upset or mad because she wasn’t there. There was some disappointment, but mostly there was, “Oh my goodness, I can’t do this without Roberta being here.”

This was all about me and Roberta, not just me. I wanted to share the award with her. I wanted to get her up there. I needed that support, as she had been there for me so many times during law school, whether it was moot court or some of the other transitional things that you have to go through in law school. It’s so helpful when you have someone there, and she wasn’t going to be there for me.

I tried to pull myself together, and I could see that they were getting a little concerned, the development staff that was putting this together. The other four were already sitting up on the podium. I was still outside. Somebody finally came and got me and said, “You’re going to be all right, yes?” I’m like, “Oh sure, of course, of course. Yes.”

I started to walk into this very large room where all these tables were set up and people were beginning to eat lunch. Part of me was still looking for Roberta to walk through the door, and the other part of me was just trying to get up to the stage to say hello to my fellow honorees. I saw one or two tables there filled with students I had mentored, young lawyers I had mentored, my three sons who I was just thrilled to see there.

As you know, Lynn, you and I have discussed, they’re all successful attorneys in their own right. Jeremy is a fellow alum of New York Law School, sits on the board with me still to this day. I was so overcome now by a new emotion. I was like, “Now I can let everybody down, not just Roberta. I can let everybody down. They hold me up to this very high standard and I’m going to get up there and make a fool of myself.”

While I was so thrilled that they were there, all those thoughts that you were referring to were going through my head at the same time. “Not only do I not belong here, but now I get to do it in front of people I really care about.” Anyway, I got up on the podium and fortunately or unfortunately I drew the last speaking spot of the five. I think it was because I showed up last on the podium.

Everybody did their thing. We had a judge. We had an elected official. There was somebody else who worked in a prosecutorial role, somebody else. Whatever. The person who went before me was a star, a court reporter, six foot two, at least she looked six foot two to me, long blond hair, gorgeous person, obviously smart. When she wasn’t appearing on court reporter she was the general counsel for a designer, Calvin Klein.

I could see next to her were piles of Calvin Klein jeans. As it turned out, she was going to speak about those jeans and how part of the work she did was protecting the copyright or the intellectual property of the design on the pocket. If you recall the high days of designer jeans, the pocket stitching was very critical to denominating that particular brand. There she was, and was going to give out Calvin Klein jeans right in front of me, right before I had to speak.

Here I am again thinking, “I don’t know why I’m here, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be talking about, and it’s my turn to introduce me.” I glance over and my eldest son is glaring at me, absolutely glaring at me. He could tell that I was a little bit nervous or disconcerted, and it just reminded me of my mother sitting there. I saw her face on him and I just pulled myself together because I did not want to have to deal with him afterwards, with him saying, “What in the world were you thinking up there?”

Yes, yes. That’s good, if that motivated you. Were you successful in your speech?

I’m not going to say I was successful, nor was it the best thing. I had to make it up as I went along because I could only do so much of it for Roberta without pulling her up there as I had intended to do.

I did some of the stories about the kids who were sitting there at the table for me. I talked about the new dean. Yes, I got through it. I did talk about the opportunities I’d had in my career early on, because it still was considerably early on.


Yes, I got through it. At the end, there was a question and answer period where everybody could come and speak to the five of us who had just given our comments. I had the longest line. I don’t say that so that you can start this podcast off by patting me on the back. I thought at the time they felt sorry for me and they all wanted to commiserate with me, like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve had to speak and do that too.”


No, they seemed truly interested, and many of them followed up with me for a very long period of time.


We overcome our worst fears sometimes.

Yeah. I have to say, now, this is full disclosure here, that I know Susan. Susan and I have been friends for years, so I know that you are one of several sisters. You have many siblings in your family. Where were you in the birth order?

There were five girls and I was number two.

Who or what inspired you to go into the study of law?

I think from the time I was very young I knew I would do something in politics, in government, in political science. My mother had been a political science major at Wellesley and had been destined to Yale Law School when she met my dad as he came back from serving in the United States Army Air Force Division. He went to school on the GI Bill. Was that what it was called?


And had the opportunity, was the first in his family to do anything like that. His dad had died when he was very young. His dad had been a Boston trolley car driver.

Oh, cool.

There were three boys. He was the youngest of the three. When his two brothers were injured in the war and received medals, he immediately enlisted. I believe he was barely 17 at the time. They put him in a radar division which, to this day, we all laugh about, because my father couldn’t find his way out the front door because he usually went out the back door. Certainly no one would take his instructions or directions seriously, but he was apparently responsible for large ships and getting them to where they were supposed to be going.


To my mother’s, I think, surprise. My mother was raised as a sort of entitled only child, but education was very important in her family. Her grandmother was one of the first graduates from Boston University’s Sargent School. Certainly an achievement. Her mother graduated from college. Obviously my mother went to Wellesley.

We knew from early on that we were all going to college. That was never a question of if, it was where. Yet my parents were not… I’m not sure what the right word is. We didn’t hear this over and over and over and over again. There was no push on the studies or on the academics. There was just this unspoken expectation of excellence. We all fell sharply in line there, and did our part. I think it was one of the biggest disappointments of her life that I did not get into Wellesley.

Oh, I was just going to ask. Okay.

The part of the story my mother does not tell there is that I didn’t want to go to Wellesley. In the little interview I had, which was literally a tea, a little tea reception…

Oh, how lovely.

… I probably did not do myself any favors at that little gathering.

Were you bad? Were you bad?

Yeah. Yeah, I did not… Yeah. We’ll just leave it at that. Perhaps I was not meant to go to Wellesley. Many years later I thought, “Wow, I might have gotten a lot further faster had I gone to one of the Seven Sister schools or applied to an Ivy.”

Maybe. Did you not wear your white gloves for the interview?

I wanted nothing to do with any of it. Instead, I applied and got into Lehigh, which was the first year they took women. My grandfather, my great-uncle, had both attended Lehigh as athletes. I thought this was going to be great, however, my grandfather, who I doted on, this was my mother’s father, decided that he was not going to be helping anyone pay for college to go to his male-dominated school.

Oh, my.

It was a shock. It was truly a shock.


I did not remain at Lehigh very long. I was picked up and transported to the school of my parents’ choice, which was Immaculata College, where my older sister had already been deposited two years prior. This was because my parents ran a Catholic business for the hierarchy of the Catholic church. The cardinals and the bishops and popes of the world, and…

Then that was more appropriate, Immaculata.

It was highly unfortunate for me, because…

Oh no.

…there is a rebel spirit in me that runs very high and that certain circumstances bring right to the surface. The only good thing there is, so we don’t dwell on it, was because again, it’s how we, through grit and determination, succeed despite all odds. I walked on to the basketball team, the women’s basketball team in Immaculata College, and was there for two years. Those are the two years that they were the national champions in women’s basketball, in an emerging women’s league and the athletic college realm.


That in itself was a great experience, and it allowed me to transfer to Douglas College at Rutgers University to play for the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Probably without that, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity, but it’s that kind of thing where I was a walk-on. Who’s a walk-on for that level of…

My father was the captain of his basketball team at Boston University. We were shooting baskets on our barn with an old hoop on it for many, many years that we went outside and my father lined us all up and taught us how to hit a foul shot and how to play defense. While I did not play in high school, which was surprising, I did play at a very high level.

That Division I ability has come back many times to support me, because I think for anybody who has the courage to walk on and make a team, certainly says something about what you believe can happen if you just try.

I think the other point, too, here is that even though you were a walk-on and all that other business that took you from being out on the fringes and brought you into the mainstream of the game, you also then learned a lot of competitive skills, which really worked well in your career.

Yes. Absolutely. You see that… Men have known this for a very long time. Fraternities and sports have stayed with them their entire lives. If you’re part of either of those groups, somebody’s parent will find you a job. Some frat brother, some college buddy will make sure that you’re working. If you had no other ability to start out in life, if you have that connection, the men have known all along that this was a well-used resource.

You had a law degree, and then how did you get yourself so involved on the medical side of things with the law degree?

I didn’t start out in law. Law was actually a second career.


I started out in retail. The reason I started out in retail was twofold. One, my very first job out of college was working for a firm that did advertising. My first account was one of the large pizza chains. I won’t name which one.

I had to fill in hundreds and thousands of grids and survey results and watch people eating a slice of pizza with the cheese dripping out of their mouth, as the pizza was pulled away, and at one point you had to document where people thought that was disgusting and where they thought, “Ooh, cheesy.” I have to tell you, I was bored out of my mind.

I can see that, yes.

I kept thinking, “I don’t think this is for me.” I just was trying to find anything else to do. One day I was walking on my hands as part of a dare down one of the corporate hallways while my coworkers who were placing bets on this feat were watching, when the two bosses came around the corner, at which point I did a double roundoff and finished and put my hands up in the air and went, “Voila.” I sort of knew that was not going to be a long-term arrangement for me.

That was a great visual, thank you.

It was special, let me tell you. They were paying me for this. Not very much, but it was a paid job. It had benefits, but I had the opportunity to move on to a retail operation and I was an assistant buyer. I worked the floor. I did all kinds of things in both the larger department stores, Bloomingdale’s, predecessor to Macy’s.

Then a small chain of…goes back to, many years later, me with the designer jeans… It was a couple that was opening designer jean stores as quickly as they could. They brought me in and I worked with them to open the stores and to run the stores and to manage some of the stores and to have an opportunity to do some of the buying.

I didn’t know at the time that there was probably another operation going on with some of those jeans making their way to some foreign countries. I’m not quite sure how they got there. Lynn, this is the story of my life. I have been in several jobs where at the end of them I think, “I must be the most naïve person in the world, and I must get hired because of that.” My face must look like a good front for these people.

That was the first of a couple. Meanwhile, Richard, my husband, was going through dental school and was finishing dental school and starting his career. It was very important to him and to me that I get my way to law school, and so the opportunity came when I was accepted at New York Law School in this mid-year class, and I took it and so began my quest to become a lawyer.

I’m still curious to know, though. You became an attorney. You worked for some law firms. That’s where I first met you, when you were working in a firm. You were a partner in a firm in New Jersey. Then you became general counsel for a very large hospital system.

It actually was the other way around. When I graduated from law school, at graduation, then-Governor Cuomo was our featured keynote speaker for the day. He was coming down Lincoln Center. All the proud graduates were lining up to go into the graduation. He had an entourage with him, cameras, people, and he pulled me out of line and he said, “I want to tell all the citizens of New York that we are graduating young men and women who have jobs waiting for them.”

He said to me, “You do have a job, right?” I said, “As a matter of fact I have two offers. Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.” He goes, “A noble pursuit, yes.” He said to me, “Do you have student loans?” I said, “Yes, I do.” He said, “Does that pay more than I think it used to pay?” I go, “Oh no, it doesn’t pay very much at all.” He goes, “Tell me about your other job offer.”

I said, “There’s this hospital system and they’re looking to get into some other kind of business and they’ve offered me the first counsel position in this other endeavor.” I’m sort of struggling for words because at the time I had no idea what the job was. He said to me, “Does that one pay anything?” I said, “Oh my goodness, yes. I think it starts at $60, $65,000.” He goes, “Welcome to healthcare.”

When Richard and I got home that evening, we were having our little party. I said to Richard, “Am I crazy? I have to take this job.” It’s sometimes those kinds of defining moments where it happens. I started work in New York City at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center. The CEO of this very large 800-, 900-bed facility was also charged by the cardinal, who was head of the health and hospitals of the archdiocese, to design an insurance product, which we now know as managed care, as HMOs, as PPOs.

In those days it was very early, and they had an idea that if they could bring together all of the teachers working in Catholic schools, all of the nurses, all of the physicians working in the then I think 13 Catholic hospitals within the city, just a number of employees, the hundreds of thousands of employees in all of the Catholic-owned and operated facilities that they would have some leverage in the insurance world.

Sure enough, that started and at the same time some of the for-profit companies were coming into play, and there I was, sitting there with myself, a young MBA who later went on to become the CEO of the hospital and that’s another story for another day, because he brought me back as his chief operating officer. There was a young woman who was charged with doing the marketing, and there was a young man who, rather than pursue the priesthood, was trying to figure out what he wanted to do. The four of us were these young sort of yuppies that were in this room trying to figure out an insurance product that we didn’t even know what we were doing. We kept going.


Six weeks, somewhere around six weeks into that job, maybe a little bit longer, the CEO fired the sitting general counsel of the hospital system and came to me and said, “He was a lawyer. You’re a lawyer. Get in there and do that job.” I said, “Oh, well,” and I wanted to say, “I am not qualified. I don’t even know what I’m doing on this job and now you want me to do what used to be something very special, to be the general counsel.”

That’s funny.

I moved into that office. My friend, who was the CFO, who was the one who offered me the job and who I commuted with every day, came in and said, “I don’t want to tell you what to do, Flynn, but if I were you I would be thinking that maybe you want to ask for a little bit more money.” I’d been in this job for one day.

It didn’t even occur to you that you should be getting more money?

I thought I’d last two days in the job.

Oh, okay.

I’d be lucky to hang on to the one that I didn’t know what I was doing with.

Okay, I understand that.

I said, “No, you know what? I think you’re right. I should be getting more money for this because I’m so good at this.” I marched down to the CEO’s office and timidly knocked on the door and I went in and I stumbled all over my words. I wanted to say to him, “Are we looking for someone for that other job? Because I keep getting that work.” He goes, “Hell, no. You’re doing both jobs.” I said, “Right.”

He goes, “First of all, that other guy was an idiot, so if he could do his job, you can do his job and your job. Is there anything else?” I was like, “Well, you know, I was thinking that since I’m doing two jobs …” He goes, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll take care of the money.”

That was it? That was it?

I went back to the CFO and I said, “That was easy. I’m getting more money.” He goes, “How much?” I said, “I have no idea.” At any rate, in that regard he was very good about it. We butted heads many, many a time. This was a CEO who was at his prime. Grown men used to cry every Friday in his office.

Oh my gosh.

He was tough, but he too, like my professor who said he was going to make me a lawyer, this guy made me a good general counsel.


The lesson to the younger people out there is don’t be afraid of an opportunity. If the opportunity is offered, take it, fake it till you make it. Figure it out. Opportunity may not knock twice. That happened to me several times in my legal career, where I had an opportunity offered, the safe thing would have been to say no and stay where I was, but every time I took it. I was glad that I did.

Figure it out. Opportunity may not knock twice. Click To Tweet

They didn’t all work out, but I think you just have to have enough faith in yourself and in who is asking you if you would like to take this opportunity to give it a try and give it your all. You got to figure it out. I was in New York City. I was up at 105th Street. Mount Sinai was our neighbor down the street. I can’t tell you how many times I walked down there, found my way to the legal offices and asked for documents that I needed, asked for help with a regulation that I had never seen before. In the first weeks of sitting in that job, I found myself negotiating 13 labor arrangements. We had that many unions in the city.


I took the chance on changing the garbage provider. In New York City, that’s not an easy thing to change.


They rode shotgun. They literally rode shotgun with rifles for the first couple of weeks of changing the pickups. We would have decoy trucks.

Oh my goodness.

You learn a lot very quickly that they don’t teach you in law school, and probably in most other schools.

I think that’s safe to say.

That was my first healthcare foray.


I came back to New Jersey and joined the law firm of Carella Byrne when Governor Brendan Byrne, who was one of the named partners of that firm, was appointed by one of the federal courts to be the special fiscal agent of United Hospitals where two boards were suing each other.

Oh, nice.

He needed somebody who knew hospital operations.

That was you.

I had had another baby in the meantime, was looking to not have that two-and-a-half-hour each way commute if there was another opportunity, and was fortunate enough to work with him. I acted both operationally and legally on that matter. Then we did several other turnarounds of other hospitals in New Jersey at the time.

That’s great.

That’s where the early hospital experience came from. Four years after that, the young man who had the MBA became the CEO at the hospital and called me and said, “Do you want to come back as my chief operating officer?”

And you said…

Here I am again saying, “What do I know about being a chief operating officer? But sure.” I said to him, “Does that pay more, because I’m making pretty good money now.” He gave me a number, and I said, “I think I have to give a couple of weeks’ notice, but if I can get myself out of that, I’ll be there.”

Wait a minute. That meant that that put you back in the two-and-a-half-hour commute again?

It did. It did.

How old were your boys then?

Yes, yes. That goes too.

How old were they?

They were young children, and one of them I had while I was back at Terence Cardinal Cooke. Yeah, it’s…yeah.

Yeah, but you got through that.

You just do it, you know?

I know, and I met you when you were back in New Jersey then after that. Was there something in between?

Oh, lots. Lots in between. Yes, yes.

We’re running out of time here, so…

Oh my goodness. Then let’s move on.

All right.

Those were those other opportunities I was talking about.

We know that your previous employment…did I get that right? By Robert Woods Johnson School…

No, S. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Health System, yes.

You were the general counsel there.

I was the general counsel there. I was the first general counsel there. They were in good business and good standing for 130-plus years at the time and had never had in-house counsel.


They had been my client through a very fortunate set of circumstances when I was with Schenck, Price, Smith, and King. For two years they were my client, and then when the board decided that they were looking for a general counsel, I was fortunate enough to be offered that position. It was a first impression. I had to set up the entire department. I was there by myself because they’d never had an attorney. What do they think an attorney needs besides maybe a desk? Maybe a computer.

As I recall, when I visited you there that’s about all you had.

I did not have much early on. Other people may have been a little more demanding early on, but again, I think this is something that women do.


We can prove ourselves. We can show them.

That’s right.

You think I need to do this alone, fine. I can do it alone. I did until I was at the point of a breakdown almost, physically. The hours were very long. The demands were great. The resources were scarce. Little by little we built it up. I think I almost became a haven for anybody who was willing to help me. I took young students as interns. I took young attorneys who didn’t have jobs. Anybody who would come in and work with me, and I mean with me, because they didn’t give me any more space so we were all crowded into this one little room.

I started being proud of that, because it’s not that I was showing them, it’s that I was doing something really worthwhile. These young people who came through my office there have all gone on, for the most part, to very successful careers in their own right. I’d like to think a little bit of that was sitting in that office, listening to every conversation, listening to every contract negotiation, listening to the politics of healthcare, listening to the person who came to the door crying because they had a loved one who they couldn’t make an end-of-life decision for.

There’s so much that goes through a general counsel’s office in a modern healthcare setting. They were there. They heard it. They heard the negotiations. They heard the resolutions. Oftentimes I would ask them to be part of that. You can’t substitute that. It was an experience, I think, for many of them that was life-changing.

That is quite an interesting piece to put at… Let’s call it the exclamation point at the end of that resume, because really that’s the stuff that you don’t talk about normally when you have a job description, but it’s so much more what you did beyond what your job required you to do.

The transactional parts were there as well. The million-dollar leveraging and the loans and the due diligence and the acquisitions and the mergers, those were all there too, but I think for those of us who are fortunate enough to work in healthcare, at the end of the day there’s patients on the other side, and I never forgot that for a moment.

Walking the floors, sometimes to my chagrin, because I had never been healthier than now being out of the floors there, to watch the dynamics of the caretaker and the patient and the families and to help a family that’s struggling with one of those decisions and to take on almost a spiritual role in that regard. There is no legal right or wrong on some of these decisions. You just need someone who can listen and give you the benefit of some experience and hold your hand while you’re making the decision. I held many a hand there and I’m proud of that.

As you should be. Let’s flip this around now, because I’m curious about your experience with money and how that pretty much shaped who you are today. Tell me about what are some of the lessons you learned from your family about money when you were growing up?

My family… I remember walking with you on a boardwalk talking about this a little bit.


The memory that always comes back is Sunday afternoon, two o’clock. Church was over, dinner wasn’t ready yet. My parents would sit at the kitchen table and bring out the bills and the yellow legal pad and the little adding machine, and would figure out for another week whether we were going to make it or not make it. By five after two there was alcohol on the table.

Oh, yay.

Yes, yes. It helped them a lot. I am sure it would have been very difficult to get through it without that. There was a lot of shouting at some times. My parents had a relationship that everybody should have once in their lifetime. They were truly each other’s best friends. They were lovers. They were everything to each other. They were business partners.

My father was never one to take on any kind of conflict. My mother loved conflict. Money was the perfect vehicle for them to get all of that out of their system. My father at that point worked for my mother’s father. He had the original agency while my parents had developed this Catholic travel part.

My grandfather had another interesting part of the travel, which was taking very wealthy clients all over the world to different golf destinations. I worked for him for many summers, a story for another day, but certainly helped me in my ability to talk with people and to sing for them on the bus while we’re going through the hills of Ireland.

Are you serious?

We did all of that. My sisters and I can make labels on a label machine faster than anybody else because on every drive to one of the shrines we would be there making all of the name tags for the luggage tags that had to then be put on the luggage at the next destination we got to. We sat in the back seat of that car, or way back in the station wagon if you were really unlucky. We were just flipping out these labels like there was no tomorrow.

Where did the singing part come from?

That would be on these bus tours that often broke down, and you had a lot of people who needed to be entertained. What better entertainment than to have the Flynn girls sing Irish songs to them.

Did you all have harmonic parts?

Absolutely not. I have sisters who couldn’t find a note if their life depended on it. What we did have was charm. Many of these people were grandparents and they thought this was the sweetest thing ever.



Did you ever get tips or anything?

We got lots of things that my parents immediately made us go and return.

That’s what I thought.

Absolutely, yes. We were working. We were not to be tipped for this service.

When you did actually work for pay as I guess a teenager or whatever…

My first job, YMCA. I walked in and asked the director there for a job teaching gymnastics and tumbling to children. After hard negotiations I got 50 cents an hour. That was my first job.

Let me ask you the obvious question. Did you have any idea how to do that?

Zero. All I knew was that my time was worth something. My skills were lacking, but my time was worth something.

I mean, did you know how to do the gymnastics and all the other stuff that you claimed…

As I said, my skills were somewhat lacking. I had taken one of the classes, several of the classes. I did a little bit better in the lifesaving. My older sister and I were lifeguards together for many different times and places. At least there I had a certificate that said I could do something. Yeah. That pay was a little bit better. Not much, but a little bit better.

All of it goes back to that kitchen table and understanding that money is the driver of everything. It’s always better to be in the plus side than the minus side, because the minus side causes a lot of grief.

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What were you told to do with the money when you made money?

When we had money, we lived high on the hog.


We absolutely did. We grew up in a very well-to-do town in New Jersey. We summered at Spring Lake, at the Monmouth Hotel. We spent winters at the Breakers in Palm Beach. All of this as part of my parents’ business, so we were at the finest places with very well-to-do people. You think you’re part of that. You don’t see yourself as the help.

Yeah, right.

When we had the money, we could live like them. When times were a little bit tougher, and there were some family dynamics that were going on, some of which helped me decide I really needed to go to law school to keep helping the family, you faked it again. Lot of faking.

That’s the proverbial “Fake it till you make it.”

Yeah. We were not alone. You find that there’s a lot of people who live in these type of areas where the children really feel the difference if there is one, or they figure out it doesn’t matter, or they reach some other conclusion. My conclusion was it’s better to have it than to not have it, and if I had any say about it I would do whatever I could to make enough money that I would never have to face that negative side of the balance sheet.

That’s important to say, that that’s what came out of this for you.


Do you see yourself ever being retired?

As you know, my mother was 88 when I lost her just about a year ago. Not retired. This is a woman who recreated herself time and time and time again. Part of it was, I think, that she still had to work a little bit, but the other part of it was I also learned from her that your work, what you do, your career, is not just part of what defines us, but that it’s also the pivot for some of your social connections, your reason for getting up in the morning, your reason for coming home at night, your reason for being able to share what you make with those that you love and are around you, and it all comes back to that money.

If you’re fortunate enough to have so much money that you can put all that away and you can continue that lifestyle without working, I’m sure that’s one path that many people have been able to take. I have done better than my parents at putting some money away, but there have always been challenges in our life together where Richard and I have been helping other family members, where we have made decisions to forego something in favor of family time. Therefore I see both of us working for some time to come.

All right, that’s fair. I think the other thing that’s important here to say is that you really love what you do.

I do, and it’s not even the same thing, because some of those things that we skipped over there, I loved retailing. I love fashion. I love the law. I love healthcare. If I was going to do something different tomorrow, I would find a passion for whatever I was doing tomorrow. I just think you have to… It’s like, can you have it all? Yes, as long as you’re willing to make some sacrifices. Do you get what you want? Sometimes, but sometimes you have to change what it is you want in order to get what you want.


I have a pretty positive attitude about that and about life. If I’m fortunate enough to be healthy enough to continue to work and to share this life with those I really like, then it’s all good.

Well said. I think that’s the bottom line to all of this stuff. If you really have a passion for what you do, you love what you do, and it keeps you in front of the people that you love and care about, why do you need to have an arbitrary date and time that says, “I’m done”? It’s just ridiculous.

Although I will tell you that age has become a factor for me since the merger with Robert Wood Johnson and Barnabas, and my finding myself on the other side of the street looking for what I really, really want to do next. True North and my consulting being fine for right now, I still know there’s another opportunity there that hasn’t collided with my universe quite yet. I think that age becomes not necessarily a negative factor, but a factor where I’ve never known it to be before.

In what way?

I believe there’s some discrimination out there, at first blush. It’s not even that you’re shouting your age, because again, I still think of myself as the youngest CEO or the youngest GC or the youngest this or whatever, because I’ve had so many of those honors. I was the youngest in my class graduating because of skipping and starting early and doing all that.

I’m used to being the youngest and now, all of a sudden, somebody might be judging me because I’m not only not the youngest but I might very well be the oldest applying for a particular position. I am finding myself very almost affronted by this whole thing. How do you get experience if you don’t have age?

Of course. Of course, that’s the option. I thought maybe you were going to say something along the lines of that you’re finding that age is a factor in the sense that you’re slowing down. Now, just listening to you…

Oh no. No, no, no.

No, no, no. You are like the Energizer Bunny here.

It’s why I don’t drink caffeine. I don’t know what I’d be like if I had any enhancement.

Oh, good God. You don’t want to know.


I just wanted to say thank you so much to my guest, attorney Susan Flynn-Hollander, and to all of you in my Power Of The Purse community, I hope today’s podcast was helpful in enriching your understanding of money and how it can help you achieve your life goals.

If you’d like to spend 15 minutes on a call with me and ask me questions about your personal finances, please go to my web site, PowerOfThePursePodcast.com, select the contact tab, and find the time that works for you. Thanks again, Susan, for sharing your time and knowledge, and let’s let everybody know where can they find you if they would like to ask you more questions?

Absolutely. You can tell I am not at a loss for words and I’m not at a loss for friends, new and old. Anyone who would like to join that happy group, you can reach me by my cell, 973-738-4821, or my email address is S as in Susan, Flynn, F-L-Y-N-N, ESQ as in Esquire. SFlynnESQ@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks. Until the next time, thanks for listening, and remember, money is not the enemy. Your ignorance of it is. Thanks again, Susan, and thanks for listening. Goodbye.

How to contact Susan:


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