Lessons gleaned from writing an advice column about money

Little known fact: money does not grow on trees. It just organically accumulates beneath very small plants.

People don’t talk about money enough. And I don’t mean this in the crass sense that they don’t brag about material things, but in the sense that money affects everyone and yet discussing it is taboo. The only people who can really afford (in both senses) to avoid the topic at all are usually so wealthy that it causes very few problems for them.

I’ve been thinking lately about what people avoid discussing because I’ve been writing an advice column about money for Slate, called PayDirt, for the last two and a half months. Readers submit questions to Slate and…

On why we feel the need to be productive in the first place

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

For the last day or two, I’ve been thinking about this excellent Vox essay by Beatrice Forman titled, “The soothing, slightly sinister world of productivity hacks,” partly because while it’s nominally about the new generation of air-quote, Influencers (some of whom are not legally old enough to drink), who are doling out productivity advice on TikTok, it’s also about venerating work for its own sake.

I share Forman’s repulsion to the surface idea of it. I think work can be deeply gratifying but it is not inherently**, and I know this because I’ve worked the customer service desk at a…

How to track your routines when the idea of tracking anything fills you with existential dread

Photo: Mayur Kakade/Getty Images

I have never been someone who enjoys organizing, de-cluttering, or doing anything administrative. I am comfortable with some level of chaos and my inclination to impose order on it is fairly selective. I want structure for big projects and tasks (running an organization day-to-day, getting long-term projects with a lot of moving parts done), but I’m ambivalent about the micro stuff.

So while I know that habit tracking helps habits stick, it’s always felt to me like one more administrative thing to do. Even opening an app has been too much of a chore. …

Your company is not apolitical, no matter what your CEO says

Here is a live shot of an office with no politics in it whatsoever. Photo: Raj Rana/Unsplash

I have several jobs, and one of them is “lowly adjunct” in the graduate school of journalism at NYU, where I teach a class about digital media innovation. As part of the course, my students have to conceptualize and prototype a new media product that could be used in a journalistic or newsroom context. Its innovation might be technical, journalistic, or a new business model. The class is very entrepreneurial and involves hard business skills, but my Twitter bio just says “NYU j-school prof,” so people on the right who don’t like my politics periodically accuse me of indoctrinating journalism…

Personal development for busy people with children (a.k.a. chaos bombs) who may also be experiencing a glacially moving midlife crisis and are maybe a little burned out

Oh, you think I should make a vision board, do you?

I read a lot of self-help literature. This is, to put it mildly, “off brand” for me.

I’m skeptical of simple prescriptive solutions to complex problems, I hate New Age-y stuff, I do not want to be told that I need to take more time for “me”, and the closest thing I have to a mantra is “something is better than nothing” as it applies to my to-do list. I have a special resentment for positive psychology because it underpins a lot of the white conservative culture in which I grew up, a culture that says people who suffer probably…

I’ve stopped entertaining any notion that there’s a hard red line that President Trump (it still pains me to say those two words in sequence, aloud, or even in my own head) will cross that would lead Twitter to decide that he has so thoroughly violated their Terms of Service, our national security norms and protocols by putting every living Twitter user in mortal danger by yelling nuclear missile “fire” in a potential global theater of war, that he deserves to be suspended, even temporarily. (Pour one out for the patriotic Twitter employee who suspended him temporarily for a split…

Meet our team:


Photo: Celeste Sloman

Elizabeth founded The Insurrection in 2016. She is a new media expert and entrepreneur and veteran journalist. She was previously the Editor in Chief of The New York Observer and Editorial Director of Observer Media Group. Before that, she was the founder of Breaking Media (which publishes Dealbreaker, AboveTheLaw and Fashionista) and was the founding editor of Gawker, the flagship site of Gawker Media. She has launched a variety of digital properties and products for brands, media companies, and agencies. She is also a former financial columnist at Fortune, teaches in SVA’s Design Criticism MFA program, and…

We’re a full-service data-driven political and media company with a focus on digital strategy, messaging, and targeting.


We develop messaging and targeting strategies for candidates, organizations, publishers, and progressive brands. We customize programs to the needs of the client, offering unique solutions. Our strategies are fine-tuned for primaries vs. general elections, persuasion vs. GOTV or opposition voter discouragement, two-way vs. multi-candidate contests, reelections vs. challenges or open seats, high-turnout presidential elections vs. off-year midterms or specials. We also customize for non-electoral use cases like issue advocacy, fundraising and brand campaigns.


We help you identify and speak effectively to the precise…

Look, you fucking shitheads. So I use some coarse language. So I say what I mean. So I don’t know the difference between off the record and on the record.

Let’s talk about something important. Let’s talk about Reince Priebus. What kind of stupid fucking name is Reince Priebus anyway? You know what I call him? Rinse Penis. Rinse. PENIS. Got that?

I just want you to know that I know what that smarmy little fucker is doing. So here’s what happened: We all had drinks at in the WW — that’s West Wing for you pissy little amateurs —…

On Managerial Boundaries and Weekend Texting

This week’s Times “Corner Office” interview, which is not usually a feature known for provocation or controversy, features Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini and it’s going a tiny bit viral because she has an unconventional test for potential hires:

Here’s something I do: If you’re in the process of interviewing with us, I’ll text you about something at 9 p.m. or 11 a.m. on a Sunday just to see how fast you’ll respond.

What’s the right response time?

Within three hours. It’s not that I’m going to bug you all weekend if you work for me, but I want you…

Elizabeth Spiers

Writer, adjunct in the grad school of journalism at NYU, political messaging consultant, ex-editor in chief of The New York Observer, founding editor of Gawker

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store