Jan 29, 2024 - Economy

Janet Yellen gets candid on weed, gaming and the resilient U.S. economy

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen; Photo: Taylor Glascock/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is known for her tendency to overprepare. That apparently extends to all aspects of her life — including the first time she smoked pot.

Driving the news: In a candid interview, Yellen told NPR's weekly quiz show "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" that she "overprepared" for the first time she would smoke marijuana at a party as a college student.

What she's saying: "I had never smoked anything in my life," said Yellen. "I said, 'How can I prepare for this experience? Well, why don't I buy a pack of cigarettes and try to smoke them and see if I can inhale?'"

  • "All week, preparing for this party, I smoked cigarettes," Yellen said. "I went to the party, smoked a couple of marijuana cigarettes — I never did that again."
  • Yellen added that within a couple of months, she was "up to three packs a day as a smoker." (It took her years to quit.)

Yellen also described another addiction, one she hasn't kicked: Between managing the nation's finances and debt obligations, Yellen is a skilled mobile gamer.

  • The former Fed chair used to play Brick Breaker. "It started when I had a BlackBerry, if anybody still remembers what they are," Yellen said.
  • But a year ago, she began playing Candy Crush. "This morning, I hit level 6,180," Yellen said.

The bottom line: Yellen appeared on the long-running Chicago-based radio show while in town for a major speech that touted the Biden administration's economic success.

  • Asked how she would respond to those who believed the U.S. would enter a recession by now: "I told you so," Yellen said.
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