May 9, 2023

75. How to start a values aligned investing club

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Welcome back to Spend Donate Invest! This is a podcast that’s exploring the topic of whether there might be some ways we can line up what we’re doing with our money and our values when it comes to the kind of world we’d like to help shape. Because here’s the thing, if you’re listening to this, you probably vote, you might even protest, maybe you’ve called your senator about something you want them to do. What I’m trying to chat about on this podcast is if there might be a whole other category of things we can do- specifically our money.

Where do we bank, where do we shop, where do we donate?

These are the things I wonder about, and you might be wondering about it too. If you are, you can drop a line anytime and I’ll be happy to explore it on the show. The email address is spenddonateinvest at gmail dot com. Or you can use the voice recorder function on the show’s website which is at and I’ll transcribe your question and read it on the air.

Today we are going to talk about how to investing clubs. Are you a member of one? Do you want to be in an investing club? Are you already in a book club, a writing club, a walking club, or am I the only one? LoL. Where are my fellow outgoing introverts, throw your hands up lol.

Today I’m going to talk about starting an investing club and I’m going to be referring to the tips in a book called Activate Your Money by Janine Firpo, this is a great resource that I refer to all the time when I’m making money decisions for myself, it is an intermediate level personal finance book and what I like about it is that it already has the socially responsible mindset approach so I don’t have to do a lot of extra work to think through the nuances myself.

Recently you may have heard me do an episode about how to host a wedding while considering the environmental impact and in reading the tips from the sustainability experts, I felt like I had to do a whole second level of analysis to account for cultural nuances that were largely missing from the conversation.

And so it is with a lot of personal finance books. I have often felt like I’m learning about money from the monopoly man, Rich Uncle Pennybags, that’s his real name. A pure adherent to capitalism, without reservation, only goal is to be as rich as humanly possible. Can’t relate! And if you’re listening, you probably can’t relate either! Of course, I want and need money, but I’m not going to be happy if I’m rich and there are people who are hungry, unhoused, without access to education, health care, safety, leisure time, etc. I want and need money but I’m not willing to go to any legal means to get it. And sometimes these personal finance books feel like they are of that mindset to me. The emphasis of finding every possible legal loophole to avoid paying taxes. The complete disregard for what industries or companies our money is tied up in, whether it is in a savings account or an investment account.

So that’s what I like about this book, Activate Your Money, the writer is coming with a dual objective, to teach how to grow your wealth in ways that are less destructive to our society and more positive. We’re still talking about capitalism, so there are no perfect solutions in the book, but there are some solid and good places to start.

I don’t know how you arrived at the desire to line up your personal values around climate change, racial justice, gender equity, etc and your money, whether you always felt unsatisfied with the model of separating your activism and your money, or if it came to you sort of suddenly as it did for me, but pretty quickly after I had the realization, one of my first thoughts was to talk to my friends about it.

I wanted to know where they were donating, how they were donating. I wanted to know if they’d ever tried putting their money into community banks in under-resourced communities. I wanted to know if they had stopped shopping at certain stores because they made political contributions that worked against our values.

I wanted to connect with my friends! Learn from them. Share what I learned. And, I think I would have also loved some accountability, now that I’d had this realization that I wanted to be more values aligned with my money, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t just sit with this pit in my stomach but that I actually took some action. For me, one of the worst feelings is knowing something is wrong and that I might influence, and not taking any action.

I think an investing club is a great solution for that. Today I’m going to talk about how to start an investing club with a values alignment. A socially responsible investing club, if you will.

So the first tip is to (1) Identify the Leadership. Just because you are getting the ball rolling on this idea, you don’t have to be the group leader. There might be someone or even better two people who are a natural fit to co-lead the group. Maybe they’ve got the time, or organizational skills, or passion and energy to lead the group.

Second tip is obviously going to be (2) Recruiting members. You’re going to want to hit that sweet spot of people who are energized by the idea of socially responsible investing, committed to learning and exploring, you want members who are somewhat at similar levels of knowledge. This is not an exact science, but if you have someone who is talking about back door Roth contributions and another person who has literally never invested before, it may be more challenging to have such different levels in the same group. It can work, but it may be more challenging. You can decide that your investing club is going to also serve as a place for basic investing education, by offering some investing 101 sessions, maybe as a one off, but it may be easier if people are roughly at the same level of investing experience. And I believe it will be easier if you have members who are roughly at the same level of wealth. And that is because people with more wealth are going to have different access to investing due to the giant piles of money they are investing. Very wealthy people are accredited investors which is a legal classification, you have to prove your wealth and then you get privileged access to different investment options. To me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have an investing club with accredited investors and first time, middle income investors trying to think about how to invest their money.

So that’s the second tip is to recruit members. And shoot for a number of members that is not too many, not too few. If you’ve ever been a member of a book club or writing group or any kind of accountability group, you know what I mean. The book recommends a group size of 5 to 15. That feels about right to me. My current investing club is in that range.

The (3) third tip is to establish goals and culture.Your investing club’s goal might be to 1) educate and encourage members 2) maybe you actually want to invest as a group 3) or you might want this to be an accountability group for people to make their individual investments. After you know the goal, you can think about the logistics of the group. Are you meeting in person or virtually? I love a virtual group because it can make it easier for different people from different communities to gather and that will naturally increase the diversity of thought. How often are you meeting? My investment club started monthly and we are currently deciding if we will move to a quarterly meeting instead. Maybe that’s what you do too, start more frequently while you are bonding and establishing trust as a group, and then maybe you can move to less frequent meetings. And then the culture, what are the norms and expectations around respect, trust, community.

There’s one last tip (4) that I want to share that I had not thought about, but really appreciated from reading this book. It was to ask people to join the investment club with a set timeline and clear end date. So, instead of asking people to join an investing club that is meeting in perpetuity, ask them to join an investing group that will gather for exactly 6 months. Or 1 year. Whatever makes sense for you. People will be more likely to commit if they know it is a finite and time-bounded. And depending on how things go, maybe some members will want to continue at the end of the year, and form a new commitment to keep going. That’s what happened with my investing club. But it was easier to commit to something knowing going into it how long of a commitment I was making.

So those are some starter tips to starting an investment club. If you don’t want to start your own investment club, you can join one that is starting up or already in progress. I’ll leave a link to the book I referred to today, there is a companion site with a lot of very good information and a relatively new program for women where you can join an investment circle with a values aligned focus. I believe it is nearly free, but you can check for yourself to be sure.

That’s it for today. If you are in an investing club, whether or not it has a social responsibility flavor to it, I’d love to hear about it. Or if you’re thinking about something else, something related to lining up our money and our values, please drop me a line. The show’s email address is spend donate invest at gmail dot com. Thank you for sending in your topic ideas, that’s where the shows come from. If you want to support the show, please send this episode to someone who might enjoy it. Check out the backlog, there are dozens of episodes on all kinds of topics going back a couple of years. What a lot of new listeners do is to check out the latest episode and then they go way back and plow through ten episodes at a time. I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad we are having this conversation. I don’t want to feel like I vote and protest and live my life one way but then I deal with my money in a completely different, unrelated way. I hope through these conversations we are getting closer to being more aligned. Progress, not perfection… Take care and…let’s talk again soon!