clients

Episode 5 Transcript: What Advisors Do For Their Clients

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Welcome to Episode Five of the Financial Finesse podcast. In today’s podcast, I invite you into my financial advisor mastermind group. If you don’t know what a mastermind group is, it’s a peer to peer mentoring group where you get support and advice on issues you may be facing in running your business or in your life.

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My mastermind group has been invaluable to me in supporting me in building my financial advisory practice, keeping up on industry news, and deepening my knowledge of issues that affect my clients.

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There are five of us in our group, and we live in all different parts of the country. And as we are all lifelong learners, we met through a professional development program. We all clicked, and we decided to take our meetings on a more intimate level and start this mastermind

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program.

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And for today, we’re not going to do our usual masterminding. Instead, I’ve asked all the group members to share a story about how they’ve helped a client and a little bit about their firm. And this way, I hope you’ll get an insight into how financial advisors help their clients build really successful financial lives.

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And Maura, why don’t you start?

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Hey, thanks, Cathy. So, to introduce myself, my name is Maura Griffon. My firm is called Blue Spark Financial, and we’re based in New York City and in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, where we have been sequestered here during the shutdown.

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So we manage about 130 million for 70 families, households, mostly headed by single women. So that is basically our clientele, is women who are on their own, either because of divorce, or death of a spouse. Sometimes it’s women who’ve always been single, and their parents have died, or they’ve adopted a child and that child is now going to college. But people who have something going on in their lives that’s caused a transition and a shift in how they think about money. Many of them have never managed money

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on their own, for these big issues, maybe they’ve saved money, but they don’t. They’re now approaching retirement and they don’t know how to de-accumulate. Sometimes that’s a word, they’re like, oh, I love that word. I know how to accumulate but I don’t know how to de-accumulate.

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So and it’s, it’s emotional. Money is emotional, especially in these times. And so if there’s a common denominator to all of all of our clients, it’s that,

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again, mostly women, but also they’ve got a finite portfolio of money, a pot of money that they need to last them for the rest of their lives. And, you know, I think it’s that combination of emotional support, as well as, you know, deep understanding of the technicalities of taxes and estate planning, and basically all the components of what goes into true financial planning. And I you know, I also want to mention that we are, we’re fee only fiduciary firm, which means that we put our clients’ interests above our own, that we’re not salespeople. We’re acting on the, we’re on the same side of the table as clients.

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The you know, we often ask questions like, what does money mean to you? And you know, often people are not even thinking about money. They’re thinking about having enough of it, but they’re not thinking about what money can do to get them their best lives. And so it’s you know, it’s peeling apart that onion of how to use the resources and create align your values with what they want, what they’re spending on and what their goals are.

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So it’s a lot like coaching in that way. It’s helping people find their purpose, and then being able to create a financial plan around that purpose and goal, that aligns the financial planning and the investment planning as well.

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Most of

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My clients tend to be, you know, conservative because they are worried about, you know, having this money last. And so at the core of what we do is what we call an endowment method of investing. Some people call it a, it’s similar to a bucket strategy, which some of you may have heard of, but it’s basically it helps clients sleep at night because it approaches the investment portfolio, not from a position of are you conservative, or are you risky, it’s a matter of a timeline. And so say that from now to five years out, we have that is the safety portion of the portfolio. So they know they can pay their bills, and that no matter what the market does, it can have wild swings up and down, but they know that their income is steady, and they’re going to be getting that monthly paycheck. And that helps

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A lot of people and then there’s that five to 10 year portion of the portfolio. And that’s got big cap stocks, dividend paying, it’s got REITs, it’s got, you know, kind of solid equities, but a little out on the risk scale from bonds and cash equivalents. And then that 10 years plus, which, as we all know, the economic cycle goes up and down. But that can be invested in riskier and riskier equities, like small caps and international and emerging markets and some of those things that have their cycles and have their day. But that’s and that feeds then into the safety portion of the portfolio. So it’s an ongoing dynamic strategy. Maura I love that you’re going into the details of this and

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I really appreciate it so our viewers can get an idea of like a practical way that we help. Can you give

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A brief story of a client situation that you where you really felt like you added some value to their financial life, given all of these things that that you do, and we all do for our clients. Sure. So I have one client who

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lost her husband. And so again, had had a pot of money that was largely invested in US large caps. She hadn’t paid much attention. And you know, it, it was a time when the market went down. And so she saw her portfolio, go from one number to another number, and it was frightening and so to be able to reallocate that portfolio, according to her needs, and to see what she was going to spend it on. So that means untangling a lot. A lot of issues like, like spending and upcoming taxes.

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And how to, you know, digging into the best ways to save on taxes. And basically creating that timeline using assumptions about the future because obviously we can never know. But that calmed her and to be able to see it as it’s not just a lump of stocks and bonds that this is it’s invested according to her needs and timeline. I’m sure she gets a lot of comfort out of that. Had she ever used an advisor before? I know her husband had, okay. Yeah, and that’s pretty common with women where the husband handles the financial matters solely. And then the woman’s on her own and really needs some support. Precisely she said that she would had never been invited to the meetings and when she did they, the advisor didn’t talk to her.

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So she tells me that she

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loves working with me because I listen.

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Good listening skills are critical. And I think many of us women have them. Don’t you know you all agree? Yeah.

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Anything else you’d like to add?

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Just that I love this group. And thanks Cathy for putting this together. Great. Thank you, Maura, great stories. And good. I know you do great work for your clients. Thanks Bev would you like to go next? Sure, sure. Um, my name is Beverly Cox. I’m an independent Certified Financial Planner and a chartered advisor in philanthropy. And I’ll go a little slightly different direction than Maura and just tell you a story of a particular client but I have been a financial planner for 30 years. And I have lots of stories and the ones that I really appreciate the most are the ones where I’ve been allowed to be

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for decades involved in someone’s financial and really their whole life because of that relationship. So they have grown up with me obviously over the last 30 years and accepted me into their lives and allowed me is which is the way I look at it to love and support and be of service to them as they evolve through their own lives. So in those days, 30 years ago, most people came into financial services business through the insurance store, and that was me as well. So

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and then I’ve evolved into the CFP and of financial comprehensive financial planning, but I have a number of widow clients that I seem to attract and I have a great deal of affinity for them. As single women who are usually as Maura was saying not been at the table or not been as involved when they when they did have a spouse

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and so they do appreciate the help and they need the help. And I like that situation. So this is a story of one of them. So her name is Jane, which is not her name. And she was happily married with two children, one in high school and one in in junior high school. Both she and her husband who was an older man were working at well-paying but high stress jobs. And one of the biggest financial goals that they had from early on was to pay the total cost of college for these girls and particularly at name brand schools they wanted.

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Although he had some health problems, Jane’s husband tragically, unexpectedly died. And

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it was a horrible time, I was there for that as well. And it was heartbreaking. And so other than taking care of her needs of the moment in terms of cash and

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making sure she felt secure, I did very little planning, we really, I think it’s part of my job as a planner, to hold space for that experience that you have to allow the person I believe to go through. There is a process of grief and loss and, and it’s not where your head is right? It’s like you have to emotionally allow that process to happen. So my job is to be there and to stay with that and then to when that client  is signaling and allowing me to talk about her future then we can go more into okay, let’s make some plans. So and in my experience, it can take more than a year to get my particular widow clients to that point. And that’s fine with me. That’s fine with me. So a quick question here during that year, how often do you meet with this client and is it via phone, face to face

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kind of setups? Coffee dates,

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which she was probably an hour away from where I was living and we would, we talked a lot, we actually did and I in those days especially I was going to client’s homes, so we probably went together.

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We probably saw each other four or five times that year, then would be on the phone. So it’s like, you know, what I think we represent is we are a safety connection, right? A connection you’ve allowed me in, you allowed me to know what’s going on with you financially. Now use me and use my strength when you don’t have it. Use me for questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll go find the answer for you. So I just feel like we are a resource that is so much beyond managing money as well, right? That if you allow us to, if you let us have this kind of relationship with you, then you get the full

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foundation of talents and skills that we can bring to the table. So, that answer your question? Yes. Very good. So I want to go on with this story if it’s okay. Okay, so in the first few years after we, we made it through and she was ready to do some planning, we actually did a lot of the plans that are in place and solidified her future. And that and she was tenacious, and this was a wonderful quality and she deposited and contributed to her 401k to the max every year. And part of that was matched by her company, which was great. We took some of the insurance proceeds from her husband’s policy and purchased a permanent life insurance policy for her and that was to cover some of the responsibilities if she were not there for her girls. She also had a large policy through her employer as well for that

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and but it also

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There’s cash value life insurance provided a place to accumulate excess reserves money that she could get to if she needed to and was also not at risk. So we had this safety net again, emergency money if needed. So we obtained as well an investment that can be turned into a guaranteed stream of income for her retirement. If that were what we needed to do. We wanted to put the potential in place so that we knew there were these streams of income that could serve her. We reviewed long term care insurance policies, alternatives, and we chose a traditional Long Term Care Policy for her because now Jane as a widow with these two girls, she wanted very much to protect

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any kind of devastation financially that might happen to her own future. So that was important to her and that policy gives her a lot of peace of mind and it still does. So those early investments have been the foundation of what

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We have done as she has, has had more money, we have done more with her money in terms of investments. And again, she’s socking as much as she can into her 401k. Every year, we went to a good estate planning attorney together, and we had the documents drawn up. And through the years, she has gone now since two more reviews with that estate planning attorney and we are always involved in any changes, suggestions that estate planning attorney has. So we’ve kept her docs up to date, which also gives her a great deal of peace of mind. So we also did a lot with cash flow. So cash management and I have found this with lots of clients that allow me a lot of time in their lives is that a lot of it is about a transition that they’re going through at some particular moment where it’s like okay, how do we finance that? How do we find the money for that? So we were going from you know, they had two good incomes to now we’re at one

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income. She does have a widow’s pension, but it was still a different financial situation. There was lots of jockeying and balancing for different conflicting things that are going on. How are we going to save for these girls’ colleges, run a household, buy and sell cars, she had some relatives that needed some financial assistance sometimes, and then maintaining and repairing, refreshing her longtime home through all these years. So all those extra expenses were identified as we could and planned for. And through the years, we did take advantage of the cash value in this life insurance that she had accumulated. A HELOC a home equity line of credit that we had in place on the home. And even credit cards with zero percent programs were taken advantage of over the years if you needed the money and that’s where you could get it. That’s a financial transaction to manage. And that was my job. So she was super helpful to me. Because

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she was a good saver. So I worried about and planned for the big picture. And then she just kept plugging away. So that’s an important part of any of any relationship is to have that enthusiastic client that’s helping her own situation. So have you, what your story is telling a perfect example of what a truly comprehensive financial plan is, where you’re looking at everything, you’re looking at cash flow, you’re looking at risk, and you’re helping them with insurance, and you’re looking at their estate plan and all the other issues that go into a truly comprehensive plan. So I’m really glad that you shared with us that broad array of issues that we help our clients with. So thanks so much for that story. Thank you. And Steph, would you like to go next, Stephanie Bruno? Sure. Cathy, I love your podcast, and I’m honored to be here.

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Part of it today and I’m really honored to be part of this group of women who are so smart and also bring me a lot of joy. I’m Steph Bruno, my firm is Sea to Peak Financial Advisors. We have offices in Denver and Seattle, and I too am a fee only firm. So I enjoy working with executives that are complex and busy. Most of my clients are first generation wealth, they have just worked hard and done very well and they just need really good help. It’s important to me to not only help my clients grow their wealth, but to also see that make a difference in their lives. So I’ve incorporated life planning, you know, Cathy talked about before, it’s sort of brainstorming our client situations. I look at it if you think of like a jigsaw puzzle. Some people can do a jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture on the box which is really difficult but

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I think if you look at the picture on the box, and you look at all these pieces that we have, and then you say, what’s the best way to organize these pieces to get to that picture? I think about that’s what we do. And that’s what we can do if we have a really good life plan.

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I’ll give you an example of how I think this made a difference. And one of my clients lives, I have this great client, she’s an environmental engineer, loved her work, loved the purpose behind it. But she had been working 60 to 80 hours a week. She had a lot of international travel. And she was also a little tired of the corporate bureaucracy. So she wanted to do something different. So we engage a life planning process to figure out, well what do you really want your life to look like? And what we came up with is she really only wanted to work about 40%. She wanted to spend about 20% of her time doing some nonprofit work. She wanted to spend about a

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another 20% of time working on a novel. And really then just having a lot of fun. So once we figured out what the end what she wanted it to look like, the next stage that we went to is she had to figure out what that work was going to look like. So we work through an encore career handbook. So that helped her figure out what is this work I’m going to do, that’s going to be 40%, but yet still really fill me up as a person and meet that purpose piece of it. So she enjoyed the work that she did. She just wanted to do less of it. So she decided she was going to do some consulting work. And that also she was going to serve on corporate boards as well. And so that would provide some income. She had been on her board at her company, so it’s going to be a nice steppingstone to doing that work. And so once we had these two pieces in place, then the next part was to look at what does the financial plan look like?

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We had to look at a lot of different scenarios, you know, starting off, what if she doesn’t make any money the first year? Or what if over this timeframe, she makes enough money to support herself, but not enough to save for retirement. She also had corporate stock. So we had to look at, what if the corporate stock dropped by 50%? How was her plan going to be affected? We were working to reduce that concentration. But she still had some. And of course, we wanted to look at what if it all worked out, right? Like, what’s the dream here? And if everything goes according to plan, what is that going to look like?

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When I think of this client, she is a rock star.

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I think all of my clients are. I love the work that I do, and I love my clients, but I think she in particular, really embraced this process. And I think that’s part of what made it successful.

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We also had to look at what were some of the technical issues around her benefits. So as I mentioned,

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I work with executives. They’ve got a lot of complex benefit plans. And they have different distributions and payouts and those types of things as well. And so one of the things we knew was that at age 55, she got much better deferred compensation payouts. Also at age 55. As she stepped away from work, she would be able to withdraw money from her 401k plan without penalty, should she need those funds. And of course, we had to plan for the fact that she was going to need some liquidity, right. We wanted to make sure that we had some safe cash set aside. So as she embraced this next phase of her life, that she really wasn’t worried about the money. She was secure in that process and could really go for it.

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So this client, she went through this process, and today she has a consulting practice where she

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does consulting projects, but only the ones she picks and chooses. She does work for two corporate boards.

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She’s about ready to send her novel into her agent. And this is not just a novel she wrote over the weekend. She’s worked for three years with a writing coach, and is sending it off, and her encore career has been so successful, that we just updated her life plan to include her home on Martha’s Vineyard where she’s currently spending the summer so

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yeah, yeah. Yeah, it just shows to me that when you have really good planning, combined with a good vision of what you want your life to look like, what can truly happen.

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Steph that is such a great story. And you know, it’s a perfect example of something that we all do called scenario planning, where you look at several different iterations of the plan, depending on what they want to do, you know, their most audacious goals and then maybe if that doesn’t work out a little lesser, but it sounds like she reached all her audacious goals, which is amazing.

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I’m sure she loves you for it. I’m sure she thinks you’re a rock star too.

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Cathy.

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Okay, thank you. Tanya.

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I am Tanya Nichols. I love being with you guys. This group is one of the most I look forward to our time together. Every two weeks more than just about any other meetings I attend.

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I really get a lot out of just hearing just all of these ladies telling their stories, even today, you can kind of pick up all the strengths and talents that they have in their brain to their clients. So thanks for having me. Um, I run an investment firm for women within a few years of retirement in northern Minnesota and Duluth on Lake Superior. And

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I just was going to my kind of story for today was about a new client actually. And she was referred to me and she’s not quite divorced, yet.

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In the process of going through a divorce, and I loved Steph’s story where, where her, her client was able to really get clear about her vision. And then step by step get through it. And this client is in this phase of transition, where her vision is really clouded by uncertainty. Much like what Bev was talking about with widows for example, and the major transition with something like losing a spouse or, or even retirement, all those transitions can make things somewhat cloudy. And so she is getting divorced. And it’s been discussed, but it’s not quite. It keeps getting there’s hang ups and anybody who’s ever been through one kind of knows how that goes.

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But she’s been in a situation where she has felt no personal agency over her money. She’s been a really successful executive. She’s been the earner in her family. However, she’s had no agency over her

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wealth creation and the money that she’s saved over the years. Her husband has been primarily responsible for that. And so as a result, there’s like a lot of money avoidance going on for her. And so what was interesting about her and these kind of cases, I love to get involved with at this stage, just finding me by she asked some friends for introductions and referrals. And through a friend of a friend, she came to my website and check this. And

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she scheduled this first call and just that exercise for her because she’s never had an advisor. She’s never even logged into her accounts at this point. Her husband handled everything and she’s a successful high-powered executive yet at home, she did not have this power. And so just purely making that phone call to me was

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Like step one in her taking her financial life on and taking control of her future. And then by call two, she had every login for every single one of her accounts, and she had a list for me of her net worth and all of her assets. And watching that unfold for someone is really exciting because a lot of my clients are really successful, yet they don’t feel good about their money. They’re women in this retirement age who grew up and likely became successful in an industry, which most industries where leadership was dominated by males. And so they found a way to get a seat at the table, sometimes by shrinking and yet now here they are, and they’re successful, and they’re the ones who run the table. Yet they still are almost hiding their success or they feel almost bad about their money. And so part of the work that we’re doing or that we hope to do is really help all of our clients feel good about their money and their wealth and their success. So

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This particular client, we’re just getting started. And some of the most important work we’re doing at the beginning, is just giving her permission to let go of you can’t do everything at once, which is what many of my brilliant colleagues have alluded, alluded to. So for her, I could spend all day talking about are you saving enough for retirement, even though she’s close to 60, it’s not the priority, the priority is getting moved on this divorce. And so stage one, we resolved that the first step is to build a reserves out of her investments and help her decide which investments she could use to fund a reserve account, so that she feels secure and that she’s got her own, you know, bucket of cash reserves to take care of these immediate expenses, like lawyers bills and a new condo and some of these things that she needs to act on. And then her homework is really to go meet with that divorce attorney and get moving on this divorce because until she does that, I think it’s

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gonna be really hard to get clear about where she’s going. So, stage one for her is building these reserves and getting her all of her different accounts. She’s got like 13 different accounts at different places. And so we’re going to work to get all of those consolidated and simplified so that she can continue with this personal agency over her dollars. And then we’ve postponed some of the planning, like regarding retirement, and how much should she be saving and is there enough and where she’s going to live permanently, all that is kind of set to later, but I’m giving her permission to say or helping her give herself permission to say I’ll get to that. But right now we need to address these items first. So our mission really is to help our clients feel good about their success and their money. And as Beth mentioned, it’s like one of the greatest privileges to be involved in these stories with people.

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So I feel grateful to be doing this kind of work with people.

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I can’t tell you how valuable it is to hear you all share your stories. There’s been pieces of every single one of your businesses that I’ve brought into my own with my client relationships, and to brainstorm and solve for some of these issues with clients is just invaluable to me. So thanks for having me, Cathy. I agree with you, Tanya. This group is invaluable and I wanted to touch on something that you said and it’s a theme throughout as, as you could see a lot of us work with women, not exclusively not we don’t all work with women exclusively. But there is a common theme with women where they don’t own their power financially. And I think that all of us are really dedicated to helping women do that. And either in ways where they can feel more free to spend, or we also let them know when maybe they need to not spend so much and but in all ways we want them to get empowered around their

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money. So thanks so much for that story, Tanya.

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So now it’s my turn.

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So I work with mainly independent women. And when I say independent women, I mean women that are responsible for the finances, and it could be whether because they’re widowed, divorced, maybe they’re in a partnership, but they make the money and they have the decision making over money, things like that. But mostly women, I do have some men clients. And a typical situation for me, is a woman who is retired and has lived in the family home for decades. And all of a sudden starts to think about how much longer do I want to live in this home? And, and do I want to keep maintaining it, the roof and the yard and you know, it’s hard as you get older, you lose your

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strength you, you have to be careful of getting up on ladders and doing all those things. And but it’s such an emotional decision to leave the family home. So the first thing you do is you tackle that, right? You have conversations around, doing that making that big giant decision to sell the family home and move into more of a retirement community situation. So I’m there to support them through the thought process. And in doing that, secondly, it’s the financials. And this is where the number crunching comes in, where you determine whether they can afford to sell the family home and I’m thinking about a woman in particular that I’m working with right now. But this is fairly common situation for me and my clients. So I use specialized software to input all the numbers. What if you sold your home for this much or you got this much proceeds? And what can you afford to buy? Is your next place a retirement

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community and will that work for you for the rest of your life. And we have such long lifespans, I usually use 95 to 100 for lifespans to make sure that they don’t run out of money if they make this big move. So I give them peace of mind over the financial decision. First, it’s helping them get through the emotions. And then next is the finances. And there are a couple of other issues involved with this move. And that is, what do you do with all the stuff you have in your house? This is a daunting thing. This one particular client was a single child and one of the only nieces in the family and she ended up with all the silver, like five sets of silver and five sets of China. Well, and you know, you can imagine all the furniture and everything else she inherited over the years. So that made this move even harder and more gut wrenching for her because her kids, nobody wants that stuff anymore. Her adult

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children did want it, what do you do with it? So it’s working through things like that, helping them let go of things and, and issues that will help them move forward. So I find great satisfaction and in helping clients through situations like that, because I really feel like I’m being a helper to them and, it just makes them feel better about such a major life transition.

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So I hope that um, now that we’ve all told our stories and let you know who we are, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this and got a little bit of a peek into the kind of issues that financial advisors help their clients with, and how we support each other through this wonderful mastermind. And I want to say to all of you, I love you all. And thank you so much for participating in this podcast. And maybe we’ll do it again sometime.

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Thank you, Cathy. Thanks Cathy.

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Bye.

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Episode 5 Transcript: What Advisors Do For Their Clients Read More »

Episode 3 Transcript: Women, Wealth And Social Change

00:03

Welcome to the Financial Finesse Podcast, where we’ll be discussing tips on how to handle your money and life with skill and style.

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Your host Cathy Curtis, CFP has been helping make finance accessible and intriguing for women for almost 20 years. You’ll get savvy, actionable ideas, listening to her conversations with some of the coolest and smartest women on the planet.

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And now, here’s your host, Cathy Curtis.

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Hi, welcome to Episode Three of Financial Finesse. I’m Cathy Curtis, host of this podcast and also founder of Curtis Financial Planning, a financial advisory firm focused on the finances of independent women. I am thrilled to welcome my guest Haleh Modasser. Haleh is a senior vice president and

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partner at Stearns Financial in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The friend that introduced Haleh and me said we’re birds of a feather. And she was right. What we really share is a passion for empowering women around their finances. Haleh has taken this passion a step further and written a wonderful book called Women on Top: Women, Wealth and Social Change. Haleh’s basic message and we’ll get into it is to encourage women to invest their wealth with the mind towards doing good in the world by doing well themselves financially, to do good, but also doing well. In our conversation, you will hear the acronym ESG and the term ESG Investing often.

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ESG is an integration of the E environmental

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s social and the G governance into investment analysis that includes but goes beyond the purely financial sales, profits growth and things like that. For example, environmental factors determine a company’s stewardship of the environment. Are they concerned about climate change, pollution, resource depletion in their operations? It also looks at social factors. How a company treats its employees. Is the workforce diverse, is the environment safe for the employees. And lastly, it looks at governance factors, such as for diversity and executive compensation. Some also call this value-based investing or dual mandate investing. But before I get into it too much further, I want to welcome Haleh. Haleh, thank you so much for joining me on my podcast. It’s a pleasure, Cathy. Thanks for having me. I’m just thrilled that we can have a

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conversation about something that we’re both so passionate about. So I thought we’d start, there’s always a lot of confusion around what values-based investing is both in the financial advisory community and the public, the public in general. So could you just give us a brief explanation about this type of investing? Sure. So the idea here is that you’re investing your assets in accordance with your values. And that has seen multiple iterations over time, historically speaking, people who did that really cared more about the change that they were creating than their financial return. And I think that kind of gave a bad name to this type of investing because they by definition, did have to take lower returns, and often paid higher expense ratios as well. But in the last five years, values-based

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investing has just exploded. There is so much product out there. It’s inexpensive, it’s accessible. And recent studies have shown that ESG investing, which is the most current iteration of values-based investing, actually does as well, if not better than an unconstrained portfolio. Yes, I’ve heard that. I do invest some of my clients in an ESG manner. And I think what moved me towards this is one, the demand by my female clients for this type of investing. Women really want to invest with their values, if they understand it, which I think is one of the issues is women, when they hear that they’re like, oh, yeah, that sounds really good. But they don’t really know what it is. And I’m wondering why you think there’s this education gap.

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And well, let’s first start with the

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common perception out there that 80% of women are interested in ESG investing. That is a statistic that I’ve run across for several years. And in writing this book, I did an original research study, where I actually interviewed 500 Boomer women ages 55 to 75, with investable assets of 500,000 or more, and I was shocked to learn that 80% of these women, and remember, these are the women that have the assets right now. 80% of them didn’t really know what ESG was, a disconnect, it was completely opposite of what I had heard. And I investigated it further, talked to many experts in this and we’ve kind of decided that the millennial women are what’s driving that figure. But unfortunately, the millennial girls don’t yet have the asset

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base to move the needle, the way that Boomer women do who currently control somewhere between 60 and 67% of the nation’s wealth?

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Yeah. And your survey was Boomer women specifically, correct. The women that do have the 500,000 or more in assets? Yeah. Could I ask you, was the study a nationwide or was it a certain geography? It was nationwide, we actually wanted to make sure that it had a 95% confidence interval. So in order to find women meeting this criteria, that is Boomer women with investable assets of over 500,000, we had to go to about 5000 women and finally culled it down to who we think are the women that actually control the majority of the wealth or a sample of the women that control the majority of the wealth. And I think

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it’s a pretty good representation of most Boomer women. That would be our clients. Cathy, right away. ESG investing unless they’re your client or my client. Well, yeah, and but the reason I asked about the geography is that I’m in Northern California where a lot of people know about it and have heard of it and kind of understand it. So that may be an anomaly a little bit. That’s not really like the rest of us. But even so, there still is a myth that the investment returns aren’t as good. I get that question all the time. Can we debunk that myth? Absolutely. There was actually a meta study done. That’s a study of over 2000 studies that showed that at worst, ESG investing returns the same as their typical portfolio at best it slightly outperforms. And I think over time, we would find

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I mean, it makes intuitive sense if you think about it, if a company treats their employees well, if a company has transparent corporate governance, if a company has inclusion of gender and race within their ranks, they’re going to do better over the long term. That’s not disputable. Yeah. It makes complete sense to me that as time goes on, companies that are scoring higher on the ESG spectrum will outperform.

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Well, it makes sense to me. Um, you and I are like preaching to the choir. So this is a challenge and question I have for you. How do we educate more of these Boomer women with the wealth that can, you know, make great change by investing in this manner and supporting companies that have these values? What do you think the answer

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is in getting more people to invest this way?

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Well, I think the first order of responsibility is the women themselves. As you know, I’m sure 95% of women die alone, regardless of marital status, and that’s because women have longer life expectancies. So suddenly they inherit wealth from their parents, from their husbands. They may have earned their own assets, you put it all together, and they’re faced with

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a ton of money and the responsibility of prudently investing it. And so, my message to women is, please don’t put your head in the sand. You know, you have to read, you have to understand, you have to do your homework. But what I find is that most high net worth Boomer women prefer to use an advisor and I’m all about that. What is distressing to me

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is that there are many advisors who don’t really understand or want to promote ESG options, and therefore they don’t really show that or educate their clients on that. And I feel like it’s a real missed opportunity for women. And not to get on my feminist flag here. But, you know, we haven’t had a woman president, less than 6% of Fortune 500 companies have a woman CEO, I mean, women still have a gender pay gap. And women still take time off to take care of kids and they don’t earn as much and they don’t have as much in retirement savings. And so here’s an area where women actually are already in the lead. They’re already on top. They control the majority of the wealth in the nation, and they can really leverage that wealth to leverage their voice. Okay, well, I have an idea. So both of us would like to

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see more of this kind of investing? And what you’re saying is, it’s really in women’s best interest to do so. Right? Because so many of the values and issues within ESG investing match what women want. I know you found that in your studies, right, that it matches what women care about. And then for advisors, women control $22 trillion, is what I’m reading or 61% of the wealth in the country. So it seems like there’d be a motivation on both sides to invest in this manner. I want to step back a minute though and talk about why women may not be what about this, this phenomenon about women who are wealthy but never feel like they’re rich? And they you know, the bag lady syndrome is alive and well. I was surprised when I read that in your book because I see that many of my wealthy women clients, no matter how much they have, they still don’t believe

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they’re wealthy. And that may be a little bit of a deterrent in investing in this manner. If there’s any inkling that maybe it doesn’t have the same returns for you mentioned or that their husbands may still be involved in the investment decisions, and they’re not enlightened about ESG investing. Yeah, I mean, generally speaking, Boomer men are not as interested in ESG investing as Boomer women, for example, or women in general. And if the male advisor is also not as inclined to promote ESG investing, then I would suspect that a boomer woman who’s delegated the investment management either to her husband or to their advisor, probably just has no idea that it’s even an option. Right? What I find is, the higher the net worth, it’s a little bit like Maslow’s hierarchy. You know, once you’re not worried

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about food and shelter, you suddenly want to give back. And so my higher net worth clients are the ones that are coming to me and saying, look, I, I have an amazing life. I have had an amazing life. I have all of this wealth. And before I leave this earth, I want to do something. And to be honest, so many feel disenfranchised in this political environment. You know, and so my study found that less than 30% of women, regardless of political affiliation, feel that either the government or philanthropy can attack the social issues that we face as a country. So they really want to make a difference with their wealth. And I think the conclusion is that the real power brokers of our capitalist society are corporations. And if we can get corporations to view us as stakeholders.

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Not just investors. But if we really as women care about the environment, if we care about how people are being treated during the pandemic, their working conditions, do they have time off? Can they work from home, then which is a social and ESG? Right? caring about the people in the company’s rank, as well as its master? I mean, there’s a social means the primary question I would have for your audience is, is a company required? Or is it incumbent upon a company to do more than just care about the shareholder? I mean, here we are buying their products at Target or Walmart. You know, is it is there a responsibility on that company to sell us something that’s safe? Mm hmm. You know, the food products, is there a responsibility to protect us? You know, are they responsible for treating

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employees well, do we expect good corporate governance and transparency, diversity on boards and diversity in the workforce, things like that. There. In your book, you cite a couple of examples about companies that didn’t do these things and were hurt in their profits. So can you talk about that. Dick’s Sporting Goods comes to mind and a couple other examples that you mentioned. And the ones that I would point out immediately would be Volkswagen, okay. The amount of shareholder value that was lost because of that emission scandal was enormous. And MSCI had actually downgraded Volkswagen due to complaints, at least a year or two before the scandal ever hit. So if you were a Volkswagen shareholder, and you had been focused on ESG factors, you probably wouldn’t have held Volkswagen when that scandal broke.

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That’s true also with Equifax. It’s true with Wells Fargo. I mean, there are a number of examples of that. I think the Dick’s Sporting Goods example that you’re referring to Cathy has to do with the weeks following the Marjory Stoneman gun shooting. You’ll recall that was when a 17-year-old in Florida went into a high school and opened fire on a group of students with a semi-automatic weapon.

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Anyways, the country was outraged. But the difference this time was that people took to social media, and they started questioning, where did that gun come from? How did the 17-year-old get that gun? Mm hmm. And I know in my office, I had several clients calling and saying I want you to dump all gun stocks, anything that has to do with the gun industry. And so we did that. We found what

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we were looking at some of our ETFs and mutual funds that both Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods to sell guns, they distributed guns. And within two weeks when these companies were faced with economic risk and reputational risk, they had both changed their rules. One

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raised the age from 18 to 21, to buy a gun and the other stopped selling bump stocks entirely. And that’s when I had my aha moment, which was, wow, it took two weeks to change major policy, whereas the NRA and all the political wrangling over the years about gun control, which by the way happens to be one of the issues that Boomer women really care about, regardless of party affiliation. They did it in two weeks. Yeah. So was that the motivation to write this book? Was that one of them? It really was because I saw that

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power being harnessed of economic harm and reputational risk by the consumer and by the investor toward a company, I started to realize that, you know, you could completely bypass politics, you just like go directly to the company and say, I don’t like that you’re doing that, and they will change. Yes. So this is the three pillars thing you talk about. Women traditionally have done charitable work, volunteer, give money to charities. They’ve gotten politically active and voted for their candidate. But what you’re saying that’s all good and that’s important work, charities do important work, but investing is a way to make an even bigger impact on and make change happen in a really astoundingly quick manner. All right. Well, for one thing, I love our charities, I mean, I love them.

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But very few women have enough money to give away that they can move the needle. However, if you’re not giving money away, you’re investing your own assets, but you’re using your wealth to promote causes that you care about. That’s a lot more money that you can leverage. Well, it’s a lot more people investing in that same manner.

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Yeah, pool women’s resources together. It’s as high as $23 trillion.

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And just to put that in perspective, the entire GDP of Australia this year is about 1 trillion. I mean, this is a lot of wealth, and 7% of the nation’s wealth and so it can really move the needle if women will come together and vote with their pocketbooks, so to speak. Well, another interesting point you made in the book is that this is kind of a unique

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time, there’s all these Baby Boomer women, right? And then there’s this one opportunity now to make some real change before we move on, right and pass on. And then new generations may have different ideas. So the time is really now. I also want to bring up another point about right now, we have the pandemic. And we also have all this social unrest with the George Floyd killing, and Black Lives Matter. And I also have my women clients who want to know, what can I do? Everyone’s wondering what can I do to help and this is a great way to do that is to invest in this manner. And so let’s get into more about the specifics of how you invest in this way. So you said earlier, one way is wealthy Boomer women work with financial advisors, right? So they rely on their financial advisors to help them make investment decisions or they just turn over

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the investment decisions to their advisors. So one thing they can ask their advisors to invest in this way. Okay, so, too, so for the advisors listening, I want to just emphasize that you can do ESG investing and build diversified portfolios. As Haleh said earlier, it’s not just about negative screening or positive screening anymore. There is a way to invest in this way called best in class. And Haleh, do you mind just going on a little bit about best in class in ESG investing. Yeah, I’m interested that you asked because the Vatican just came out the Pope did and said that he wanted all good Catholics to divest of all oil stocks.

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I read that and I thought, let’s, let’s logically play that through. You’re an investor. You own Exxon, you sell your Exxon and it goes to somebody else.

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Who buys it? Does that in any way, shape or form injure Exxon? They don’t even know. You know, more than 6 billion trades are made a day. They don’t know whether you’re rebalancing your portfolio or whether you’re making a statement, they’ve already gotten their money at the IPO, you know, you’re not taking money away from them. So what is the best way to show Exxon that you would like for them to come up with alternate forms of fuel, cleaner energy, and leave a better carbon footprint? What is the best way? I would say that the best way is

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to own some of their shares, and potentially vote by proxy, and pool with other people in writing shareholder resolutions. So that’s one option, that’s active ownership approach, right. The other option is simply to buy a fund

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that has already been created that only incorporates the best in class, as you just mentioned. Mm hmm. Let’s say that you have an oil company that’s doing all the right things. And then you’ve got another oil company that just doesn’t care. That fund is going to wait, the better oil companies hire and have very little of the ones that aren’t doing the right things in the fund. And in that way, it’s more of a passive message to the companies that hey, look, if you want to be in this massive fund, which by the way has huge amount of market share, you better step up your game and start doing what this other company is doing. Ya see? I really, to me, that makes so much sense. Because then you can still build a portfolio that has a piece of every industry there is you don’t cut out oil companies you don’t cut out

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companies that make junk food or you know what I mean, you, you have the diverse array of companies. So you can build a diversified portfolio. But you overweight the companies that are doing good, quote unquote. And I want to get to this doing good thing, because who determines which companies are doing better than others in this area? It’s the rating agencies. Right. And I think that’s also another area where there’s some, it’s a little bit gray, because it’s not truly standardized yet. But it’s getting there. Right. Can you speak to that a little bit? Yeah, it’s a lot better than it used to be. But, you know, some of your listeners may have heard the term greenwashing. Right, in order to curry investor favor, every fund and every company says, guess what? We’re ESG when they’re really not, you know, there’s a lot of deception

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going on, because there’s a lot of self-reporting going on. And we have these rating agencies that are doing a phenomenal job, but because the, it’s not as standard as it could be, you might have one company rating the same company completely differently than another. So it’s really important. I mean, this is one of the areas I would say to, to, you know, any investor, if you’re really interested in ESG, it really is worth it to go to someone who understands the space and try to kind of weed out the greenwashed products and try to actually develop a diversified portfolio across all asset classes, not just stocks, but bonds, alternative investments, real estate, there are many, many companies that are doing good while also doing well. But it’s hard to access if you frankly, I mean, you almost have to be a professional to access them.

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Some of these asset classes, yeah, certainly the private equity and alternatives and things like that. But I would argue that an investor can build an ESG portfolio using some of the fund families out there right now, who have really taken this seriously. And I’m, I’m so thrilled to see that you can build a diversified portfolio with large cap, foreign emerging markets, small cap, and, and it’s diversified and it performs well. And you know, sometimes it outperforms even. So it just depends. Yeah, and if you’re worried about returns, I mean, it’s very easy to look up the track record of these funds. You don’t have to take anybody’s word for it. You just look at how they perform. How did they perform in a bull market? How are they performing during the pandemic? Many ESG funds during this pandemic have outperformed, many are positive.

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Yes, I’ve noticed that in my own portfolios and not just because of who I am. I’m absolutely thrilled to see that. So, you know, are we, is there any downside to this kind of investing that you can even

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imagine?

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I Cathy, I really don’t think so. I think this is the wave of the future. I think we as investors expect more from our companies, it’s not just enough to be focused on the bottom line, we really, we can see that with the social unrest in this country after the George Floyd killing, you know, and the pandemic, the disproportionate numbers of minorities that have not only lost jobs but lost their lives, due to a lack of access to health care and education and, you know, jobs that are more secure and so really through ESG we can promote

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and support companies that are supporting these minorities to kind of level the playing field. So it’s, it’s hard for me to see as progress is made over time and we become hopefully a more and more civil society at least that’s my hope that this just won’t become the standard. This type of investing is not replacing fundamental stock valuation, it’s an add on

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to all the other fundamental criteria, it still has to be a good investment for you to invest in it. Right, an added bonus. And I would say that if a company is performing well in this added criteria, that they’re going to do better over the long term. Right. And, and also, many rating agencies are looking at ESG criteria now too I mean, S&P and Morningstar and all the big ones right? And it’s because

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there is a demand for this kind of investing, maybe starting with the millennial generation. But there is a demand. But I think also we can’t discount the impact of social media. I mean, things are so digital, that if a company does something, quote unquote, bad, everyone’s gonna know it’s instantaneous around the world. So companies really have to protect their brand. Companies that have behaved well during the pandemic. I’m thinking of Ford, you know, converting some of their manufacturing to make face shields. People know that it’s warm and fuzzy. It’s US company. Yeah. And you think of other companies that haven’t done so well. Right. You know, and you don’t forget that when you’re at the grocery store, and maybe you don’t want to buy that product. So

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we can’t lose sight of the fact that reputational risk has

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gone through the roof in terms of its ability to

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go across boundaries, and everyone’s going to know everything instantaneously. Yes. Well, I have to say I think your book is extremely timely. I know, I know, you published it when earlier in the year, it was February and I was thinking to myself, you know, is anyone going to be interested in ESG? Like people are interested in the E part, which is the environment, but who cares about social justice, right, but look at now, I know, I get out there and talk to as many people as you can, because people have their ears open and are listening. Yeah, I actually read recently that the interest in ESG is up 140% since the pandemic, that’s amazing. It is amazing.

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So as an advisor, let’s say you’re an advisor, you haven’t done this kind of investing before, right? And you want

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to

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let’s say you can do it management approves a bit and all that right? And a client walks through the door and you don’t know whether they care about it or not. Would you offer it as an option? Would you educate? Would you do what you normally do? I think this is a question that advisors have. How do I dip my toes in if I’ve never done this before? Um, well, we at Stearns are launching our ESG platform to coincide with the publication of this book. Okay. Basically, we have a fund lineup and some private investments across all asset classes that is ESG focused. And when we have someone coming in off the street when they sit down and we you know, you chat with them, you find out what their goals are. We make that an option. I mean, it’s not something that they have to do. Some people immediately gravitate toward it.

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You know, I mean, it kind of blows my mind that we’re in a capitalist society. And if I asked you, Cathy, for example, what did your portfolio do last year, you’d be able probably to give me the return and the standard deviation and return the whole thing.

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If I asked you, well, what causes did your assets support, you know, you might be met with a blank stare. And so it really is an epiphany for potential clients, or even existing clients when you tell them that, you know, I know you’ve been really bothered about all the stuff that’s going on, you know, if you want to do something about it, there is a way and you know, and they don’t have to, but they need to know that that option is out there. Right. Okay. So your company is offering it as an optional type of portfolio. Yeah. And are you heading up that initiative? That’s fantastic. That’s very, very exciting. I mean, we work as a team and so I’ve got

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my investment department who actually put together and researches the fund lineup, but, you know, I think and it’s probably because I’m a woman advisor and 95% of my clients are women, and I find that women really want to make a difference, they care about the greater good. Yeah, I can’t take credit for the concept because it started with my women clients, asking, you know, what can I do? Well, it’s just another piece of your toolkit. It’s another pillar to do something that supports your values. And I, you know, I agree with your message. I’m really happy that you have taken this on. It’s obviously a real strong passion for me too. And I hope that our listeners will take this as a starting point to dig in deeper, learn more.

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You know, listen to their clients, talk to their clients.

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And, and we can all create change together.

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I love that message, Cathy, thanks for doing what you’re doing. And thanks for having me on. Thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to add? For example, where can people buy your book? And do you have a blog or podcast, anything you’d like to share with us on your public platform? We kind of deferred the official launch of the book because the pandemic hit and it didn’t even occur to me that, you know, my book would become more relevant. I was thinking who’s interested in a book when everybody’s worried about this Coronavirus, but it is out there on Amazon and readily available that way. Okay. We’re having a formal book launch

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upcoming but it hasn’t happened yet. Okay, well, I’m excited for you. Thank you for taking the time to write this book and putting all the research and thought you did into it and I’m looking forward to hearing

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more. Thanks Cathy.

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