Investing In Human Flourishing

Cartoon collaboration with Liza Donnelly.

As published as part of the SheMoney newsletter on LinkedIn.

Welcome to SheMoney 2022! I hope your year is off to a lovely start so far. Of course, I have to acknowledge that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, and therefore it may be hard to set intentions for a year full of peace, good health, prosperity, and perhaps even joy. That said, I invite you to do so anyway. And if you are like me, you could probably use some assistance. Thankfully, there are lots of tools, protocols, and digital therapeutics that are available to help, and most of these offerings are from relatively new companies. So how did these companies come to be and where are we going from here? Read on…

One of the reasons these resources exist in the world is because there are inspired investors who are tracking the science around the positive impact of contemplative practices. These investors have then supported the founders, and thereby the companies, that bring this science to life. In this first newsletter of SheMoney 2022, I want to highlight two investors who have developed and implemented an investment thesis that is truly changing lives for the better. They are investing in human flourishing, and I could not think of a more fantastic way to start the new year.

With that in mind, I’m thrilled to present Maureen Pelton and Charlie Hartwell. Our paths crossed a couple of years ago when they decided to move to Utah, and we were shortly thereafter introduced by mutual friends. Maureen is the Co-Founder of ShiftIt Institute (along with Charlie) and a pioneer in the field of embodiment, and Charlie is a change agent and Managing Director at Bridge Builders Collaborative (where Maureen is a partner). Not only are they married, but they have also blended their backgrounds to help ignite consciousness, inspire human potential, and create a paradigm shift. Their investment thesis started with a focus on the wellness of the individual as it relates to mindfulness, meditative practices, and mind-training to support human consciousness. Over the years, they have further developed a ‘going deeper’ approach. In this new phase of their work, together with the other partners at the Bridge Builders Collaborative, they are focusing on deeper levels of mental health, consciousness, and spirituality.

A photo of Charlie and Maureen looking directly into the camera.

Bridge Builders is an investment collaborative with eleven partners. When you visit their website, it welcomes you with this line: “From mind-training to deeper models of mental, social, spiritual well-being”. They invest in start-up companies that empower mental health, consciousness, and spirituality, and their first investment screen is Impact. As in, how will this company support (impact) a better planet? You can read more about their mission and criteria here, but let’s just say that their investment thesis has led them to invest in some of the most transformational companies of our time. Companies that are currently serving millions of people and supporting those people’s wellness journey. You can find a list of these companies here, but a few of their more well known examples include:

InsightTimer – A conscious community of 20M people, interacting with over 10,000 leading spiritual teachers in over 40 languages. The largest conscious community/library on the planet.

Pear Therapeutics – Recently IPOed, this is a whole new form of digital medicine, approved by the FDA (like software as a drug).

Muse – Muse is a brain-sensing headband that uses real-time biofeedback to help you refocus during the day and recover overnight.

Headspace – Headspace rebranded meditation and made it accessible to the masses, with over 60M downloads to date. And a multi billion dollar valuation.

The science, and their investment thesis, also led Maureen and Charlie into the world of psychedelics. Now, if you’re currently thinking, “Are you kidding me?!”, I was right there with you up until a couple of years ago. However, I have since learned, in part by reading the data put forth by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), that these compounds and protocols may offer hope to millions of people who are suffering from depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and more. There are over 50 publicly traded companies in this space, and even an ETF. Maureen and Charlie, through Bridge Builders Collaborative, have invested in a few companies, but I should note that they also have deep concerns about the direction many of the companies in this space are taking. While there is certainly a lot of hope that research and investment in this area might revolutionize behavioral health, there are also a lot of risks.  Maureen and Charlie believe that in order for the psychedelic movement to reach its transformative potential, we need to combine the molecules with very well-trained psychedelic therapists, and insure that intention and set and setting of the experience is appropriate for the patient. Crucially, this needs to be combined with proper preparation and integration after a psychedelic assisted therapy session.

To this end, one of the companies they are excited about is Synthesis, “a global leader of the modern psychedelic movement, advancing scientific research, training and education to create access to safe, legal psychedelic experiences for integrative healing and expansion.” They are also excited about HighVibe Network, a blockchain based ecosystem designed to integrate immersive experiences, multidimensional learning, and personal development, and HealthRhythms, a mental health app that uses Machine Learning to translate daily activity into sophisticated insights that can predict bad outcomes before they occur.

In the interest of transparency, I am not an investor in any of the companies listed above. However, I am a consumer. As more of these companies do go public, being both an investor and a consumer is possible. It’s also always worth remembering that one of the best screens for a stock you might consider investing in is whether or not you would be a consumer of their products and/or services.

There is so much more to talk about with Maureen and Charlie, and thankfully, you can visit the ShiftIt Institute and listen to podcasts they have done on a variety of topics. You can also join me on LinkedIn Live to ask them questions directly. This conversation will take place on Thursday, January 20th at 12pm MT//2pm ET. Click here to join.

Headshots of Jacki, Charlie, and Maureen announcing the LinkedIn Live event.

Many people I speak with are skeptical about whether or not there is any good that can come out of capitalism. They likely find phrases like “conscious capitalism” and “investing for good” particularly cringeworthy. But I don’t. I believe that investment capital, intentionally deployed in private and public companies, can create a better world. Yes, it takes time, effort, knowledge, and money to do so, and not everyone has those resources to deploy. But what we all have is our purchasing power. We all buy products and services every day, and the bottom line is that these transactions make the companies that receive investment capital successful. Facebook, now MetaPlatforms Inc., has a market capitalization of nearly one trillion dollars because, in part, we all use Facebook. If Facebook did not have so many users, people, both individual and institutional investors, would be less willing to own the stock. It really is as simple as that.

Therefore, whether you have capital to invest directly in companies or not, I invite you to develop your own investment thesis that can be realized through how you make every day purchasing decisions. The more we understand that every time we buy something, anything, we are transferring power from our hands to another, the better chance we have of actually making the world a better place. Maureen and Charlie are shining examples of how to do just that.

A Holiday Gift Giving Playbook

A cartoon of a woman reaching a hand up as she is buried in a mountain of presents and objects.
Original cartoon by Liza Donnelly

As published as part of the SheMoney newsletter on LinkedIn.

‘Tis the Season… to shop. According to a recent estimate, Americans will spend around $860 billion this holiday season. This article also notes that compared to last year, Americans overall have more money to spend on themselves and on others. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Because the fact of the matter is that most of us are over-consumers, meaning we buy and own more than we need. And during the holiday season, we likely buy presents for others who are also over-consumers, and who also don’t need more stuff. All of which is incredibly damaging to our environment as well as our bank accounts. That being said, if we stop over buying things, our economy will grind to a halt, good businesses will go under, and people will financially suffer. Our economy relies on over-consumption to grow.

So the question becomes this: How do I, you, all of us, reconcile the fact that in order to save our planet, we need to buy less, and yet if we don’t continue to buy stuff, particularly from women+ and other marginalized communities, our economy will tank and businesses owned by women+ will suffer? Furthermore, every dollar that we spend on more stuff is a dollar that is not saved, not invested, and cannot be used to buy us the most precious thing of all – financial freedom. Of course, the goal is not to be a Grinch, either towards ourselves or towards others. Instead, the answer is more conscious consumerism. So this holiday season, I decided to create a shopping and gift-giving playbook to help guide myself, and you if you are interested, with this process. But first, a confession.

I’m a “shopper”. This is the label that some of my family and friends have given me. Of course, being a “shopper” could just literally mean a person who is shopping. But in my case, it means a person who LOVES to shop. As my mom likes to say, “Jacki has never gone into a store that she hasn’t liked.” This may not be exactly true, but it is somewhat true. And therefore, because of this, I decided to do what I have never done, and I looked up the definition of a shopping addict. It is quite an expansive definition, and while I don’t fit neatly into it, I messily do. As I said. I’m a shopper.

Over the years, I have justified my overconsumption with the fact that I can afford it. I also compare myself to some of my friends and think to myself, “I spend less than they do, so I’m good.” Talk about a slippery slope. I also tell myself that buying things, especially from women+ founders and business owners, is a good thing. And it is. But I can support women+ businesses and still have an overconsumption problem. By acknowledging this to myself, and to you, I am bringing more self-awareness to my behaviors and invite you to do the same. Bottom line, as a society, we need to consume less, consume more responsibly, and if we all come together in this, we can truly have a big impact.

Conscious consumerism — sometimes called ethical consumerism or conscientious consumerism — is shopping in ways one believes makes a positive social, environmental, or economic impact.

This is a massively, and I mean massively significant concept to embrace, especially in a culture where we use the phrase “change the world” way too much. This behavior, when adopted at critical mass, truly will change our communities, not to mention the world more generally. Back in 2012, I gave a TEDxWomen talk in which I declared that our spending dollars are the most underused tool for social change. And I stand by that declaration nearly a decade later. In the US, women control up to 85% of consumer purchasing decisions, and therefore any mass change in our spending habits will be instantaneously felt. This is why buycotts are perhaps the most powerful tool in a financial activist’s playbook.

So this holiday season, of course it’s wonderful to give presents to your loved ones, but my invitation is to do so more intentionally. I am trying to do it more intentionally. Take a little extra time to think about what you are buying, and maybe even do a little homework before making your purchases. To help with this, I decided to create a 2021 holiday shopping playbook, although I should say that this is still a work in progress. I welcome YOUR ideas and feedback once you’ve had a read through.

1) Make a list of the people to whom you want to give gifts, and create both a per person and overall spending budget. Review it, perhaps edit it down, and then review it again. Really know what you are spending this year and can afford to spend. And don’t forget about charitable gifting as well. Did you have an especially prosperous year? If so, great, be generous!

2) Think about what would be a meaningful gift for each person. I have often fallen into the trap of buying things that I like for a person, rather than taking the time to think about what the recipient would really like. Because if the recipient doesn’t need it, like it, or want it, the purchase is truly a waste. If the goal of gift giving is an expression of love and generosity, take a minute to make it so.

3) People often say that our most valuable resource is time, so think about giving a togetherness gift. Does your friend love movies, hikes, foot massages, or going to a new restaurant? If so, make the gift time together doing what they like and you treat! And because it is so easy to not make it happen, make sure you take the time to schedule it.

A photo of two jars of homemade jam sitting on a table in front of a sign that says Merry ChristmasNo alt text provided for this image

3) Homemade gifts are awesome. Yes to a plate of homemade cookies, but also, get creative. This year, I plan on making a big pot of soup, Russian borscht, that is a family recipe, and gifting it along with some fresh bread and the recipe. I also made jam and canned peaches with fruit from our family orchard this past summer, and it will also go into baskets with some cheese and crackers. (check out @hoffmanorchards on instagram) Personally, I love giving and receiving food gifts, especially when they are packaged with love.

A photo of homemade crafts and food items, packaged in plastic and sitting in a line on a table.No alt text provided for this image

4) Shop local holiday markets. This past weekend I went to one here in Park City, and I loaded up on homemade bath balms, chocolate covered pretzels, and other locally made goodies. Not only do you meet the maker, but you also keep your money in your community and support local entrepreneurs and artisans.

5) Give photos in a frame that captures a memory from the year. In a world where most photos are viewed digitally, taking the time to print a photo and frame it is both thoughtful and awesome.

A photo of three books sitting on a table.No alt text provided for this image

6) Give books. For me, I have been digging reading poetry this past year so I have handpicked some poetry books that are aligned to my friends interests and life events.

7) Give cash gifts. I have often felt strange giving cash gifts thinking it may be perceived as not thoughtful or intentional. If you really don’t know what to give someone, and/or you know that they may really appreciate pure financial support, cash with a thoughtful note may be perfect.

8) Buy from women+ owned and operated businesses (this is, after all, SheMoney). You can do this for local businesses or online, or even brands that you find at big box retailers. And if you need some suggestions of where to start, check out The Verticale, which just partnered with The Helm and brings forth women-owned and sustainable offerings. You can also check out the Holiday Gift Guide by the Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College which I just received in my inbox. I am also going to take a moment to shamelessly champion two companies that are owned by friends of mine; Zenzee by Sharon Backurz and Michael Stars by Suzanne Lerner. They both produce gorgeous women’s clothing. (photo of me with Sharon)

A photo of author Jacki Zehner in front of a photo of Sharon Backurz.No alt text provided for this image

8) And finally, what about all the big producers and retailers? Thankfully, there are many resources available to help you make smart decisions about which ones to support and which ones to avoid. One of the tools I use is GenderFair, which ranks a company’s commitment to gender equality. You can download the app, or sign-up to be sent a shopping guide of the best companies in lots of different consumer categories by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom.

One final note. I just finished reading The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness by Morgan Housel. In it, Housel talks about having goals around money, and how his primary goal is independence. He says that, “independence at any income level is driven by your savings rate”, and the big message of the book is to save more. The key to saving more? Not wasting money. So this holiday season, know that it’s possible to be intentional, generous, and loving in your gift-giving, while also spending less and saving more.

As mentioned above, this guide is a work in progress. I would love to hear ideas you have about holiday gift giving. If you have favorite companies and platforms, share those too!

Happy holidays! Wishing each and every one of you health and happiness.

Does talking about money make you uncomfortable? That’s okay. Do it anyway.

A cartoon of a couple sitting at a table at a restaurant. The caption reads, "Honey, we have to talk about money in case one of us gets hit by a bus."
Original cartoon by Liza Donnelly

As published on LinkedIn as part of the SheMoney monthly newsletter.

I have been having a lot of difficult conversations lately, and many of them are about money. Despite how much I read and write about this topic, I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to my own relationship with my financial resources. And as it turns out, it’s not just me. I know this because over the past several months, I have asked friends of different ages and financial circumstances to share the difficult money conversations that they have either had or really need to have with their loved ones. And every day, that list keeps getting longer. To date, the range of topics covers every possible category of life, including education, family, friendships, dating, marriage, investments, and so much more.

For example, a friend entering into a serious relationship wondered when it was the right time to talk about money values with her prospective partner. Another friend, who is in the everyone-is-getting-married phase of her life, doesn’t know how to tell her friends that she really can’t afford to be a bridesmaid or attend a destination wedding. A very wealthy woman told me that she stopped asking her husband about their financial situation years ago, and now she doesn’t know how to ask about it without fear that her husband will think she does not trust him. I could go on and on.

A photo of Jacki Zehner talking to a group of women with a board full of post its in the background.

A photo of Jacki Zehner, talking to a group of seated women. There is a big board full of post-its behind her.It was questions like these that inspired last month’s ShePlace event at the Kiln in Park City, where we hosted our very first Money Mingle. For this event, we curated 11 introspective questions on the topic of money to help facilitate a discussion around our individual and collective challenges when it comes to caring for our financial well-being. We hung these prompts throughout the space and invited our guests to anonymously write their responses on post-its. We then shared these responses with the group and used them to guide our discussion. It was incredible how much there was to learn from one another, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to really discuss the barriers we all share in common when it comes to engaging more fully with our financial resources. The top barriers that attendees listed and we discussed? Time, self-confidence, a feeling of being overwhelmed, and not knowing where to begin.

All of us at ShePlace were blown away by the event attendees’ willingness to be honest and vulnerable about their experiences with their money. Of course, it was simply not possible to solve everyone’s money challenges in one meeting. But we did get the conversation started and encouraged everyone to just do something. Not everything. Something.

Curious about the 11 questions? Click here to take a short money survey. I guarantee it will get you thinking about your own money story and the conversations you may need to have. All responses will be anonymous, but we will report back on the results, along with resources to address the most common questions.

So what was the difficult conversation about money that I most needed to have? For me, that difficult conversation revolved around “What if?” As in, what if I die prematurely? What would happen then? I had a health scare last year, and while I am okay now, my husband and I realized that our thinking, and our planning, was very outdated. I needed to have that conversation with my loved ones, because talking about the financial implications of your death is one of the most important conversations we all simply must have.

It is also essential to have a will. Full stop. Every adult needs a will. But if you don’t have one, don’t know where to start, and/or truly can’t afford to do it, I get it. As of May of last year, 68% of all Americans did not have a will, and while I really do not want to scare you, you really don’t want to die without one. To do so is called dying “intestate”, which means that instead of your estate being distributed as you would wish, it will be distributed according to intestacy laws. These vary country by country, and in the US, they also vary state by state. They also tend to be overly complex and difficult to navigate.

That being said, in general, when a person dies intestate, their estate is turned over to probate courts to be distributed among surviving spouses and descendants. While this may seem logically sound, it can have enormous negative implications on anyone in non-traditional families and/or those whose closest loved ones are not blood/legal relatives. Studies have also shown that the widespread phenomenon of unintended intestacy is greatly contributing to the problem of income inequality in the US. And data shows that intestacy unfairly and disproportionately affects minorities and other marginalized communities in many other negative ways.

So with all of these well documented downsides, why do nearly 70% of Americans still not have a will? Testamentary freedom, meaning the right of an owner of property to control its disposition in death, is a right that is enshrined in the US Constitution. And yet only 32% of Americans take advantage of this right? Academics have studied this issue to try and discern the reason, but like everything else in life, there are no easy answers. For example, some have theorized that psychological resistance to thinking about our own death is the main reason why so few adults have wills. And that makes sense to me. Both money and death can be taboo topics, so who wants to talk about wills, a topic that combines both? And yet people aren’t adverse to setting up other forms of non-testamentary transfers, such as life insurance and account beneficiaries, so that can’t be the whole reason. It has also been speculated that the entire process of creating a legal will is and/or is perceived as being too complex, unwieldy, and costly. And this is probably true. But there are lots of resources available to help guide people through the process of creating their own will. I plan on sharing these in the coming months through an upcoming series of ShePlace money guides, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, please start talking to your family about what will happen to your estate when you die. Create and/or update your will. And make sure that your loved ones are having these same conversations about their own estates. Make no mistake, being willing to have these difficult conversations means being willing to be vulnerable, and that takes so much courage. And if you need some guidance on this, I suggest you look into the work of Brené Brown, a researcher who has spent decades studying courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame. I have not yet had the privilege of meeting Ms. Brown, but she is at the top of my list of people with whom I’d love to have dinner, and I highly recommend all her work, including her books, podcasts, and Netflix special. There is so much to say about all of it, but she says it so much better than me.

A close up headshot photo of Brene Brown looking straight into the camera and smiling.

So here is my main takeaway as it relates to difficult conversations about money. Just do it. Be vulnerable. Yes, it will be hard. But the benefits will outweigh the cost. I promise.

And… Happy Holidays! Wishing you and yours the very best.

As always, thanks to Lisa Donnelly for her collaborative and original cartoon.