A Year in Review: SheMoney 2021

Published as part of the SheMoney newsletter on LinkedIn.

Happy New Year! Does anyone else feel really strange writing 2022? For a gal born in 1964, writing 2022, well, makes me feel old. It feels like the future has just arrived on my doorstep. Something feels different, and I can’t quite put my finger on why it feels that way. I did wake up at 2:22 am last night, mainly because my dog Sadie was pushing me off the bed, so that was weird. Maybe this is the year I embrace the strange, the mystical, the new, the uncomfortable, and if so, then I better bring all of that to SheMoney, right?

I am ending the year reading about NFTs, DAOs, blockchain, and I have to say my mind is on fire. I did invest in my first blockchain focused fund of funds this year (Accolade Partners), and I have committed to a similar focused fund run by an awesome woman. So far I own no crypto, have no hot or cold wallets, but it’s going to happen soon. The best way to learn about new things is to commit. Not sure what the hay doodle I am talking about? No problem. You are not alone, and I’ll bring my learnings here. I am also spending time in traditional financial spaces pondering how the U.S. 10-year treasury yield can be below 1.5% at a time when inflation feels like it’s at 30% (even though it was just reported at 6.8%). And what might be the implications of interest rates ever rise? I have taken to reading academic papers on the Keynesian view of interest rates and researching “Modern Monetary Theory” to try to make sense of things. My husband and I always have a year end call with our investment advisors, and we were making predictions on things like where the S&P would be this time next year, as well as other financial measures. The range of predictions on the S&P 500 from the big banks is up 9% to down 8% as an fyi. I am still working on my predictions, just for fun, and like everyone else’s, including the experts and the pundits, they are all just guesses.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is a policy model for funding government spending. … The essential message of MMT is that there is no financial constraint on government spending as long as a country is a sovereign issuer of currency and does not tie the value of its currency to another currency.

What I am witnessing is the old and the new worlds of money, finance, economics, value creation, and investing colliding in to one another. It feels interesting, messy, challenging, disorienting and I more-or-less dig it. I am feeling like there is no need to watch the next iteration of The Matrix movie as I, we, just might be living in it. Actually that is a lie, of course I am going to watch it, the first Matrix is one of my favorite movies of all time.

So what you can expect as a reader of this newsletter in 2022? With the help of my team at ShePlace, a heck of a lot more. As mentioned above, I will be taking you on my learning journey in to new areas and featuring amazing investors, concepts, companies, and more. If you are a new reader of my content, you may not know that I began writing, well blogging, back in 2008. Since that time I have published close to 1000 articles that range from well-constructed opinion pieces that landed on the front page of The Huffington Post (and yes it still exists by the way, I just checked), almost 200 posts on the financial markets, summaries of the best films from the Sundance Film Festival, and more. That said, just over a year ago I became much more focused on writing about money. I launched the SheInvests Newsletter — now called SheMoney — which will continue to be monthly, and I will also post regularly on my feed on not only money, but many other topics.

So, thank you for subscribing. As we wrap up 2021 please find below a summary of what I shared on SheMoney this past year in case you missed any of the newsletters. One big highlight was my creative partnership with award winning cartoonist Liza Donnelly. I hope you have, and will continue, to enjoy our original content created just for SheMoney. Liza and I are working on a cartoon book on women and money by the way, and I am also dreaming of becoming a stand-up comedian. As my friend Gloria Steinem famously said..

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

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A Holiday Gift Giving Playbook – How do you reconcile the overconsumption of the holidays with your desire to support businesses owned and/or led by marginalized groups? SheMoney offers a playbook for using conscious consumerism to guide your purchases this holiday season.

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Does talking about money make you uncomfortable? That’s okay. Do it anyway. – It’s time to have real conversations about money, especially with our loved ones.

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11 Steps to Becoming A Financial Superhero – This piece shares my love for the character of Wonder Woman and provides a glimpse of my collection. It got me thinking about the characteristics and behaviors associated with becoming a financial superhero. One of my favorite pieces I have ever written. I hope you dig it, too.

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Introducing SheMoney! What’s Your Money Story? – In the first issue of the newly re-branded SheMoney, I share my money story and invite everyone to share theirs as well.

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Financial Feminism: Invest, Give, Spend – I believe that the future of feminism is finance, and in this issue I outline the three pillars of how everyone can be a Financial Feminist: Investing, Giving, and Spending.

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#FreeBritney, Financial Abuse and Power-To – The story of Britney Spears’ conservatorship is at its core a story of financial abuse. And, sadly, it is a story that is far too common. The good news is that the year ended with Ms. Spears reclaiming her financial and personal freedom.

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WTF? Invest in Women and BIPOC Founders, now. – This is my favorite cartoon of the year and it will make sense when you read the article. Some might say I temporarily lost my marbles when I dumped a box of Cheerios on my counter and started counting. I say no. How better to represent how little money goes to female and BIPOC founders? This article is a call to action, and I am proud to say that I put my money where my values are and invested in a number of funds this past year. This will remain a big focus in 2022.

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Melinda+Laurene+MacKenzie + We Are The Women We Have Been Waiting For – Some of the most transformative philanthropists today are women. In this issue I take a look at the big three: Melinda French Gates, Laurene Powell Jobs, and MacKenzie Scott. And yes, I do know that ‘the big three’ is a This is Us reference, and I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THE NEW SEASON coming soon. When I joined Women Moving Millions back in 2009, I dreamed of the day that female billionaires would be at the forefront of philanthropy, and now they are. I think that’s pretty damn cool.

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Sistering Up: But first, canapé anyone? – My first collaborative cartoon with Liza! This issue introduces the concept of Sistering Up, an idea that SheMoney/ShePlace keeps coming back to time and time again. It might even be our mantra! Sistering is a construction term, which means to make stronger. Sistering up is a framework on how to support one another and make each other stronger.

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Financial Activism – Using the example of Amazon Watch, SheMoney talks about how we can align our investments with our values.

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You Need to Know About SheEO! – SheEO is changing the financial status quo. In this issue, I interview SheEO Founder Vicki Saunders, and let’s just say she has A LOT to say about how the current financial models are not working.

For The First Time EVER – A Woman Holds The Most Senior Financial Position in the United States of America – In this issue, I celebrate the appointment of Janet Yellen to the most senior financial position in the U.S. and talk about why this is a big deal.

Once again, Happy New Year! Wishing you and yours health, happiness, and prosperity.


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.

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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.