The recent Gamestop stock incident revealed yet again how speculative and predatory our financial system is here in the U.S. Likewise, it reaffirmed my decision to remove most of my retirement funds from the stock market and direct them towards more meaningful, and impactful investments that address our major social and environmental challenges instead of exacerbating them, while building more tangible and resilient wealth. That debacle also made me even more appreciative of the pioneering work being done by socially conscious wealth advisor Angela Barbash of Revalue.
I discovered Angela early on in my efforts to research more ethical investing options and have continued to see her name referenced in a variety of socially responsible investing circles since then. She is one of the few financial advisors I know of who is familiar with permaculture and trying to incorporate those principles and ethics into their practice, which makes her work truly innovative. One particularly unique and impressive way Angela and the team at Revalue are doing that is by making access to financial advisory services more easily accessible to investors who may not have the standard $50,000+ minimum investing portfolio usually required to work with a socially conscious wealth advisor.
Get ready my dear readers to meet the future of socially conscious investing….
How did your early life experiences lead you to establish Revalue, which is a socially conscious wealth advisory firm?
I grew up in a precarious environment – economically, socially, and physically. I spent most of my childhood as the only child to my single mother who was employed but suffered from mental illness and addiction. I then spent a few years as one of four children to my father, who was the first generation in his family to have left the migrant farmworker life to pursue a career that should have secured him in the middle class, but really it did not. In both families, I saw how tenuous economic security was, how elusive the middle class was for families that were living paycheck to paycheck, and how complex financial decision-making was for them.
In school, I excelled at math, in college (which itself was a struggle to get to and stay in) I fell in love with cultural anthropology, and my first couple of mentors impressed the importance of purpose-driven work upon me. Those three elements converged into a professional choice when I was 23 to become a financial advisor so I could better learn how money worked, in order to make a positive impact with my life.
It took me a decade to understand the industry well enough to know what needed to change about it, which is when Revalue was born. It has taken another decade since landing on the change that needed to happen to understand how to do this work effectively and efficiently, and for the market to be ready for this kind of change. The 40 years’ evolution it has taken me to get to this point of understanding is why I often tell people this is 100 years’ work. We do this for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. The work required to change our systems extends beyond my lifetime alone.
How is Revalue challenging business as usual investing and redefining wealth for good?
There are a number of things that are unique about Revalue, and they all start with our perspective and core values. We believe prosperity is founded on a sense of abundance and community connection. Our wealth is more than the monetary value of our assets. Our health, social connections, how we use our time, and our skills are also part of what makes our lives full and rich.
So, we say yes, we need to be conscious about where your dollars are when in the public markets, which means supporting companies that support your values, but let us also think beyond public markets. That’s where all kinds of creativity comes into play in the work we do with our clients. We help them invest for impact outside of the public markets and within themselves. That could mean investing in solar panels on their home, investing in taking a sabbatical from work so they can make a values-aligned career change, investing time into building bridges across socioeconomic divides, or investing in a business that adds value to the fabric of their town.
We were in the first round of investment firms in the U.S. – and the first to have an employee-ownership model – to become a Certified B Corporation®, which are companies that meet the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B Corps leaders are people that use business as a force for good. For some companies, becoming B Corp Certified is the thing that makes them step up to becoming a better business. For Revalue, it was a third party look under the hood to validate what we had already committed to by launching the firm in the first place. In fact, we are excited to be recertifying in 2021 so we can test our systems and evolution against today’s even more rigorous standards.
How do you suggest people get started learning about impact investing and investing opportunities that might be open to them?
There are a ton of great resources online, but we will highlight our favorites here. For folks who may not be ready to work with an advisor yet, we recommend they take advantage of great reporting at ImpactAlpha and Locavesting.; connect with other investors on The Next Egg. and organizations like Zebras Unite or Social Venture Network; and follow the research provided by the US Sustainable Investment Forum (US SIF) and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN).
There are over 50 community investment platforms registered by the SEC in the U.S., which can be overwhelming to check on a regular basis, so we often recommend that investors start by following Investibule, which aggregates links to offerings across many of the platforms.
You are a national leader in local investing and community development services. Do you foresee it becoming easier for non-accredited investors to invest in their local economy? If so, what are some shining lights you see on the horizon?
I think the rise of community investment funds will make it easier for investors to engage in investing locally. The due diligence involved for both investors and advisors is still technically daunting and there are already professionals in communities directing grant and loan funds that do that work day in and day out. The change will be to open those funds to “retail”, or nonaccredited, investors in the community.
The other big improvements I’m starting to see on the horizon is support for legal services for the companies so bringing a capital raise to market is more affordable for them and infrastructure services for market participants to more effectively communicate, share documents, and opensource their learnings.
How are you blending business as usual retirement planning concepts – such as asset allocation, different types of investment accounts, and required minimum distribution or drawdown plans – with your less conventional impact investing approach to wealth building?
This is an interesting question and one that we are just beginning to explore. We saw a great spreadsheet that had been shared with the Next Egg community about how an alternative lifestyle could pan out in terms of retirement costs, which got us thinking even more broadly than we already had.
Right now, we focus on helping clients develop path options for themselves. Some people see retirement as selling everything and buying an RV to travel the country. Some people see it as buying 10 acres for multiple families to move on to, creating their own enclave. Some people see it as paying off their mortgage, buying a cottage up north and spending their time between the two. And some see it as no different than life in their 40s, in that they plan to keep working until they physically or mentally cannot anymore.
I think the concept of business-as-usual retirement planning went out the window about 20 years ago and the next gen of advisors (my generation) don’t really know anything else – no family or person’s idea about retirement seems to be the same as it is.
How do you educate your clients about non-monetary forms of capital and encourage them to consider these additional forms of capital in their overall wealth building portfolio?
In our Cohort program, one of the sessions is about the holistic balance sheet, which takes a step in the direction of the various forms of capital as outlined in the permaculture community (plus health as an additional form of capital ). In our day-to-day practice, we still primarily focus on the financial aspects of wealth. We then integrate these other forms of capital into our personal discussions and educational gatherings.
Revalue is leading the way in making impact investing more accessible to everyday investors, who may not have large amounts of money to start investing with. Can you tell us about the upcoming Collaborative Cohort experience Revalue will be offering and how it aims to make impact investing more accessible?
The Spring 2021 Cohort is a special 6-month program that is paired with investment management services. The program consists of monthly gatherings that are one part learning, one part peer-to-peer connection, and one part introspection. Our goal is to help investors find the inspiration they need to continue crafting a life of health, wealth, and purpose. The program is cross-class, giving people an opportunity to sit side by side with multi-generational inheritors and those finding financial stability for the first time in their lives.
In addition to the monthly gatherings, new clients will also come into our practice for investment management. We have included information about the Cohort programming and what it means to be an investment management client in the application, which will be open March 1st-12th. Your readers can find complete information about our services and fees by checking out our Client Brochure here.
Who Wants to Join Me in Revalue’s Spring 2021 Cohort?
I plan on registering for this Cohort program. If you are seeking to work with a cutting edge socially conscious wealth advisor, who is taking a much more holistic approach to wealth building, I invite you to consider doing the same. The Revalue team is making this unique opportunity available to more people by offering it on a sliding payment scale.
If you are intrigued by Angela’s story and her team’s approach to investing you can hear more about their inspiring work in this interview with Angela on the VC’s Off the Record podcast. And I second her recommendation to check out The Next Egg. It is the best online space I know of for those of us pursuing this alternative path to building wealth in line with our values.
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