Occupation: Principal and founder of Social Currents, a communications consultancy in the social and environmental sectors.
Earnings: About $120,000 per year, much of which currently goes back into my business.
Assets and liabilities: A home in Nelson, which is almost mortgage-free, worth about $600,000; $330,000 in RRSPs. My husband, Lex, is retired and has a modest pension from his career in public health.
Retirement: My work is my passion, so I’m not sure that I’ll ever retire. More and more, though, I would like to have fewer things expected of me. By 65, I could see being very choosy about what I take on, and working half the time I currently put in; certainly by 70.
Even planners balk at money talk
For a whole host of reasons, people have a lot of issues around talking about things — like sex, religion and money — that destabilize the power structure. For example, it’s taboo to talk about salary, so people often don’t know if they’re being paid equitably.
But money drives the issues. It’s what will help solve social and environmental problems. And that’s why financial planners, accountants and lawyers are a community that can make or break our ability to create a better world for our children and grandchildren.
In my role as a fundraiser, working with many of these professionals, I discovered they have the same hang-ups as the rest of us around talking about money. So, I started a series of workshops for financial professionals to learn how to talk about the role of money in their own and their clients’ lives: specifically, what do they want their clients to build with their wealth?
Finding a place in the green economy
I found my financial planner about 15 years ago, when we both sat on the board of a college foundation. I liked his style and approach; he was very generous with his time to the foundation, and I liked his values. If he hadn’t kept pushing us to think about retirement planning, we probably wouldn’t have done much, or enough, about it.
I sometimes think that the term “financial planning” is a bit inaccurate, though, when an advisor approaches it as a specific set of tools, like stocks and mutual funds and insurance. For example, we thought about diversifying our investments to include buying another property, but that wasn’t advised because real estate was outside the products our advisor sold. I’d like it to be more holistic.
Our money is in the green economy: the low-carbon transition and cannabis. We’ve had to have lots of conversations with our advisor about aligning what we care about in the world with where we put our money. I think the advisor community has been very slow to embrace socially and environmentally responsible investments. Our advisor understood and valued what we wanted to do, but initially didn’t have a successful place to invest our money because there were fewer options.
When financial planners meet new clients, the last question is always “What legacy do you want to leave?” And usually, people want to believe that their lives mattered. I wish that financial planners would take that more to heart. They are in a unique and powerful position to help clients design a future that really matters to them and makes a difference — something more meaningful than simply accruing and shuffling money without purpose. Maybe financial planning should be broadened to deliver on that legacy. It could be a strong loyalty strategy. Financial planners have great power to make the world a better place.
Up close and personal
My mom was the oldest of 11 and my dad the oldest of six. They instilled in us a great sense that you were responsible not just for your nuclear but your extended family and community — not as a burden but as a security. So, there were times when we moved back in with my grandparents to make ends meet, or when I was sent to live with my grandmother as a child to help out when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
I grew up with the sense that money was a system of energy that flows amongst relationships. It didn’t matter how much you had; it mattered how you used that energy to benefit your community.