Most of what we see and learn about personal finance are a series of quantifiable do’s and don’ts. Many financial plans are just elaborate spreadsheets projecting different scenarios in the future. These are helpful tools that often fall short of acknowledging life is often messier than the neat cells of an excel worksheet. Today we're talking with Jenifer Sapel to help break down the “rules” and instead make money a tool that is as unique as each persons fingerprint, getting them to their unique goals and dreams.
[00:00:01.540] - Meg BrunsonWelcome to FamilyPreneur, the podcast for busy parents building profitable businesses if we haven't met yet. I'm Meg Brunson and we are about to simplify business and marketing strategies because balance was never about spending equal time between your business and your family. Nope. You want to spend previously unimagined amounts of time making memories with your kids, and the only way that's going to happen is if we get your marketing under control. I want to take a minute to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter, that love is love, and that inclusiveness is essential for success. So I welcome all colors, genders and cultures to join us for today's episode.
[00:00:49.850] - Meg BrunsonMost of what we see and learn about personal finance are a series of quantifiable dos and don'ts. Many financial plans are just elaborate spreadsheets, projecting different scenarios in the future. These are helpful tools that often fall short of acknowledging life is often messier than the neat cycles of an Excel worksheet. Today, we're talking with Jenifer Sapel to help break down the rules and instead make money, a tool that is as unique as each person's fingerprint, guiding them to their unique goals and dreams.
[00:01:25.280] - Meg BrunsonJennifer, thank you so much for being here today. I can't wait to dove into this topic with you.
[00:01:30.710] - Jenifer SapelThank you for having me. I'm super happy to be here.
[00:01:34.160] - Meg BrunsonWell, I want to start really basic. I am not an investor myself, and we don't talk a lot about investing yet in this group. So I don't really know where everybody else is on that, like. That. Scheme of things, can you start by telling us a little bit about how you can get started investing? It seems to me like it would be overwhelming and scary. So if you could break some of that down, I think that would be a great place to start.
[00:02:02.570] - Jenifer SapelHey, I love starting there. And the words you used, Meg, I hear all the time I hear overwhelmed and scary over and over and over again. So you are not alone in feeling that way. Last week, I think I think it was last week, I heard somebody say the market is scary. Like, you know, I'm pretty good at saving money, is what she said. I'm pretty good at keeping money in the bank, but the market scares me.
[00:02:30.550] - Jenifer SapelAnd what I told her and what I want you to know, what I want all women to know or all people to know is if you can parent, you can invest. Parenting is so much harder than investing.
[00:02:51.320] - Meg BrunsonScarier.
[00:02:51.490] - Jenifer SapelWell, we can talk about specific ways parenting is similar to investing. But the point is, if you have the skills to be a parent, you already have the skills to be an amazing investor.
[00:03:04.420] - Jenifer SapelAnd so let's just start with that. Like the comment that she made last week, the market is scary. If you are feeling like the stock market is a scary thing, I would invite you to think about it like any other market. So do you. A market is purely a place where people come together to buy things and to sell things, right. So if you've ever been to a farmer's market, you've been to a market. And if you ever bought something on Etsy, you've been to a market, so.
[00:03:38.800] - Jenifer SapelYou probably are pretty good at navigating a market, right? The market itself doesn't have to be scary. The only thing that's unique about the stock market is that it's buying and selling shares of companies. And that part, if you have no experience with it, of course, it's going to feel a little bit scary. The first time you logged in to Etsy might have been a little bit overwhelmed, like, holy crap, there's a lot of stuff and a lot of filters. Right.
[00:04:06.640] - Jenifer SapelI've bought things on Etsy that my husband looks at me and goes, why the heck did you buy that? Right. The latest was a chart for my kiddo on like a sleep chart, like, hey, every time you stay in bed, you get a sticker for the next morning. And he was like, you paid three dollars to download a piece of paper. He thought I was crazy. But my point there is that something that I found value in and I bought and I paid money for somebody else didn't. Right.
[00:04:35.650] - Jenifer SapelHe did not see the same value in it. And he was like, I think you're crazy to spend that amount of money. Same goes for the stock market. There's there are investors out there that will buy shares in the company. And there's other investors out there who think you're crazy for buying shares in that company. So I think we get caught up in thinking that there's a right and a wrong answer or feeling like we're going to do something that's good or bad.
[00:05:00.310] - Jenifer SapelAnd the reality is, even with money, even with something that's measurable, like money, all of it is subjective. All of it is is up to somebody else up to the market to decide what is that worth? So I would just I would invite everybody to just look at the stock market if if if the ticker symbols on CNBC and all the all of the talking heads talking about investing, if they showed, like little Etsy stickers next to the company name, and like, this is what they sell.
[00:05:36.070] - Jenifer SapelRight. We might be a little bit more inclined to pay attention and be like, oh yeah. Oh yeah. Good company. I like that. I like that product or I want to invest in that. I want to buy into that company. So I'll pause there. Does that make sense to you?
[00:05:49.990] - Meg BrunsonIt does. And I think the biggest difference is that when you're shopping on ETSY or at a farmer's market, you're buying a tangible thing. So I'm giving money and then I'm getting a thing. With investing, there's no thing that you really get. It's I don't know what the opposite of tangible is, you know what I mean? Like, yeah, but there's not that tangible thing. Yes.
[00:06:11.290] - Jenifer SapelYeah, you're absolutely right. And that is that's the hard part about money in general. Right. Like all of our financial tools, you know, they started out as coins and then they turned to paper and then they turned into a check. And now it's a credit card. Right. And if you think cryptocurrency will be the currency, it's all kind of morphing into this other thing. So all financial tools are, like you say, kind of an intangible product or idea.
[00:06:45.220] - Jenifer SapelSo there is a little bit of faith that comes in money itself, the stock market itself, all of those things have tangible value because we've decided collectively as people that they have value. And so we trade, we trade, we buy and sell on that value. Making it- so one of your questions was how do you start? I think like Etsy or like revamping your RV or, you know, like any other project you take on, you can dig in and do it yourself, right.
[00:07:21.390] - Jenifer SapelAnd those people are like watching YouTube videos and they're reading all the books and they're checking out blogs right, like, I'm going to tackle this myself. Right. And so you can be a DIYer, you can be a hybrid. Right. So you can be the person that some of it I want to do myself, but some of it I really just want somebody else to do or want to kind of outsource it. Or you can just hire a professional.
[00:07:44.940] - Jenifer SapelSo whatever your personality type is, you're like, no, I'm going to figure this out myself. If you want to DIY in investing, there's courses you can buy, there's books you can read, you can decide to make those by- those buy and sell decisions yourself. That middle category, there's lots of apps out there like Betterment and Stash and Ellevest that they're kind of in between. Right. You're- it's going to be an online interface. They're going to ask you a series of questions and then they're going to kind of guide you.
[00:08:14.970] - Jenifer SapelRight. Not like super personal based on your situation, but based on the interface online, guide you into the right investments. Or you could hire an investment advisor or a financial advisor. That's part of services that I offer where somebody is like literally going to ask you every question, get to know you hold your hand, and then depending on what person you work with, provide you the guidance and the education along the way. If you have less than half a million dollars to invest, a mutual fund or an ETF is how you invest and a mutual fund or an ETF-
[00:08:49.560] - Jenifer SapelETF stands for exchange traded fund. Both of them are just pools of money, you and me and thousands of other people putting our money into the pot together so that we can buy enough stocks of enough different companies that we've got diversification, and diversification is the only- it's the rule of investing like location, location, location is the rule of real estate. I feel like I kind of like wandered around on that walk there. So let me pause.
[00:09:23.780] - Meg BrunsonYes. Well, I'd like to my next question, which you just touched on, had to do with money. Right. So, like, I made the decision that I want to invest. I know that doing it yourself, there may be costs, you know, with courses and learning. And obviously, if you're hiring a professional, there's costs associated with that. But if we take all of that away, we're just talk about the actual investment.
[00:09:46.570] - Meg BrunsonWhat is that that like breaking point? At what point do you have enough money to invest?
[00:09:53.680] - Jenifer SapelOh, yeah, great question. So you're ready to invest. I hear, especially women. I hear a lot of time saying I have too much money sitting in a bank account, especially for entrepreneurs. I would say that's relative. Too much money is relative. I like at a very minimum, you've got to have at least four months of income, not expenses in a bank account, in a savings account that's going to stay in the savings account. So we don't invest until you have at least that much, for us business owners that have big fluctuations in our income.
[00:10:31.930] - Jenifer SapelI prefer nine to 12 months of income and savings. And I call that both your oops. Right. Your emergency and your opportunity fund, because especially us as entrepreneurs, if there's like a really cool shop that we know- that goes up for sale unexpectedly, you're like, hey, I might need a third or fourth business. So when you've got when you've got some kind of savings in the bank, then you can invest. So that's kind of your first threshold for investing.
[00:11:07.750] - Jenifer SapelYou can invest as little as ten dollars a month. So you could get started with investing for as little as ten dollars a month, so some of those online kind of hybrid options that I just mentioned, ten dollars a month transfer, a 10, ten dollars a week transfer or something like that. That's a great way to get started if you wanted to invest in a more traditional route. So you wanted to buy into a Vanguard mutual fund as an example, a lot of times the minimum on that is twenty five hundred dollars or three thousand dollars.
[00:11:43.860] - Jenifer SapelSo that's kind of the threshold to get started. And then working with a financial adviser, all of us generally have account minimums. I can work with people as low as ten thousand dollars. A lot of financial advisors don't start working with people until they have one hundred thousand dollars or two hundred fifty thousand dollars to invest. Was that answering your question?
[00:12:03.360] - Meg BrunsonYeah, yeah, I think that's great because everybody listening to kind of get a feel for where they fall on that range and then what- what options might be best for them or if they're not ready yet. They don't have that savings built up. And I feel like there's probably still people who invest before they have that savings, like invest before they're ready. But that is just what we would encourage you. I mean, and I think we've all learned that right over the past year, that you just don't know what to expect.
[00:12:33.870] - Meg BrunsonSo having that little cushion is going to be hugely beneficial.
[00:12:39.460] - Jenifer SapelYeah. And and for people like me who have been participating in or advising people around market cycles, the reason why having a savings account is so important is that if you start investing, if you put all your savings into investments, if there's- if there is, when the pandemic started in March, the market took a took a big hit. So what you don't want is you need the money. Two thousand eight for those of us who are old enough. When the financial crisis hit to the mortgage crisis hit, a lot of people lost their jobs, so they lost their income.
[00:13:18.210] - Jenifer SapelTheir 401Ks were cut in half and their home values dropped pretty significantly all at the same time. Those are amazing times to have cash. People who had cash on hand during that time took advantage of huge opportunities in buying real estate at a big discount, investing in the market at a big discount. So don't think of your cash like everything is a spectrum, like, oh, it's sitting there doing nothing for me, or not working. It is your pounce on an opportunity fund when those opportunities come up.
[00:13:51.690] - Meg BrunsonAnd it's balance. Right. You're just finding the right balance between the two assets.
[00:13:55.710] - Jenifer SapelExactly. Yeah.
[00:13:57.270] - Meg BrunsonNow you focus on ESG, right. So, the ESG landscape, which stands for environmental, social and governance. Can you break down what the heck that means?
[00:14:13.090] - Jenifer SapelYeah. So if you're like me and at some point you've looked at all the shampoo bottles in your shower and you thought, like, I really need to use less shampoo or do something where I'm not buying all of this plastic because I care about what happens to this planet for my children. Right. And then you picture all the plastic bottles floating in the ocean. If you are worried about the environment, if social governance, if you were interested in hearing how companies handled the pandemic, right.
[00:14:46.590] - Jenifer SapelWere their companies that weren't providing any kind of time off, they weren't giving any of their employees protective equipment. Those are those are social issues. And then governance, if you care about how companies make policies and decisions and if they care about whether or not there's diversity on their board of directors, those types of issues in the investment world, all of that kind of stuff has been around for decades. And it's really come to it's really come to the forefront just in the last couple of years of investing.
[00:15:24.240] - Jenifer SapelIt's like one in every three or one in every four dollars. Being invested today is being invested in an ESG strategy. And there's a couple different ways you can do it. So there are there are four ways that whether you're buying companies or you're buying into mutual funds, there's kind of four ways that they can apply those ESG principles to the investments. The first one is by exclusion. So if you- if you are a believer that we shouldn't have guns available to anybody, right.
[00:16:06.660] - Jenifer SapelThen you might exclude all gun manufacturers and gun retailers from your investment portfolio. Right. Questions about that? That one's pretty- that's like, that's that's kind of the base level, right? We just I'm just not going to buy any company that participates in something that I disagree with.
[00:16:27.770] - Jenifer SapelThe next level up is what I call integrated. So when you're buying and selling stocks and bonds or if you're investing in a mutual fund that's doing that for you, whoever is making those decisions is looking at the financial visual. So I'm working with my hands. I'm picturing financial documents right there reviewing the financial documents of the company and saying, is this company financially sound and integrated ESG strategy is looking at those financials and then alongside the financials, they're looking at how are you handling ESG issues? Are you addressing board diversity? Are you addressing climate change, are you addressing social policies that care about income equality based on gender or race or any any other parts of diversity that come with being a beautiful human being. So integrated is the second way to do it. And that's probably the like, least definable way to invest in ESG strategies, it's kind of the like, well, they're reporting on some of these things and they kind of care about some of these things, like they care about financials. Right. But we don't really know how much progress is being made there.
[00:17:44.080] - Jenifer SapelThe third is my favorite. The third is an advocacy approach. In an advocacy approach. Calvert Funds is one of the mutual fund families that I use in a lot of my portfolios. As an example, Calvert funds- any fund that they invest in, any company that they invest in. They have like a twenty two page document that outlines this is what we expect for board governance. So there has to be diversity on race and gender. There has to be independence. So if they're going to vote on a new board of directors, if at least a certain percentage of their board is an independent right, meaning doesn't benefit directly from what's happening inside of the company, then they vote against it.
[00:18:37.210] - Jenifer SapelThey have written policies around their their social requirements, written policies around their environmental requirements. And so what they do is they'll buy these companies. For example, they had Wal-Mart in their portfolio. And after the Wal-Mart shooting in Texas, I think it was twenty seventeen, the CEO of Calvert called the CEO of Wal-Mart and said, you need to make changes. We will divest all of our all of our holdings in your company if you don't make policy changes, because this is this has reached a point of unacceptable. So that's advocacy.
[00:19:16.360] - Jenifer SapelAnd then the final way to invest with ESG strategies is impact investing. Impact investing is buying into companies that are like- that the company mission is to make changes in those ESG arenas. For example, you can buy a mutual fund that is invested in twenty six companies that all those twenty six companies do. (Bless you.) All those twenty six companies do are help create clean water and sustainable water strategies. So they are identifying leaks. They are identifying ways to desalinate, their identifying ways to use less water. So the whole purpose of all of these companies is to just solve our impending water problem. OK, so those are the four ways.
[00:20:12.760] - Meg BrunsonYes, and I'm just processing, so let me let me ask a clarification question and maybe you can help. So those are the four ways that you can do that. So basically, if I wanted to- I love- I feel like I'm jumping all over the place. I love this discussion because. For me and for a lot of my my audience, my community, my listeners. We want to make a difference and we know that we can make a difference in the people that we work with and the companies that we support and the products that we purchase.
[00:20:45.460] - Meg BrunsonAnd I love that you're bringing this perspective that we can also make a difference in how we choose to invest. So with those four types, if I made the decision that I want to invest and I've got X amount of dollars to do so. How do I make that decision that. Like, where do I go from there if I said I really like the advocacy way or I really can you combine them? Could you be like the advocacy away?
[00:21:10.930] - Meg BrunsonBut I also don't want anything with guns and I'm just using guns because you said guns. We could use anything in there, I'm sure, looking at that. And then how do you actually navigate? Now I feel like I'm going back into that overwhelmed space, like you got me out of it the first time there and now I'm going back there again.
[00:21:28.690] - Jenifer SapelOK, I love it. So don't be overwhelmed. First, like, the biggest mistake you can make with investing is just not doing it. So first, find the path of investing like we like we started with. Right. Decide are you a DIY or are you going to do something in the middle or you're going to hire a pro. So first do that, that's going to be your first barrier to entry. Any of those paths you choose are going to have ESG options.
[00:21:54.160] - Jenifer SapelYou're going to see that acronym everywhere. It's all over the place. So in that middle that middle ground, for example, if you invest, if you invest with Ellevest or if you invest with Betterment, they're going to- they're going to say, do you want ESG options? And they're going to use the acronym ESG. So so when you use them, you can just check the box. If you if you are the DIYer and you use Vanguard as an example, you can just search by ESG.
[00:22:22.870] - Jenifer SapelSo the four ways that the four ways that I mention are just giving you another layer of knowledge of OK, so if you are curious more. Right, there's some of us who like, OK, I just want to buy less plastic. There's some of us who are like, I will not buy from any of these companies because I know what they're doing right. With the ocean. Right. So our level of commitment and attention to whatever our cause is also is on the spectrum.
[00:22:52.930] - Jenifer SapelRight. So it could be as easy as checking a ESG box or it can be as deep as I'm going to use all four of those strategies. I want as much as I can in advocacy and impact. But I definitely want to screen out right. One, two or three or three of these screens and how deep you can get into those four strategies. Really, like all things with investing is going to come down to at what level are you investing and how many options are within that level.
[00:23:23.650] - Meg BrunsonAwesome. That helped. That was great. That's all I need is a little like bring it back...
[00:23:31.360] - Jenifer SapelI think if you just check the box with ESG, even if it's not quite like as dedicated as you would prefer it to be, I want to just give you a little a little extra support in that, because I think for every dollar you and I invest in a strategy that even has the acronym next to it, even if it is greenwashing. Right. If we put our dollar next to something with that acronym next to it, we're signaling to all companies, we are paying attention to this and we care about this and we'll get more and more detailed. Right. The more money we have and the more time we have and all of that kind of stuff. But I want to put my hand up and I want everybody to know this is important to me.
[00:24:17.160] - Meg BrunsonI love that, and I think it mirrors or parallel so many other things where you kind of just have to start and like, yes, it's your money. And no, I don't think you should invest willy nilly, but you make a decent effort to educate yourself and to make the best decision. And then you have to pull the trigger and you've got to invest. You've got to pull the trigger. You got to do it. And as you get going, that's when you really fine tune it. And it may take a little bit of time before you actually have, like, honed in on that exact path you want to be on. But you start. You have to start.
[00:24:51.040] - Jenifer SapelYes. Yes. I agree with you 100 percent. And I'll add. You know, the way that I talk about money and especially again with women, is that, I hear so often we're bad, like I'm bad at money, I'm bad at this and bad at investing. And none of that is true. Right? When I watch my three year old brush his teeth like, oh, that's really awkward. He's not really getting every tooth, but by the time he's 10 and he's done it over and over and over again, he's going to get better and better and better at it to a point where he's like me, he doesn't even think twice about it and he brushes his teeth well.
[00:25:30.020] - Jenifer SapelWhen it comes to finances, if they're not skills that we're using, we feel like it's awkward and we feel like we're not very good at it. So it's not that you're not good at it, you're not practiced. And to get practice, you have to start somewhere. So I talk about five skills. Earning money is a skill in and of itself, saving money, investing money, giving money and spending money. And a lot of times with these ESG strategies, we focus just on the spend.
[00:25:57.120] - Jenifer SapelWe focus on the give. Right. We're really specific about where we're donating, but we just talked about how you can also do it with investing as well. And I think let's not underestimate even the money we have on deposit at the bank. Our bank is using that money for something. It could be using that money to loan capital, loan the funds, loan your funds to giant oil companies. Like, maybe that's OK with you, maybe it's not.
[00:26:31.610] - Jenifer SapelSo if you're curious, even with what you have on deposit, with your savings account, how your bank is using your money, you can go to MightyDeposits.com. And if you want to invest in Black communities or Black owned banks or women owned banks, or just see how much of the money is the bank loaning to small business owners like your audience, like you and I on this call, versus how much are they loaning to the giant corporations of the world? You can look at that and where we bank can also make a difference.
[00:27:06.860] - Meg BrunsonI had never thought about that.
[00:27:10.390] - Jenifer SapelFifteen trillion dollars on deposit, roughly. So if all of us cared about where we banked- I mean, even if 10 percent of us cared about where we are, we could move billions of dollars into banks that are using the money for causes that we're more aligned with.
[00:27:34.030] - Meg BrunsonHmmm, that is super interesting, and I thank you for bringing that up, because I feel like that is an even it's only slightly related, but it just blew my mind.
[00:27:45.640] - Jenifer SapelWell, it's I- that's the thing about money for me is that it's like it's such, you know, I like to keep money in its place. We should worry about it. The right amount of worrying about it. Right. Like we should take care of it but not obsess over it. But it's just it has such an interesting seat in our society because it touches so many things. Right. And has the opportunity to do so many things. Yeah, it's it's a fascinating thing for me, too.
[00:28:15.160] - Meg BrunsonWell, I love it. I would love if you could drop some links. Let where can people connect with you to learn more about investing in that ESG landscape and asking questions and navigating that process?
[00:28:28.340] - Jenifer SapelYes. So I'm Jen Sapel. You can find me at UtorWealth.com. That's U-T-O-R. And then wealth like money, W-E-A-L-T-H. We offer two main services. One is comprehensive financial planning. So if you want to know how all these areas of your life line up and are aligned to your values, that's one service we offer. We also offer investment management and most of our portfolios are in impact portfolios, but depends on the client. And then and then other links that I love.
[00:29:03.280] - Jenifer SapelI love MightyDeposits.com. So check out MightyDeposits.com. The two founders of that of that company are amazing. I adore them. You should have them on your podcast. There are a lot of fun and another one I like is AsYouSew.org. So AsYouSew.org Is a nonprofit that is offering transparency to all people around, how are you invested and how is that aligned with your values. So they've got a dropdown, they have a tag or a menu that says invest in your values.
[00:29:36.730] - Jenifer SapelAnd so you could search like if you own mutual funds right now, you could type in your mutual fund and it will tell you how invested in for profit prisons is your mutual fund. How invested is it in fossil fuels? How invested is it in gender equity and diversity? Like how how does it rate in those things? They have their own criteria, but they've been around for a while and they're very transparent about how they kind of rank and rate things. And it's just a fun site to to play around with.
[00:30:04.630] - Meg BrunsonI love that. Thank you so much. We will put all of those links in the show notes. So if you are trying to figure out how to spell something or can't remember what the word was, just go ahead to the show notes and they will all be in there. And I want to thank you so much for spending time with us today. This has been very informative for me. I hope that it's helped other people. And I just love how we can bring our values into this aspect of money management and investments.
[00:30:31.990] - Meg BrunsonThank you so much.
[00:30:33.190] - Jenifer SapelYou're welcome. Thanks for having me.
[00:30:36.530] - Meg BrunsonThat's it for this episode of FamilyPreneur, you'll find all the links mentioned and the show notes at MegBrunson.com/podcast. Until next time, I'll see you over in the FamilyPreneur Community. Bye for now.
In This Episode You'll Learn
Getting started with Investing – don't be intimidated
Knowing that investing according to values is possible
A better understanding of the ESG landscape
A framework in which to implement
Listen and Subscribe Now
Meet Jenifer Sapel
Most of what we see and learn about personal finance are a series of quantifiable do’s and don’ts. Many financial plans are just elaborate spreadsheets projecting different scenarios in the future. These are helpful tools that often fall short of acknowledging life is often messier than the neat cells of an excel worksheet. Jen helps break down the “rules” and instead makes money a tool that is as unique as each persons fingerprint, getting them to their unique goals and dreams.