Voting with Your Dollars

Every dollar you spend and invest has an impact on you, your family, the environment, our community and to some extent, the world—and the impact can be positive, negative, or somewhere in between.

Your Spending Choices Have an Impact

Do you choose to spend your money at big-box retailers that offer low prices, but fail to pay their employees a living wage? Or do you support a local vendor that works hard to support their employees, but whose prices are a bit higher?   

These can be complex questions. If you are on a limited budget, then discount shopping can help you not overspend—and we always encourage our clients to be mindful of their budget! 

But, supporting a local vendor can help support local business, and as a result, help our community thrive by providing jobs. 

Your spending choices can also have an impact on the environment. Steve Nash’s book, Virginia Climate Fever, provides excellent examples of how our choices of “profit over people and environment” are making a direct impact in our own backyard:

  • The Profit Virginia is the third-largest marine producer in the U.S., with a dockside value to watermen alone close to $200 million per year.
  • The (Negative) Impact Destructive fishing practices and over-fishing are making the ocean ecosystems less resilient under the stress of global warming, illustrated by formerly abundant fish populations that are now small and fragmented due to generations of overfishing.*

Do you support vendors who fish sustainably? Or do you choose the less expensive option?

We respect that everyone’s financial circumstances are different; the local or sustainable option may not be within financial reach for all. We believe what matters most is that you pause long enough to define what you value, then find the right balance that reflects both your circumstances and your values.

Your Investing Choices Have an Impact

What about your investments? Do you invest just to maximize your return? Or do you apply some kind of filter or screen—for example, choosing not to invest in companies like Altria or McDonald’s, or perhaps doing the extra research to find companies that are trying to maximize their positive impact?

We have dealt with these questions ourselves. When we developed our proprietary portfolios, we chose the underlying Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) based on social responsibility, cost, liquidity, and the ability to meet the risk-versus-reward objective of each portfolio.

However, socially responsible ETFs tend to be more expensive than the standard ones. So, as financial fiduciaries, legally bound to put our clients’ interests above our own, how do we justify these higher fees?

We have had to find our own balance in what we offer to our clients. We have set up our portfolios to invest partially in the socially responsible ETF and partially in the standard, less expensive option.

Investing can be complex. Again, we believe that what matters most is that you pause long enough to be intentional and understand why you make a particular investment selection.

Options for Positive Impact

Another one of our goals is to help Richmond drive towards impact. Here are a few interesting opportunities and resources to help you maximize your money's positive impact in our community:

  • Debt Investments/Lending

Virginia Community Capital (VCC) is a Community Development Financial Institution with a mission to create jobs, energize places, and promote an enhanced quality of life for Virginians. VCC partners with socially conscious individual investors, financial institutions, corporations, and foundations to provide financial resources for projects designed to have a positive impact in our community and our state. VCC offers flexible ways to invest, including impact deposits, loan funds, equity investments, and philanthropic grants.

Investors who make deposits with VCC’s wholly owned subsidiary bank, Community Capital Bank of Virginia, will obtain a return on their deposits, with most of these deposits applied to community-based loans that support affordable housing, food-based businesses seeking to mitigate food deserts, and clean energy and renewable projects.

  • Venture Capital Investments

NRV is a Richmond-based venture capital firm that makes its impact by investing primarily in Virginia-based companies. Last week, the firm closed on the NRV Early Stage Growth Fund LP, a $33 million fund. This fund provides investors the opportunity to have an equity stake in high-growth companies with demonstrated market traction led by exceptional teams. To date, NRV has deployed a portion of the new fund to invest in three Virginia companies: Health Warrior, Nutriati, and Territory Foods.

Trolley Ventures will also be a Richmond-based venture capital firm. Its focus will be on investing in very early-stage (i.e., those typically funded by angel investors) Richmond and Central Virginia companies. This fund will provide investors the opportunity to have a stake in early-stage companies, accessing a wide array of funding structures, including debt and equity.

  • Philanthropy

The Community Foundation (TCF) provides tools to facilitate your philanthropic giving. One such tool is helping to establish a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). With as little as $10,000, a DAF allows you to direct your giving to organizations that are addressing issues important to you, while getting the benefit of professional investment management and a tax deduction. If you aren’t sure where to start, TCF offers education opportunities to help you explore philanthropy options that best align with your values.

  • Corporate Sustainability Counsel

Dunlap Law PLC is headed by Tricia Dunlap, a business attorney with expertise in corporate sustainability disclosures. She helps companies determine, measure, and disclose material sustainability risks and counsels stakeholders on understanding the data and engaging with companies.

To this end, we believe investors should have a “diversified portfolio”—a combination of deposits (cash and CDs), liquid/publicly traded securities (ideally with a firm that has a component of socially responsible investing), and, if possible, investments in private equity and debt investments that are having a direct impact in our community.

Be Informed

Alexis Advisors seeks to lead by example as a business that prioritizes positive social impact. We live by our Certified B Corp values: volunteering for good social causes, donating annually to local non-profits, doing pro bono financial planning for those in need, recycling, purchasing services from local resources, and maximizing sustainability in our business model. 

As part of this mission, we have been supporting the development of the Virginia Impact Investing Forum (VIIF). VIIF is a non-profit whose purpose will be to serve as an educational resource for those interested in learning more about impact investing—what it is, and how to get started. You can check out their Facebook page here. Over the coming months, VIIF will be launching a website and hosting an event or two to educate and engage individuals interested in this topic.Stay tuned!

Alexis Advisors’ tag line is “Be informed. Be intentional. Give back.” We want to engage you in doing the same. If we all are a bit more intentional about our money choices, collectively we can have substantial positive impact!

 

*From Virginia Climate Fever by Steve Nash.

Roberta Keller

Alexis Advisors is a fee-only firm offering financial planning and investment advisory services. We work with families, women and businesses to integrate their personal and social values with their financial goals. We are one of the few independently owned and operated financial advisory firms, with no dealer group or corporate associations that require us to revenue share or meet sales goals. This means that we have the flexibility to operate with complete transparency, fewer conflicts of interest, and in your best interest.