A huge thanks to the folks at ESG University (Your Stake) for inviting our founder and CEO, Meghan Lape, AFC®, CFP®, EA® for a conversation about the meaning of socially responsible investing, the trickiest parts of advising military families, and how the fictional character Scrooge technically is a great financial planner – yet he forgets about financial wellness.
Had he invested in good all along… perhaps he would have been able to benefit more of his friends (instead realizing it so late in life when his money could have been helping the community). Perhaps.
Podcast Transcript & Timestamps
Gabe: “Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of Your Stake Your Story. We’re a video series with advisors, and for advisers, and really covering and highlighting best practices of financial advisers and today I’m really excited to have Meghan on me. Meghan is the founder of Conscious Impact Financial Planning and also has an educational background that includes a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Franklin University, Master of Science and Family Financial Planning from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and designations as a CFP (Certified Financial Planner), Accredited Financial Counselor and I’m really excited to have you on today and thanks so much for joining.”
Meghan: “Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.”
Gabe: “So first I think it would be fun actually for you to share where you’re calling from and where you may have been calling from not so far away in the past…”
Meghan: “I have an interesting story for sure, I just moved to Colorado in the last 6 months but before that I spent twelve years abroad in various countries. I was working as a financial counselor for the military so I went between the different countries helping service numbers overseas and their financial counseling needs, so actually I started my business while I was still in Germany and during Covid. I actually started in February of 2020 in Germany, so I started my business on hard mode for sure. It’s definitely been a journey, but I have some good stories at least. But I know when we first met, we would have meetings where I’d be in Germany and you’d be on the East Coast, and trying to make that work. It was always a challenge but yeah you know, you do what you have to do, no matter where you are, right?”
Gabe: “Very true. I am glad that we were from the morning meeting to the later afternoon meetings as East Coast I’m more of an afternoon/night person so it definitely makes things easier. It’s tough. So how were you able to deal with that because you probably had clients in the US right and around the world.”
Meghan: “So, funny enough, it actually made me a bit of a workaholic. Because I could attend to everyone during the day in Germany, like a full day, and then I worked a whole other day in the States at night. It was one of those things, I did have the stamina for it, I can’t say I could still do that now but it was worth it, and so you know what I do is always worth it so it’s kind of like I survived, and it’s a good story now. I’m glad I don’t have to do it again though.
Gabe: “I can very much understand. I think people would be really interested also to hear what is unique and different…
2:37: What challenges, what is unique and different when serving military families?
Meghan: “Oh well, moving a lot is probably the biggest one honestly. It’s really hard to keep your savings, your finances straight when you’re moving all the time, and yes they reimburse you, and yes they do pay for your costs of living or your housing, whichever, depending on where you are, but there is just so much that you’re going to spend on that you don’t realize. So that always ended up being like the biggest obstacle for military families in generating wealth. You know what you can do your best to educate, but the fact is you are going to move every so many amounts of time. There is actually a rule about it overseas that 5 years, you could actually stay in one place, and it is by design you’re supposed to be moving around a lot. It’s something you can’t even fight. Of course the rate of divorce is really high in the military and that’s not helpful either. It’s very unique because that is a system in which you work for your employer, but they also own you, and that comes with other challenges that I know, veterans listening, will know what I mean. But I could go into a long spiel about that, but we’ll leave that well alone. “
Gabe: “Sure will maybe it will be really interesting to hear, how did that practice intersect with ESG, and did you have different conversations from what you normal hear in the media based on tips and clients that you’re serving.”
Meghan: “So actually when I was stationed in Korea, Korea is actually a place where it is not legal to be queer, gay, or you know, whatever the label it is that you want to use. So I became passionate as a human being, while being a financial counselor and I found that this was a community that I could educate financially, and so the military brought me to ESG, but not necessarily in a way you would think. It brought me to a place where I found why it’s needed, not necessarily because they themselves practice is in any sort of way.
So since then I have been absolutely just motivated, a hot motivated. It’s passionate, it is an energy source that I cannot turn off even if I wanted to.
So because there’s just no way I’m going to stop working in this area trying to help people who, you know, just don’t have education, or a full education, I just decided to make the business about it, right, because I’m not going to stop doing it and in fact when I transition from Germany to here we did suffer from a lull, or maybe a transitionary period, if you want to call it that, but we did have to look at, you know, what will we have to cut. Are we going to survive if we don’t turn this around, and I had come to the conclusion that even if I fail, like if this business completely fails, and there’s no way. There’s no money, it just goes bankrupt, I’m still going to be doing this work, so in a way, I can’t fail.
I just can’t fail because there’s just no way I’m going to stop. I just keep getting reinvigorated, like I’m going to be doing this work, I just have to really hope that I don’t do this work and have to get another job on top of it. So that’s kind of how that kind of evolved, because I am a very passionate about the queer community and people rights, social justice, and this is just me doing what I know how to do and try to make a better world. Just live my values on the outside. Yeah, I could go march and protest and show up places too, but I’m really good at math, and I like that I can use math to still do this. I want to get the money out of the system, doing the wrong things with the first place. I think it’s really neat to use my skill to do something that maybe not everyone can do, so of course there’s that real need, because you know climate change, we need a world to live on, social justice I mean I hope everyone understands the need for that. So it just makes sense to me that we want to be doing these things and this is how I’m going to contribute.
Gabe: “We found, a lot of times, the essence of an ESG conversation with a client is just getting a client to understand, of course you have values, did you know that your portfolio has interaction with those values? I would love to hear if you’re able to share some stories of introducing people that maybe are passionate about LGBTQ issues rights and equality, what is it like when you bring your passion in there, and have those conversations, how do people usually respond?
Meghan: “Well I have to admit that the response is wonderful, but it’s very highly emotional, so you know with the queer community, the things at stake are their life, so you are going to get a big response, there’s no way not to have it. We don’t necessarily get executed like in some countries in the Middle East in the United States, but there’s still different challenges. I know that if they are being serious about the new sodemy laws that they’re proposing that would make it being criminal to be yourself, so to inherently be a criminal by existing in the way that you exist is a real big deal. People are having tremendous emotional responses to that, so when I have these conversations, they are passionate, they are loud, there so much, but it’s because there is so much at stake. All I’m doing, to my mind, is trying to keep everybody in a place where they’re treated equal. Equal and equitable. I want everyone to have you know, what I thought were American values. Equal opportunity that with enough hard work you can raise yourself out of your circumstances. But you know, we do have challenges, and some obstacles between here and there. So yeah you know, I don’t know how people could not get really passionate about this, but it is because it’s emotionally based and I don’t want to say that cheating or anything like that makes it any less true because it’s not purely fact-based. But there is so much more than just facts and numbers in math when it comes to these sorts of things and finance.
Gabe: “I don’t think that diminishes it in any way and that’s something I’m reading Michael Kitsis or reading a whole bunch of other influencers, thought leaders in the space, right, it’s moving from a very numbers and analytical based profession to more of a coaching and service and even the motivations I think the motivations of why people want to become financial advisors, or financial planners is more orientation and service and providing something that fits, I love that you’re saying that and I think that’s where the field is going personally.
9:12 – Scrooge Analogy
Meghan: “I really agree. Actually I was talking to someone about it today and the subject came up of Scrooge. Like Scrooge for a financial plan, that’s an amazing financial plan, but as far as financial wellness goes that’s terrible planning for wellness.. Which way would I be focusing on? Yey, you could have it all in a vault, but is that really what your financial plan is about, having a million dollars, because I don’t know what you can do with a million dollars, it is a very nice cotton blend toilet paper I suppose, but otherwise a million dollars stands for something else, you know what I mean.
Gabe: “Oh that’s really good, I like that Scrooge analogy, and now thinking of all those shows growing up. When you have those conversations with people and it’s about the emotional side of things, are people generally coming in knowing that they care about these issues, and that here are companies that are bad because they had these problems, or here are companies that are good, or do they come in and they care about their part of the queer community, care about these issues and then you’re introducing them to like, oh, there’s this much bigger world of all the stuff going on how does that usually work?
Meghan: “So, most of the time, I am introducing things they did know, so of course you know, you go to Pride, they’re not selling Chick-fil-A right, that one was a little bit easier, that one’s simple. But they don’t know that there’s more to it than just that, and just reading the news and seeing who is effectively trying to target them. That’s very defensive and that’s okay, but then I can tell them, we can be offensive about it, we could know exactly who is giving money to these causes, or who is actively supporting them with action and I consider donations action. Wherever you are put your money, you are putting your ear, your faith, your action, or whatever it is. Control. So usually it’s just kind of half of it, like most people I talk to, not a lot of them become my clients, but you know that’s neither here nor there, usually it’s because they’re just not in a place, they’re struggling, they’re still not in a place where they want to, or have the power to have control in their investments, because they have so little to invest. But I do like to educate to tell them how they can start learning about those things like a proxy voting,, or companies like yours where it’s like people who are collecting the information you are looking for. I think one of the greatest things that might come out of the kind of work that you’re doing is, being able to find this information to the general public. I did this webinar, where we just talking about ‘these are the top 100 companies that happened to give the money that went to the politicians and groups that funded the anti-abortion costs or anti-abortion movement that ended up turning Roe v. Wade. However you feel about that, that’s not my business, I’m only here to educate you and give you the information on that. But if I could give that information away freely without having to worry about the possible consequences of it being perceived as financial advice or some of the other the things the financial industry has hang ups about, I would love to see, you know, people be able to do that, and look up Chick-fil-A and like does it conflict with anything that I have on my list, and just be able to be like oh maybe I should stop doing that. So they can fully participate on top of it, they shouldn’t have to rely on me to get this information and I feel bad that we have to gate keep it in this way. Like half the people I meet I can do the best to give them the info and the rest who do get excited and want me to take care of their stuff, it’s always, I mean we always have great conversations in general because there is some camaraderie, you know when people have to suffer similar situations, but, I mean, I just love it the regardless.
Gabe: “When you are talking with clients, are you expressing your passions and then finding people that align with that and that’s like go do really deep with them or are you doing more of a discovery, figure out what they care about, and leaning into their issues. Not just with your conversations and also with your marketing and people go in very different ways. I mean, we have talked to financial advisers. I’m climate risk, that’s my thing, I’m doing climate risk. Work with me if you care about climate risk, work with someone else if you don’t. Then others really want to cater to what people care about. What are your thoughts on that, how do you go about that?
Meghan: “I’m very much caring what people care about, because I get excited when other people get excited. I firmly believe that emotions are contagious, so when other people are doing well then I do well, and when they’re happy, I’m happy. What I will say though is if someone’s values conflict with my own, then I will usually recommend, I do cross-summarize it, and I can customize this for you, but if my hearts not it it, I don’t know if I’ll be the best fit, you should really find somebody who is just absolutely ecstatic to put your portfolio together.
So I very much feel I can’t cover everything and here’s the thing too, is how passionately you feel about everything, is different. So like, I care more about queer rights than maybe a different right, but I care about both rights, right! And other people have those different variation of cares as well. So I like being able to customize it, because everyone can’t care about the same thing, the same way, the same. So yeh, I very much want everyone to, you know, look at their portfolio and go, yes that is me, my money and myself, do the same thing, I do not self-sabotage, that’s what I’m most passionate about. And I get the benefit of also not being able to not work a second job to do so, which I think is the best part.”
Gabe: “Well I think you’re really ahead of the times, on that front. I really think that’s where the future is going. Well I’d love to hear from you, where do you think values-based investing is going? You think that you’re kind of a pioneer and that’s what most advisers will be doing, or what do you think is the future for values-based investing.”
Meghan: “So I think values-based investing isn’t different from normal investing. I think what we have is an education problem, and so what I think, the future of it will be that we will forget to even mention that it’s different because we will finally educate everybody to the point where it’s not something. It’s like technical analysis, no one talks about technical analysis everyday but we use it every day. I think it’s just, I’m at the forefront of inventing language to integrate this to the point we can forget about it. Which would be great. I’m looking forward to all my work just being passe because, I don’t want to be at the forefront, I want this to be normal, and I look forward to that day.
Gabe: “Do you think the word ESG is going to go away?
Meghan: “So I hope so! Honestly. Because I don’t think.. so there’s 3 words, random words, let’s put 3 random words together, and then put them in front of a bunch of people who don’t have financial jargon, and let them make sense of it. It makes no sense to me. I really like socially responsible investing, because that I understand what’s going on there. And social responsibility can be taking care of the planet, it could be not abusing 6 year old sewing garments in a country, like that’s social responsibility but you know, so I hope that term does go away because it’s not very good as far as education is concerned. And it is, in finance we love using technical terms, it does kind of give us a sense of exclusivity because we are the only ones who know what we’re talking about, but I think it’s a really bad habit if we want everyone to participate and not just the ones that are wealthy, so I’m hoping that we start using better language, that we can get more people in this space, because honestly, everyone does this, everyone does this, they just don’t know they’re doing it, they do it by who they buy from, or who they recommend, or by going small businesses or farm-to-fork. They’re doing these things, they’re just doing them in the only way that they know how, the only information they have. So I’m hoping, yes, this will just become normal and everyone can be their own financial planner. I hate the gatekeeping that we have. I understand, you know, there has been things where we need regulatory authority to make sure that no one scams people for all that they’re worth, I get that, but if everyone were educated to be their own financial planner, then we wouldn’t need that, so I just, I guess, I’m on the education path, that rants, that’s kind of my other passion, other than social responsibility, is making this, so that it’s maybe, making it so it’s accessible to everyone, that’s also kind of maybe with a social responsibility facet to it, that I think would work really well. But, yeah, kind of me and by extension my firm, and I do have an employee, Mark is really amazing, and he definitely has the same kind of passions and drive that I have. So, we’re slowly growing too, so I’m hoping to effect what little change I can, especially in light of your some of the recent things that have been happening.”
Gabe: “I would love to take a little step backwards in time. You’ve so much passionate about ESG, queer rights, financial planning, how did you become a financial planner, how to make that decision, how did you know that was for you?
Meghan: “So I’m good at math, and I always have been, but math is a language, so it’s just the language I practice the most often, it’s a language of physics, it’s a language or science, of nature, if you want to put it. Because I was good at it I was encouraged to just keep doing it and I liked it, and it made sense, and I know in a lot of things just clinging to something that makes sense can mean the world to you as a teenager. And so I did that I actually had my minor in mathematics, like the first semester in my freshman year, I had already finished the minor, I just did it because I was good at it and when people found out I was good at it, they asked me to help them with it, so the helping people kinda started there, then I got good at taxes, so I actually started teaching mathematics, I taught math for junior high at high school. I love math still, love math, but loving math and teaching math are very different things, so I decided that me and my self esteem where going to go elsewhere. So because I’d already done taxes like I’m good at the math part, finance was just an extension as a different kind of math. Now it was a lot of statistics based math, if you know real math, statistics based math will drive you absolutely insane and I do my best to deal with it, you know, I can still help people, I can still do things I’m good at. It just kind of made sense and they pay me a decent amount, I could still thrive on it, as much as yes, teaching math was fulfilling, I didn’t want to live on that compensation for that level of treatment. So it just made sense and now I can help other people too. So yeah it’s kind of over time evolved that way.
Gabe: “Anything else that you would like to share that on your motivations on how you run your practice on ESG or anything in general”
Meghan: “I’m just looking forward to the future, I want people to use their values to inform their finances, because honestly that’s you and your finances are probably going to be the closest you ever going to be as far as, similarity, they go hand in hand cuz that’s how we walk through the world but I’m hoping that yes, we can do that and I’m hoping that Financial Wellness takes off to, you know employers were talking about the great resignation, and you know, but people weren’t financially well or mentally well at work, so I’m hoping that this kind of work where people are starting to realize that values are something they should stand up for, and you know, permeate all parts of their life, not just home life, but work life. We’ll see some of this stuff in corporation for employee wellness programs. Or education or just reflecting back on the fact that your employee is a person too. There are charities that you’re supporting me and I’m in the world for people who are suffering, but suffering is suffering, and just because a child is starving in Africa it doesn’t mean that your suffering means nothing, so I’m hoping that we can stop doing nothing because the bigger problem, and focus on the smaller problems, like in our own company, so that’s my hope for going forward.”
Gabe: “I love it, thank you so much for joining the podcast and hope you have a wonderful weekend.”
Meghan: “Ya you too. It’s always great talking to you Gabe.”
You can also listen in on the Your Stake Podcast Website
And learn all about Gabe Rissman, ESG Investing, climate change cause investing, and more. Thanks Gabe!