Making Change with your Money

Creating a Just Society Through Financial Investment: an interview with Janine Firpo of Invest for Better

Episode Summary

A conversation with Janine Firpo, a value-aligned investor and social innovator. Janine left a successful 35-year career in technology and international development to focus on how women can create a more just and equitable society through their financial investments.

Episode Notes

Janine Firpo is a writer, angel investor, impact investor and social entrepreneur. She has been on a personal mission to invest all of her money in alignment with her values. She published her book, Activate Your Money, to provide the foundational support women need to take control of their money, become confident investors, and to take action to make an impact with their investments.

Janine shared that her mother was a role model for her and her sisters, by joining the workforce and becoming successful in ways normally women were not. Janine herself chose a non-traditional path , originally planning to be a doctor rather than a nurse, and then pursuing a career in the emerging technology industry, an unheard of field for women in the '70s. 

Janine was fortunate to, in her words, ride the crest of the enormous wave that is the computer technology industry, which changed basically everything: the way we work, the way we think, the way we interact. She worked for Apple Computer from the late '80s to the early '90s, leaving because they wouldn't let her telecommute. She worked remotely for her next employer, and for various others, for the next 21 years!

In 1995, she made a huge shift in her career. She left the job she was in and went on a 5 month solo backpacking trip to Sub-Saharan Africa, where she encountered unbelievable poverty. She realized that she wanted to spend her life making a difference in the world, which led over time to working for the World Bank as a consultant, to being a Director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and eventually to her work today.

"Every time I trusted my intuition and the thought that this is something I should do, I could do, I want to do, it was scary, scary, scary, and I jumped off that cliff anyway. It was an amazing ride." Janine Firpo

Key takeaways:

- Know your skills. Janine very clearly knows that she's good at seeing what is possible, often before other people do. At the same time, she's able to think through how to go from a concept and vision to actually make it happen. Janine knows she is both a big picture person as well as a detailed person.

- Trust your intuition. Janine shared that faith and trust have played a large role in the career leaps she has taken in her life. She described that it started small, but over time she's learned to develop a sense of intuition and trust when she's drawn to making a change. 

- Make use of your network. Janine shared that, in addition to trusting her intuition, she did an unbelievable amount of informational interviewing when she considered a change. At one point, Janine probably conducted over 200 informational interviews to figure out what her next move should be.

- Own who you are as a woman. In Janine's words, women are brilliant listeners. We are brilliant collaborators. We do great things in community. Intuition is part of who we are. We need to own our strengths as women so that we and others can benefit from them.

- Become more financially fluent. Janine wants us to understand our investments so that we can make investing decisions in keeping with our values the same way we do as consumers.

About the guest:

Janine Firpo is a values-aligned investor and social innovator. In 2017 she left a successful 35-year career in technology and international development to focus on how women can create a more just and equitable society through their financial investments. Her book, Activate Your Money, was published in May 2021, and recently became available in paperback. Janine co-founded Invest For Better, a non-profit organization that helps women invest their money in ways that align with their values.  


Twitter: @janinefirpo



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Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] Janine Firpo: Every time I trusted my intuition and the thought that this is something I should do, I could do I want to do, it was scary, and I jumped off that cliff anyway. It was amazing Ride. Welcome to Making Change With Your Money, a podcast that highlights the stories and strategies of women who experienced a big life transition and overcame challenges as they redefined financial success for themselves.

Now, here's your host, certified financial planner, Laura Rotter.

[00:00:37] Laura Rotter:

I am so excited to have as my guest today, Janine Firpo. She's the co-founder of Invest For Better, a nonprofit organization that helps women invest their money in ways that align with their values. She left a successful 35-year career in technology and international development to focus on how women like us can create a more just and equitable society through our financial investments.

And her book Activate Your Money, which I highly recommend. It provides the foundational support for women so that we can talk to each other about our. And to begin to align our wealth with what we care about. So welcome Janine to your, the Making Change With Your Money podcast. 

[00:01:28] Janine Firpo: Hi Laura. So nice to be here.

Thanks for having me as your guest. 

[00:01:32] Laura Rotter: My pleasure. I like to start these podcasts off with a question and perhaps it can be a lens as we then go on to learn more about your journey. And that question is, what was money like in your family growing up? 

[00:01:49] Janine Firpo: Whoa. Money was a big issue in my family growing up. So I'm actually the child of two children of the Great Depression.

Both of my parents were, grew up really poor. My dad was born and raised in San Francisco. His, he never had toys. He got whatever he had from the city dump. He was lucky if he got an orange for Christmas. My dad talks about. His youth and the way they grew up in quite disparaging ways. My mom also, her dad passed away when she was seven and she ended up being put into a boarding school because her mom could not take care of her, and my mom made her way.

She never graduated from college, although she was very smart and she found ways to make money once she was older. But my early upbringing, Money mattered a lot. My mom would drive across town to save 5 cents. We drank powdered milk because we couldn't afford whole milk, and money was an issue for my mom her whole life.

Even when she started to get to the point it's, and my mom ended up in real estate. She was very good at it. California Real Estate, bay Area Real Estate in the sixties and seventies. No, I'm kidding. So she did over life build wealth, but she never. Left the poverty mentality. And so that had a huge impact on me in the way that I thought about money.

I learned how to save, I learned how to do without, and I learned to live well below my means my whole life. I mean.

[00:03:24] Laura Rotter: it's interesting Janine, how difficult things from our past, we can then look back and. How that helped us as we move forward, and that you were always aware of being frugal or responsible, I'm not sure.

I love the word frugal with your money. And so how did that play out? Did you assume you were going to go to college? 

[00:03:49] Janine Firpo: Yeah, college was an Absolute. My dad did go to college. He was, he fought in the second World War. He was a bomber pilot in the Second World War. And so he went to college on the GI Bill afterwards, and my mom would've, she just couldn't have afforded it.

But that was never a question. So I was the middle of three girls and it was just unknown that we would all go to college. And so that was something I aspired to from the very beginning. I was re regarded as smart when I was young. It was like my attribute was, oh, Janine, she's the smart one. The pretty one, the other one, she's the outgoing one, Janine's the smart one.

So that was what I put a lot of my energy into was studying and learning and preparing for that college education and what came after. And I actually, from a very early age, I thought I was going to be a doctor. From the time I was three years old. I was convinced I was going to be a doctor, and that was true until I was a junior in college.

When they changed my mind. 

[00:04:51] Laura Rotter: And why was it, did you have a model of a doctor or you played operation? 

[00:04:58] Janine Firpo: I don't know. I made up my mind when I was three to be a doctor and I think it was because I used to like to take care of things. And I remember like when my mom was taking a nap, I beat banding her up and stuff like that.

And when I was a kid, what's interesting too is when I was one year, when I was maybe five, I got a little doctor kit for Christmas and kids, people always ask you what are you going to be when you grow up? And I would say I'm going to be a doctor. And people would say, oh, you mean you're going to be a nurse?

And I said, no. I'm going to be a doctor. And even then, as a little girl, I was like fierce and mad that somebody would assume that just because I was a girl, that meant I had to be a nurse. But that's the kind of thing that I got back then. I'm talking late 1950s, early 1960s. And it's interesting. 

[00:05:58] Laura Rotter:

I Guess I've often thought it was interesting being one of two girls in my family that, and both my sister and I became the primary breadwinners of our family, and I thought that perhaps because we did not have brothers, so there wasn't within our family a model that the boys are the ones who do X, Y, and Z and we, so I was wondering what your experience was like?

[00:06:22] Janine Firpo: Well, I think, I think it. From my family, my parents both, and my mom in particular. My mom was, she was a fighter and she wanted in her own life to break barriers and she did. My mom joined the workforce and became. You successful in ways that normally women did not. So she was breaking barriers and she absolutely saw the, that we should be too. I think that's where it came from. 

[00:06:53] Laura Rotter: I love that. So then you say that in your junior year, you realize you did not want to be a doctor. And what did you want to be? 

[00:07:03] Janine Firpo: I wanted to be a scientist, so I realized, so it's silly. So silly. I thought at the time, if I'm a doctor, then I'm going to spend my whole life doing the same thing over and over, which probably wasn't true, but I had this odd belief and I thought, I want to do things, I want to be.

Sort of at the cutting edge. I want to try different things. I don't want to get into a profession where I do the same thing a lot. And so I thought I'm going to become a scientist because I, I studied biology and physics and chemistry and all of that in college. And so that was career option number two.

And I actually proceeded on career option number two, intending to get a PhD in biology. Through my master's degree, so I got a master's degree in ZO in Zoology. And while I was working on my master's degree, I realized this is going to just, I'm just going to be end up like studying some marine snail for the rest.

I didn't really want to do that either. And I had fallen into computers in my graduate work because I took a statistical analysis class using technology, and this is pre personal computers, this is like on mainframe computers. And it was so fun that I thought, I'm going to take, I'm going to get a minor in computer science.

And so that's what I ended up doing. I ended up getting a major in zoology and a minor in computer science back in the seventies and really a non-traditional path for a woman. 

[00:08:40] Laura Rotter: Were you aware of that at the time? 

[00:08:42] Janine Firpo: Not really, because at the time there wasn't even a computer industry. It really didn't exist.

And what's interesting, when I first got involved in computers, it's like you could learn everything there was to know about them. And I started out as. Something called an assembly language programmer, which is, they don't even talk about anymore, but it's really nerdy stuff, deeply nerdy stuff, and you could learn almost everything there was to know in the computer industry at the time that I got started because there just wasn't that much to it.

And who knew? I ended. So fortunate, just riding the crest of this enormous wave of something that has completely changed the way we work, the way we think, the way we interact. It changed everything, right? And when I got started, my very first job as a computer programmer was in 1981. It was so different.

It was mainframe computers and programming was basically your. That was all there was. 

[00:09:54] Laura Rotter: Yeah. When I went for my M B A, there was a huge computer room and you had cards. You gave cards to the person at the computer room. And I remember one of my first jobs in the credit analysis department of a bank, there was.

We got one pc, right? This was the with Lotus 1 23 loaded on it and you had to be careful near the pc. And yes, a lot has changed in the computer industry since our early years. Yes. And so what was the progression of your career within that industry? 

[00:10:32] Janine Firpo: It was fun, man. I loved the whole experience, so I, my very first jobs were coding, and so I actually worked at one point for a small tech company here in the Bay Area, and I was coding something called Pay-per-View.

It was what you did before we had multimedia and streaming and all of that. You would get a little box put on your TV and you could make choices about channels that you wanted to watch. And so I worked for the company that produced all that and I did a lot of the backend software. And at some point, and I loved coding, I loved it, but at some point it was clear that company was going to get sold.

And so I needed another job. And I got a job working in customer service and training. I didn't think I'd like it. I thought I'd do it for a very short period of time, just try it out and then go back to coding. And I realized I loved all the people facing stuff too. So I, I did that kind of work for a while and then I talked my way into a job at Apple Computer in the eight, mid eighties.

I had a really fun time working at Apple. The middle of the eighties until the early nineties left them because they wouldn't let me, telecommute wouldn't let me telecommute in 1991 and I was like, you know what? I live in the San Francisco. I'm driving 45 minutes each way to work. It's too much time commuting.

I want to work one day a week at home. They said, no. I said, I quit and I started working for another startup company in the multimedia. And I started telecommuting in 1991, and I didn't go back to real office again until my last real job, which was for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the end of 2012. So I telecommuted for 21 years. 

[00:12:36] Laura Rotter: Jeanine a, a number of questions come up for me. Just with the telecommuting we, there wasn't the kind of broadband and technology reach that there is now. How did you telecommute?

[00:12:49] Janine Firpo: So I just worked from my home and I used the phone a lot. I became one of the very earliest Skype users that ever existed.

I used Skype. I ended up in, in 1995. I made a huge shift in my career. I left the job, a job that I was at, and I did a four and a half, five month solo backpacking trip through Sub-Saharan Africa. And while I was there, I saw unbelievable amounts of poverty and I thought, you know what? I really want to spend my life making a difference in the world, and I want to figure out how to spend more time in these countries, how to get to know these cultures better.

And I want to see if I can do something about this poverty. I, when I left for that trip in February of 95, I was in the multimedia CD ROM business and so was everybody else I knew. When I came back in July of the same year, the internet had appeared. It literally came on the scene while I was traveling and everything changed, right?

So I spent about a year working in the high tech SEC in, in the internet sector while I was figuring out how to. A job doing poverty work and when I started, I thought the only way you could work in developing countries was joining the foreign service. So I was planning on taking the foreign service exam and like working in a consulate, and then I figured out that I could actually piece together a career looking at the role that technology and business thinking could.

In solving poverty. And so that's what I ended up doing and I, my first roles doing that in 1996, 95, 96, were working for the World Bank as a consultant and working for the US government for U S A and helping them originally set up Telecenters and I S P infrastructure in Africa. 

[00:14:50] Laura Rotter: I love Jeanine, how you described what so many of us try to do, which is, what is it that's calling to you?

What is, where is the energy coming in you? What's the subject? So you identified actually really helping people in need. And so my question is you talked about. Having a coding job and then customer service and then morphing to this what's the through line of skills through all these roles?

[00:15:23] Janine Firpo: Wow, that's a really good question. I think I'm one of those people who, I'm good at strategy. I'm good at seeing what's possible, and I often see what's possible before other people do. And then I know how to operationalize it. So I also know how to actually think through well, okay. Then how do you go from that concept, that vision, that possibility to actually making it happen.

[00:15:55] Laura Rotter: Which is an amazing ability.

I think when I work with clients sometimes just to get an idea of what their communication style is I often ask, are you a big picture person or do you like details? And what you are describing is that you're a mixture of both.

[00:16:15] Janine Firpo: Both, yeah. And I think throughout my career I've done both.

So for me to really do big picture well and do it accurately, you have to have an understanding of the details. Because what I've found is if you're just doing the big picture work and you don't really understand how things work on the ground and what's real, You miss really important nuances and then whatever your strategy is, when you apply it, you get it wrong because you miss something really important.

Like for example, I'll give you an example. So there was a company I knew of in Africa that wanted to help women lighten their burden around water and getting water. So they worked with a bunch of women. They came up with. Solution that seemed to really meet the need. They built it, they implemented it was a complete failure, and the reason it was a failure was because the men wouldn't allow the women to use the device.

So strategically, they thought they had done it all right. They had even worked with some of the women to try to design something, but they left out a big part of the reality on the ground, which was the men's attitude, right? And so it was a complete failure. So I think it's really important to be able to.

See your vision, but then also really think through the implementation part and know what the different elements are that you may have to contend with to, and you only get that when you are more involved in the nitty gritty, or you're really paying attention to the people who are involved in the nitty gritty, which I think. Usually it doesn't work in companies. The executive usually are not work talking to the workers who actually know a lot. 

[00:18:08] Laura Rotter: So what I'm hearing is both the skills that you have to combine the big picture with the small picture, but also communication skills, right? Listening skills, perhaps paying attention to the details on the ground in addition to just the big.

I'd have to imagine sometime along that big leap that you felt like you were taking a risk, I don't know, is it before you went to Sub-Sahara Africa afterwards, and so what was that experience like for you to take the leap and what mentors or other resources helped you along the way? 

[00:18:46] Janine Firpo: Yeah, so I've taken leaps a lot. So there are many places where I've been really afraid to do something and then I've done it anyway. And I think that comes from faith and trust, at some point. And I think the leaps were smaller initially, right? And I think that over time, I developed a sense of intuition and I had developed a sense of trust, and I started to realize every time I'd taken one of those leaps, it worked out really well.

Every time I trusted my intuition and the thought that this is something I should do, I could do I want to do, it was scary, and I jumped off that cliff anyway. It was amazing ride. So I started trusting that. And in terms of mentors, at different points in my life I use books. So I used to love What Color Is Your Parachute As a great tool.

I have supplanted that book with something called Designing Your Life, which I think is even better. And I hired life coaches at different points to help. Think through and get clarity. And then the other thing I think that's super, super important is I did unbelievable numbers of informational interviews.

So like in that year that I was trying to decide how do I go from my past career to this new vision of working? I didn't know what that looked like. I was starting with the forum service that year. I probably conducted over 200 informational interview. To try to figure out what's even possible and who would care about my skills and how, what do people do in foreign countries?

[00:20:43] Laura Rotter: Thank you for pointing out the importance of. Not only having a network of people you can turn to, but actually using the network, which I think I find women often have difficulty with that for reaching out for advice and for help. We're so used to being the ones that are providing it and then to actually use our network.

And Jeanine, I also want to thank you for, Witnessing the role of intuition in our lives when making decisions. That's another thing that culturally, if anything, we're told not to trust our inner voice, right? Ask other people. Read a book, make a list, pros and cons. And certainly found as I've gotten older that the ability to actually be, still be in touch with that job. Sounds wonderful, but it's giving me a stomach ache every time I speak to the management. Maybe that's not the right position for me. And to trust that and the faith you're talking. 

[00:21:50] Janine Firpo: The thing is, and I found this even in my last job with the Gates Foundation.

At one point I had a coach that was hired for me, an executive coach. And I really appreciated that. But as I was working with her, what I realized was she was teaching me how to act like a man, how to act like a man. And when you think about it, that's how we have been acculturated, right? If you go back to my very first job when I was a programmer, I actually worked, my very first job was in New Orleans.

I was living in New Orleans at the time. And I had to look like a man and act like a man. I wore a little Brooks Brothers outfit, it was the little skirt, the little cute little rosette at my neck, but I had to behave a lot like a man in the early part of my career and as time passed and things changed, I was able to dress the way I wanted. Things loosened up. I didn't have to be like a man as much. The sexism wasn't as overt as it was when I was younger. And then here I was thinking, wow, we finally, as women maybe starting getting someplace. And then I have this consultant. Who's teaching me how to show up like a man again.

And I was like, I am not having this. So I fired her. And I actually think it's really important for us as women to own who we are as women, and to show up as leaders, as women, and to use the tools that we have that are so unique to us, like we are brilliant listeners. We're so good at it. We are brilliant collaborators and serious, like co-creating collaborators.

We help each other. We do great things when we're in community to we, intuition is part of who we are, right? So let's draw on those things and use those things to enrich our lives and enrich the lives of the people around. 

[00:24:02] Laura Rotter: Beautiful, Janine. Beautifully said. So that's a great intro into how your journey developed into empowering women with their wealth.

Can you share that with our audience? 

[00:24:16] Janine Firpo: Sure. So I already talked to you about these big leaps that I took in my life, and because I was telecommuting before, that was a. And living in the Bay Area, I was involved in a lot of the conversations here that led to what's known as impact investing. So I participated in a lot of those things because of the roles that I was playing or the companies that I was working for.

And at one point over a decade ago, I was in a, it was probably 15 years ago now. I was in a conference with about a thousand people. Talking about impact investing, and virtually everyone who did that kind of investing was ultra high net wealth individuals, foundations, institutional investors, right? We needed those kinds of pockets and that kind of money to get this started, but

I realized I made these huge changes in my life to do work that really mattered. I left money on the table to make those choices and my money was working against me. And even though I was not one of those people, I didn't have that kind of wealth. I made a commitment that I was going to figure out how I invest all of my money.

Starting with my cash across the board, all of it in alignment with my values. I didn't even know what private investing was then, and so I got some financial advisors to help me because I was super busy. But they never really got me where I wanted to be. And so when I retired from my prior career about five years ago, I decided I'm doing this.

So I started taking my assets back and working on this myself. And in the course of that, I realized, you know what? We've gotten to a point where anyone, even people who are non-accredited, Can invest their money with their values. Not only that, but most women want to do it. So do millennials. Nobody is helping us.

I'm going to help us. I'm going to write a book and tr try to democratize this kind of investing. Educate women because books that are written for us about finance teach us how to save, how to make sure we have a will, how to budget, all of those very important. But when it comes to investing, they don't teach us how to do that.

And I thought, we need to learn how to do that. We need to be confident as investors and the way we learn is together. So I want to write this book and then I'm going to try to figure out how to put women together in clubs so that they can learn together. And in the course of writing the book, I met Ellen Remer who was running clubs and after I got the manuscript done. She and I decided that we were going to combine our efforts. And so we created Invest For Better as a standalone nonprofit, and we co-founded Invest for Better in September of 2021. Kicked it off really in January of 2022 and had 500 women sign up as members in the first.

I had the privilege both of signing up as a member and running one of those circles, and I have to say, Janine, I had one of the participants say to me, I have, this is my first time in a room. It was a Zoom room, but in a room with other women talking about money. And how empowering that was that women never talk.

People, but that's a different conversation. Rarely talk about money together. And women in particular talking about how much do we have invested in stocks and how much do we have invested in bonds? So I said it at our introduction, but what an amazing book it is both to orient. Yourself into the fact that you do have wealth.

[00:28:16] Laura Rotter: Janine said, you don't have to be ultra high net worth. You do have wealth that can help create change in the world, number one and number two, often we delegate that role to someone else and to just take that role on for ourselves and to be comfortable with the kind of conversations is very empowering.

[00:28:36] Janine Firpo: I very much agree, and even for women, some of the women who have gone through our material and our circle experience learning together, one of the things they get to sometime is, this is a lot of work. If I'm going to take it on myself I just want a financial advisor. And you know what, that is great.

And I think having financial advisors is great, and I think at a certain level of wealth you should, because they really can help you. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be educated yourself because you still want to know, you want to be able to ask the right questions, you want to be able to evaluate the reports that they're giving you.

You want to be able to have a sense of whether you're really getting the kind of support from your advisor that you want. So I think it's just important. And the other thing that I think is really important is that as women, I've had young women tell me, women who, were in their thirties, tell me, oh, my dad taught my brothers how to invest, but he didn't teach me.

So I want us to be the last generations of women who come up not knowing how to invest and how to take care of their money. A lot of times we learn these skills from our parents. I think women learn them from their mothers. I dedicate my book to my mother because I know. That I would never be in the financial position that I am today if it wasn't for her.

She was so transparent about her money, about when she was doing well, about where she made mistakes, and I learned so much from her through osmosis because of her transparency. So I think it's really important for us to share this with our daughters and our sons, but definitely with our daughter. It's a wonderful message.

[00:30:35] Laura Rotter: I, I have to say, I do get concerned. I understand the delegation of duties within a relationship, but I look at the next generation in my family, not necessarily my kids, but nieces, nephews. And there's a clear delegation of responsibility. They're taking care of the kids. They have no interest in what's coming in and what's going out, and how is it invested and are they saving? And it's I've been buying them books like yours activate Your Money. And I'm sure it just goes on a shelve somewhere. But, and it's often, unfortunately when something unexpected happens and then suddenly women are thrust into the role when they've never taken it on before. So it's important work that you're doing. 

[00:31:31] Janine Firpo: The other thing is, I think the part of the reason women shy away from this. Is because we think it's boring, because we think it's all about numbers. Because we've been taught that numbers are, we're not good at them.

And the truth is, yeah, it's about numbers, but it's about pretty simple math. It's not super complicated math. And the thing that gets women more interested in thinking about it is, what is your money doing? What is your money actually doing? We are the activists. We are the ones who are making choices.

The kinds of products we're buying because we don't want to buy products that are going to, we want to buy things that are healthy for our kids. We want to buy things that are environmentally positive. We want to do all of these things to have an impact. We care. It's part of who we are, but what we don't always realize is that our money, The way it's invested is often undermining our values.

It's often invested in private prisons, in the oil and gas industry, in tobacco, in firearms, in weaponry. It's invested in things that go counter to who we are as nurturers, as creators of community, as people who want to see sustainability, who care about the environment we're passing on to our kids.

It's running against all of. So when you think about that, it becomes more important to start considering your financial life, not only for your own wellbeing and to grow your wealth and to secure your future, but to think about what that money is doing and how you could put it to work in support of uplifting women and girls.

Breaking gender barriers, breaking racial barriers, ensuring a clean. Environment. We can put our money to work for those things and we don't have to give up financial return. Yes. And as a corollary, something that you've pointed out, I know many of us women are involved in making charitable decisions for our family, but the amount of wealth that's investible assets versus what we set aside for charity multiples. We can't ignore the impact that actually channeling that money towards causes that we care about. 

In fact, there have been criticisms of big players like the Gates Foundation and who I used to work for, and these may or may not be valid criticisms, but I think there's some truth to them and they say, it's great that you're putting this amount of money into solving these problems, like a lot of challenges that occur in Nigeria, for example, there's a lot of money that goes there, but then what is the bulk of the wealth doing to create the very problems that you're then throwing philanthropic money at to solve?

Are we just with our corpus helping to perpetuate the problems that we think good about ourselves, then as we turn to fix 'em with our five or 10% of our wealth, if that a foundation only has to give away 5% of its corpus every year. That's it. Five. 

[00:34:57] Laura Rotter: And the donor advised funds and a whole other conversation don't have to give away any of it.

[00:35:04] Janine Firpo: Exactly. The money can just sit there in perpetuity if it wants to invest it in anything. 

[00:35:10] Laura Rotter: So I'm wondering if you have something else, another leap in mind for yourself or where are your energies going now, Janine? 

[00:35:20] Janine Firpo: I guess two places. One place is more inward. So I'm really looking forward to I, I will always work, I have no doubt, but I have worked extraordinarily long hours most of my life and I'm looking to creating more balance and going more inward.

Building more community is really important. And the other thing that I think about a lot, if I was not doing what I do right now, I would be much more involved in politics because I think that politics, Has a tremendous impact on what actually happens. I think a lot of people just want to ignore it, just like money.

They want to ignore it and just hope it goes away. But the truth of the matter is those decisions that are being made in Washington impact our lives in very significant ways. So I guess I would urge you if you think about it at all, to get more involved, we need more people like you and women like you to start having an impact there as well. 

[00:36:28] Laura Rotter: I do to end our interview with a question about success. Janine, how has your definition of success and specifically financial success shifted over your career journey? 

[00:36:45] Janine Firpo: Those are two very different things, so I think in terms of success from my career, One piece of success for me was always, am I having fun?

Do I love what I do? So that's been question number one. Do I love what I do? And as soon as that question started to be, eh, I was finding the next gig. And the second thing always has been, am I making an. Is the work that I'm doing, does it actually matter to anyone? Is it actually helping? Am I serving people in some way?

Am I serving society in some way? And I think those two criteria became more and more important as my career went on and I pushed harder on both of those. It's they were always there, but I wanted more and more from them. And in terms of money, yes. My attitude has really shifted a lot from going from pretty much of a poverty mentality and a pretty good clarity that I was going to end up as a bag lady eating cat food under a bridge when I was nine 80 years old.

I was pretty sure that was going to be my trajectory. To getting to the point where I was able to retire, having my financial advisor tell me that I had enough to getting to the point where I believed it to then getting to the point of saying, what do I want this money to do in the world even after I'm gone?

So how do I want to start thinking. When, what is enough and how could I start thinking about divesting from enough, anything over enough, not at death, but earlier than that, and using that money to make change while I'm still alive. So that's one of the things I'm thinking about these days. 

[00:38:46] Laura Rotter: Thank you for sharing that and that question.

What is enough? Is an important question, especially again in the cultural fishbowl that we're in, where it's pretty clear that the answer is there's never enough, right? Because you end you. We try to fill up that existential hole that we all have with more and more things, because culturally that's what we're taught will make us happy. So to confront that question and to answer it for yourself, I really applaud you for that. 

[00:39:20] Janine Firpo: Thank you. Yeah. I realize my financial advisors, at one point, they were saying if we keep, our goal is to get you 6% a year in return and based on your current assets, if we do that, and you keep your run rate down below and you don't actually take any money out of your corpus, Then your look how your money will grow over time.

It's okay, so that's nice. So then I've got mu, a much higher bar of assets on my death. What happens to that is that just then goes onto the next person in my lineage and. Do they really need that much? Is it what happens to them? So they just started getting me to ask questions about even inheritance.

We, you were taught you're, the goal is you leave everything to your kids, right? You leave it all to your kids maybe not. And then if you don't have kids, that, which is my situation, it's like then, So anyway, it's just, it's an interesting set of questions and inquiries that I'm asking and I have no answers to at this point in time.

[00:40:37] Laura Rotter: So, Janine, for the women who are listening to you on this podcast and saying, I really, I would like to learn to have conversations about money and to invest my money in line with my values. You suggest they start, where should they go? 

[00:40:54] Janine Firpo: Of course, there are two things I'm going to have to say and one is, buy my book, Activate Your Money. Or even better join, Invest for Better. So just go to We raised our prices for $125. You can become a member for a year. That includes the price of the book, so you get a copy of the book and you can join a community of women. You can join, you can take, if you're just starting out, you can take a back to the basics course.

If you want to get involved in more of our core work, you can take a six. Core curriculum, and then we have a number of three month additional courses that we call deep dives that will help you think about investing in the stock market. How to invest with the gender lens, how to find a financial advisor.

We have all kinds of different deep dive courses, and we have a guest speaker every month and we are now presenting different investment opportunities every month, and we have. A open office hour with a financial advisor every month. So that's a lot of benefit for $125. And you're supporting a movement of women who are recognizing the importance of their money and the importance of investing their money for better.

[00:42:15] Laura Rotter: Thank you, and I do also want to mention Activate Your That's still live as well, which is another site that has a lot of resources, not live classes. There's been more and more available under the Invest for Better Umbrella, but I am impressed by the resources also on the Activate Your Website. So it's certainly from talking about what credit cards you can use to where your banking and helping community banks and others rather than these large money center banks. It was really a wonderful exploration for me and I've walked many of my clients through it.

[00:42:57] Janine Firpo: Oh, that's so great.

I love that. Thank you so much, and thank you so much for having me on your podcast and asking me all these really fun questions. 

[00:43:09] Laura Rotter: Thank you for being my guest. Janine, it was a pleasure to learn about your journey.

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Janine Firpo, co-founder of Invest For Better and author of Activate Your Money, and I'd like to share with you some of the things I'm taking away from our conversation. The first thing is know your skills. Janine very clearly knows that she's good at seeing what is possible, often before other people do.

But at the same time, she's able to then think through how to go from that concept and vision to actually make it happen. So she's both a big picture person as well as a detailed person. The second learning I'm taking away is to trust your intuition. Janine shared that faith and trust have played a large role in the career leaps she has taken in her life.

And she described that it started small, but over time she's learned to develop a sense of intuition and trust when she's drawn to making a change. Janine, like other guests I've interviewed, urges us to make use of your network. Janine  shared that in addition to trusting her intuition, she did an unbelievable amount of informational interviewing when she considered a change at one time.

She says she probably conducted over 200 informational interviews to figure. What her next move should be. And finally, Janine urges us to own who we are as women. In her words, we are brilliant listeners. We are brilliant collaborators. We do great things in community. Intuition is part of who we are, own our strengths so that we can benefit from them and others can benefit from.

Janine also urged us as women to become more financially fluent. She specifically wants us to understand our investments so that we can make investing decisions in keeping with our values the same way we do as consumers. Are you enjoying this podcast? Don't forget to subscribe, so you won't miss next week's episode.

And if you love the show, please leave a rating and review. I'd so much appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Thanks for listening to Making Change with your Money certified financial planner, Laura Rotter specializes in helping people just like you organized, clarify, and invest their money. In order to support a life of purpose and meaning, go to for a free resource to help you on your journey.

Disclaimer, please remember that the information shared by this podcast does not constitute accounting, legal, tax, investment, or financial advice. It's for information purposes only. You should seek appropriate professional advice for your specific information.