By Alison Pyott, CFP®, CPWA®

Growing the number of impact investors working to address the world’s most pressing problems has long been part of Veris Wealth Partners’ vision and mission. We wanted to highlight the efforts of Invest for Better, an organization founded by Ellen Remmer that is working to inspire women to harness the power of their money to create a better world through education, peer learning circles and community. Recently Ellen joined forces with Janine Firpo, author of Activate Your Money: Invest to Grow Your Wealth and Build a Better World, to expand their collective support for women investors. It has been wonderful to witness and support the success of this effort to empower women impact investors. I recently asked Ellen and Janine a few questions about Invest for Better and their approach to growing an impact movement focused on women.

Alison Pyott: Ellen, why did you start Invest for Better?

Ellen Remmer: I had personally gone through a challenging process as I became inspired to do values aligned investing. Through my day job, I was meeting others who were promoting impact investing and one of those people was Melanie Audette at Mission Investors Exchange. We brought a group together that cared about bringing values aligned investing to a broader audience with a specific focus on women.  This began as a project with amazing partners and shaping it was a collaborative effort. As the circle model took off, we needed to build capacity to make it bigger. Partnering with Janine has been a wonderful evolution.

Alison Pyott: Janine, what inspired you to write Activate Your Money?

Janine Firpo: In 1995 I quit my high-tech start-up job and went on a four and half month sub-Saharan journey. I was inspired to do more meaningful work and help solve some of the problems I saw in Africa. This started a career in international development. I was at a global philanthropy conference – everyone there was high net worth and institutions. That wasn’t me, but I wondered why can’t it be? Over the next 10 years of exploring how to invest all my money with impact, I discovered there were options for everyone. And yet, it was hard to get actionable information about how to align all my assets – even from my advisors. So, I wrote a book. I wanted it to be a resource for women learning alone, as well as in clubs. I’ve had great experiences in clubs. Learning in groups is powerful.

Alison Pyott: Why focus on women?

Janine Firpo: There were few finance books for women, except those focused on the basics. Those books did not include a discussion of our goals and values. Women don’t want to think about money from just our heads. We want to connect it to our goals and aspirations.

Ellen Remmer: The data was clear that women and millennials are interested in shopping and investing with purpose. In my philanthropic experience working with families and donors, women saw philanthropy as the way to create change but did not recognize the power of investments to support a social purpose. Women are curious, but the activation gap between interest and action was significant. The existing on-ramps were limited to angel investing. Nothing helped women look at all asset classes.

Alison Pyott: Do you feel women invest differently than men?

Janine Firpo: I think they do. Women want to take informed risks and understand the stories behind their investments.

Ellen Remmer: The data is confusing and not consistent. The message given to women is not about investing – it is focused on saving. Women often underestimate their knowledge and ability. We see this with investing. We’re socialized to underestimate our abilities. Learning circles help build confidence to ask the right questions.

Alison Pyott: Speaking of circles, what have been your results to date?

Ellen Remmer: We’ve been excited about the number of women we’ve reached. Since 2020, we have hosted 50 total circles with more than 500 women. We are really gratified by the results from our first cohort – 60% of the respondents moved their money to impact investing. They were poised to do it.  And 95% took some action – talking to a partner or changing advisors. Invest for Better has also inspired a variety of spin-offs (including) Jewish Women Invest and groups in Canada, Europe and Mexico.

Alison Pyott: Those are great outcomes. What do you think is the tipping point for women to go from interest in impact investing to action?

Janine Firpo: What I’m seeing is the gap disappears when there is education and community – when it is fun, engaging, and resonates.

Ellen Remmer: This is what is beautiful about our model. Women come curious and poised. They hear stories of other women and realize this is just about asking the right questions and they don’t have to be brilliant at everything. The circle gives you support and accountability to take action.

Alison Pyott: You both shared that you have faced obstacles on your journey to impact investing. What can other women do to overcome their obstacles?

Ellen Remmer: The first thing is to understand your obstacles. Sometimes you have to convince somebody else. Sometimes it is finding time. Or, not being able to find the resources because you don’t know where to start. Each obstacle requires a different solution. At Invest for Better we don’t assume everyone has the same obstacles, but we provide support to help them with their obstacles. Our resources include tips on how to talk to your partner or someone else in your financial world they need to get on board. Or, how to find the right advisor including a new partnership with Values Advisor. The circles provide support and accountability.

Alison Pyott: What do you feel is the role of financial advisors in supporting women impact investors? What do you feel is essential in that relationship? 

Janine Firpo: Listening and educating. Women want to be heard, recognized, and educated. We want to understand. We don’t want to be told. Don’t patronize me or make me feel less than. A great financial advisor should help me feel informed, empowered, and successful. I should know that I am investing in the things that I care about and achieving my financial return objectives.

Ellen Remmer: They are holistic in understanding their clients’ objectives. They listen to understand financial and personal goals so the person feels like they will find meaning and demonstrate impact. A good relationship is a learning journey together and not just about money. It’s experiences, engagement, and collaboration that is organic and natural. Women want advisors to help them understand more and expand their horizons. In the best relationship you continue to challenge each other.

Alison Pyott: What is your vision of success?

Ellen Remmer: Millions of women are engaged with their investments. They are at the table creating a more just and sustainable financial system. This is a way to engage women in shaping the capital markets for the future.

Janine Firpo: My hope is that values-aligned investing becomes a given. It is just how we invest. People will automatically consider the impact of their investments as part of the process, and they will recognize the importance of where their money flows. We’ll put more money into the things we care about; our communities, gender and social equity, and a more sustainable environment and economy. That’s my goal. I would love to see millions of women join this movement. Invest for Better is a catalyst to help more women be aware that their money matters and that they don’t have to go it alone.

Alison Pyott: What most excites in this moment for women impact investors?

Janine Firpo: I’m excited that so many women and young people want to invest their money in a meaningful way. This movement has real momentum.

Ellen Remmer: I’m excited about our new curriculum and alignment with Janine’s book. I’m really excited to see how impact investing is taking off right now – clients demanding solutions, new products accessible to investors, and educating a whole new population to keep us moving in the right direction.

Alison Pyott is a former Invest for Better Steering Committee Member and current Advisor to Northern New England Women’s Investor Network (NNEWIN).  She is a Partner and Senior Advisor at Veris Wealth Partners.