What I believe about money

I believe:

…that money was designed to work for human beings, rather than the other way around.

And I mean that in terms of the actual historical context of money’s origins, not in the capitalist, our-money-should-earn-money, passive-income sense. My own relationships with money and work are constantly evolving. There’s always more to learn, and I love experimenting with new ways to bring the various aspects of my economic life into better alignment with my ethics and values. Since 2003 I’ve also had the honor of professionally supporting people as they navigate their own relationships with money, values, work, and often, social entrepreneurship. May the practice of sharing through this website contribute to more curiosity, awareness, and openness, for myself and others.

…that making conscious decisions about WHY and HOW we use money is more important than HOW MUCH we earn, or spend, or accumulate.

Of course these things can be related. I try not to judge anyone (myself included) for where we started or the choices we make. I also try to remember that we’re all working with different conditions, and that those conditions are changing all the time. Meanwhile, it’s hard enough to understand our own conditions, much less anyone else’s! Which is another way of saying: just because something worked for me or anyone else, doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a good fit for you, and it might not even make sense for me or that other person two weeks / months / years from now.

…that capitalism, colonialism, globalization, white supremacy, the patriarchy, gender-and hetero-normativity, ableism, and lots of other interrelated systems and attitudes are problematic.

Some people have a lot more opportunity to earn or spend or accumulate or give compared to others, whether or not we choose to… often as a result of things beyond our control, such as the color of our skin, or our gender, or what type of financial situation we were born into. I’m doing my best to learn more about how these forces shape just about everything in my experience. Sometimes these factors work against me. And in many other ways I benefit from them. None of this is my fault, AND I’m trying to figure out how I can feed these problematic systems as little as possible… while doing everything I can do cultivate and encourage the type of world that I DO want to live in. It’s a humbling work in progress.

…that most people feel some combination of alone / confused / shameful when it comes to money

Here’s a scene from my own money history: I had just arrived in my new dorm at the beginning of university in Canada. Everyone on my floor was organized into a circle so we could share where we came from. Calgary, Russia, Vancouver, Toronto, Pakistan, Montreal, Bermuda, India, Halifax… When I said, “Marin County, California,” the guy from Russia (who would later beat the rest of us at chess while literally blindfolded) blurted out, “Oh! Marin! The wealthiest county in America!” I felt I might die of shame. Not only because now I was permanently branded as The Rich Girl, but also because it had never even occurred to me that this might be true.

…that talking more openly about how money does or doesn’t work in our lives will help us support each other as we figure it all out

My parents came from wildly different class backgrounds, and I absorbed a confusing mix of messages about money growing up. It was made very clear, however, that talking about our family’s wealth was bad. While I trust that there were good intentions behind this message (see below), I now understand that not talking about money is one of the things that keeps our lives AND the bigger systems stuck. I think I’m doing a much better job now of living according to my own values rather than anyone else’s. Part of that is choosing to fight back against the taboo of talking about money, and talking about it whenever I can. And I respect people’s choices to keep their experiences private, too.

…that we’re all doing the best we can with whatever knowledge, energy, and resources we have.

That includes me, you, and everyone around us. May what I share here remind you that there are so many ways to approach Right Livelihood.

What do YOU believe about money, work, or making a living?

If you are are willing to share, please let me know 🙂

My favorite money people, organizations, and resources

Here are some of the people and organizations that have inspired me most in my Right Livelihood journey:

Vicki Robin‘s book, Your Money or Your Life, sparked the beginnings of my own Right Livelihood journey back in the early ’90s. (I wrote more about that here.) Unbeknownst to her, this book also launched the entire FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early) movement! When Vicki finally discovered that gobs of millennials had created entire subreddit communities (etc) based on her work, she jumped back into that particular fray… only to leave a few years later due to a very clear values disconnect. I LOVE all of this about her, and am honored to consider her a friend as well as a mentor.

Hadassah Damien, AKA the “femme punk big sister of financial real talk,” is a multi-talented genius. I simply adore her values and her take on big picture economic stuff. If you want to be inspired by someone who started out working class and who is absolutely kicking ass in terms of educating herself (and everyone else!) about money — and who has increased her earnings by FIVE TIMES in as many years — I highly recommend her Ride Free Fearless Money website. And sign up for her e-newsletter so you don’t miss any of her new blog posts or videos.

Resource Generation is a “multiracial membership community of young people (18-35) with wealth and/or class privilege committed to the equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power.” If you identify as such, don’t miss their next Making Money Make Change conference! If you’re in the US, there might be a local chapter near you? I highly recommend their other programs and resources as well, including their brand new transformative investment principles. I experienced many firsts through this organization: my first time learning about the diversity of gender pronouns; my first anti-racism workshops; my first taste of what is possible when there is EXCELLENT facilitation of cross-race and cross-class conversations.

Kate Poole is SO inspiring to me. I look forward to one day working with the business she co-founded with Tiffany Brown; Chordata Capital is “an anticapitalist wealth management firm that supports “clients in redistributing rather than continuing to accumulate wealth”. I love that people like Kate are taking the topic of reparations so seriously that they’re creating avenues for actually making it happen! Plus she oozes artistic talent, and is generally a very fun and generous soul.

PocketSmith is my favorite app for making sense of my financial situation. Yes it costs money, but consider the net cost to society of the free option; Mint is owned by a company that lobbies to keep the US tax code super complicated so that they can sell you tax filing services (I’m looking at you, TurboTax!). Calling it a “personal finance” app would be selling it short. I use it to categorize my spending transactions so I can see where my money is going. It can handle currencies from multiple countries. Their new dashboard is customizable and brilliant for putting whatever information you want to see front and center. I love that you can plan out different scenarios to see how different choices will affect your financial future. And the calendar view for budgeting is super handy. Want a free month of Pocketsmith Premium? Use this link and I’ll get a free month too 🙂

Why it’s so important to support each other through hard times (if we’re in a position to do so)

During a video call with my family earlier today, I learned that my parents had just received delivery of 10 pounds of duck. Turns out that after reading an article explaining that small farms and food processors are suffering because they’ve lost the bulk of their restaurant business thanks to the coronavirus situation, my dad immediately called his favorite duck purveyor and placed an order. For… an awful lot of duck for just him and Mom! I’m sad I’m too far away to help them eat the massive batch of Chinese marinade duck wings that will soon be bubbling on the stove 😦

My parents are also donating generously to a fund that’s providing support to their musician friends whose gigs and concerts — their livelihoods! — have been cancelled.

These are both excellent illustrations of interdependence, and how those of us who still have income and/or assets right now can pitch in to support those less fortunate.


Here’s a great video from Hadassah Damien, the “punk big sister of financial real talk,” waxing poetic on the limitations of the belief that we can ever be truly financially independent, with some great suggestions for what we can do to acknowledge our interdependence, particularly when it comes to supporting small businesses and fellow humans during times of crisis:

Independence and freedom only matter if I have people to be independent with and be around and get weird and smart and BE with.

I’m fully with Hadassah that the FIRE movement often takes on a very self-centered flavor. It’s a fascinating dynamic to observe, and I’ll confess it takes a lot of work for me to remember to be generous — because I can be! — when the fight-or-flight system gets triggered.

I also believe that this more selfish, believe-in-the-myth-of-independence view is more a function of the way many people currently practice FIRE, rather than what the founders of the movement intended, or practice(d) it themselves.

As an example of what I’m talking about, the latest blog post from Vicki Robin (who wrote Your Money Or Your Life — the book that sparked the FIRE movement – along with the late Joe Dominguez) asks some very juicy questions, acknowledges the dark side of FIRE, and reveals her own values, which in my view are very much aligned with Hadassah’s.

Here’s hoping that more and more people can get onboard with the benefits of financial INTERDEPENDENCE, and thanks to Vicki and Hadassah for all you do to steward this important shift! ❤

What’s your Printery?

I love everything this video reveals about this man, his vision, his spirit, his work in the world… Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr, please take my money!

You will not get a degree
You will not go into extraordinary debt
You will print all day, every day
You will clean type
Wipe up ink
Smell the scent of grinding heavy metal night and day
You will not move back in with your parents
Nor struggle to have a quote/unquote “career”

You can give him money too, via his latest IndieGoGo campaign. Hat tip to Austin Kleon for alerting me (and thousands of other e-newsletter subscribers) to the existence of this inspirational being!

If a contribution isn’t in your budget right now, Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr offers an alternative to “join[ing] the growing movement of people who are taking control of their own damn lives.”


May we all find our own version of The Printery, which is, as Amos describes,

another path, a community that will assist you in achieving your dreams.

Not someone else’s dreams; YOUR dreams.

Using group agreements to encourage participation in classes, workshops, and meetings

Have you ever participated in an intimate class or group meeting that broke down in some way? What happened? How did your level of engagement shift as a result?

Maybe one participant spoke more than anyone else and you mentally “checked out” because you knew you’d never get a chance to contribute. Or maybe someone you really wanted to hear from kept getting interrupted, which made you angry, and you spent the rest of the session noticing how many times she got interrupted rather than hearing what anyone was actually saying. Did a group of people keep showing up late after breaks, making everyone wait? Did you become so hungry, or so uncomfortable from sitting still for so long, that you lost your ability to focus?

Group agreements can do a lot to prevent scenarios like these. By fostering a sense of psychological safety within groups, they can make it much easier for everyone to participate more fully, or even show up in the first place.

An example of group agreements from Visions Inc that the East Bay Meditation Center uses

Here are a few of topics around which group agreements can encourage open and intimate sharing among groups, especially in diverse groups comprised of people with a range of identities, or whose cultural, racial, gender, and/or class experiences (to name only a few!) may differ greatly:

  1. Confidentiality
  2. Schedule / showing up on time / timekeeping / what if you can’t make it
  3. Listening / talking at the same time as others
  4. Encouraging responses vs asking participants to receive each others’ contributions without responding or “fixing”
  5. Assuming goodwill / distinguishing between impact and intent
  6. Making space for all voices / permission to pass
  7. Speaking for yourself / speaking on behalf of others / making generalizations
  8. Addressing / identifying each other (eg nametags, sharing gender pronouns)
  9. Side conversations / off-topic conversations
  10. Use of technology / taking notes / photography
  11. Personal attacks / value judgments
  12. Availability of water and food
  13. Body care: official “bio breaks” / people taking breaks when necessary
  14. Accessibility / where to meet

If you’re the “holder” or facilitator of the group, it’s great to give participants the opportunity to co-create agreements prior to accepting them… though this is more practical for multi-day events when this process won’t take up too much of the allotted time! For shorter meetings with a new group, try setting aside even just a couple minutes to read out a prepared set of agreements, and asking people to acknowledge them with a quick show of hands.

As a participant, if you know there are certain group agreements that would help you feel safe or show up more fully, you might ask your facilitator before the event if they would be willing to address those topics as part of the intro to the session. If they are not willing to do so… well, then you have more information to help you decide whether or not that’s a meeting you want to attend!

I’d love to see examples of group agreements that you’ve found particularly helpful; please send any and all my way!

How to charge on a sliding scale

I don’t think I’ve mentioned lately how much I love Hadassah Damien, curator / writer / technologist / activist and “femme punk big sister of financial real talk” over at Ride Free Fearless Money.

One of the coolest things on her site is a really thorough explanation of how to charge on a sliding scale… also known as letting people pay what they can, within a set of boundaries, such that the people who pay more essentially cover the costs of the people who pay less.

Hadassah goes into detail on:

  • Why a business or organization that charges for events, services, or even goods might consider using a sliding scale (because: colonial capitalism!);
  • How to set up a sliding scale pricing system that won’t compromise your business’s financial sustainability; and
  • How to guide your customers toward the most appropriate end of the your sliding scale.

To that last point, she also just released a new-and-improved version of her own sliding scale fee guidance chart:


If you’ve ever been tempted to use a sliding scale for your business or organization, I highly recommend checking out the very useful resources Hadassah has compiled! Better yet, sign up for her newsletter for a regular dose of “nerdery and hustlerdom” (eg awesome money tips, ideas for hacking capitalism, and ways to hustle).

Thanks for the inspiration, Hadassah! ❤

(My other) Scott is back: an ode to my favorite business pundit

My commitment to television is poor. The notable exception was with Game of Thrones, though even then my attention was spotty: I watched a few episodes of seasons 1-2, binge-watched every episode from seasons 3-5 over 3 weeks to get caught up in time to watch season 6 in real time, started back from the beginning to complete the set, and complained along with everyone else when the final season 7 circled the drain. Sigh.

Despite moving to New Zealand to become a small business YouTuber (an endeavor that never went much of anywhere, which is fine by me!), I don’t follow anyone on that platform either.

At least, I haven’t since the last episode of Winners and Losers, a series I watched every Friday morning like clockwork until they killed it about 8 months ago. NYU Professor and businessman Scott Galloway’s weekly series was one of the references for what would have been my channel; I loved the research, the infographics, his fast-talking confidence, his willingness to get personal, his unflinching taking-of-sides, the infinite flexibility of the white background, and the absurd endings, a brilliant move designed to game the YouTube algorithm.

I loved everything about it… even if I occasionally hated him. Is he not, for instance, sexually harassing a member of his staff in the series finale?!

Fortunately for Professor Galloway fans like me, he never stopped writing his fascinating (and often surprisingly personal) weekly newsletter, No Mercy / No Malice. Today’s issue included a tiny PS at the bottom:
ScottsbackOf course I clicked, and am so glad I did! Scott is back! I was subscriber 814, and I’ll bet that number goes up fast.

There are only 2 episodes up on Professor Galloway’s mysterious new YouTube channel — and he hasn’t donned a wig yet — but because of those videos I now know that:

  • A fifth of the people who purchased houses using Redfin in 2018 didn’t even visit those houses before buying;
  • Louis Vuitton was the first to design shipping trunks with flat lids so that you could stack them more efficiently (he didn’t say when though, so I had to look it up: in 1858);
  • The fanny pack I’ve been wearing almost daily since 1993 is apparently back in style! Well, fanny packs in general are. Mine was probably never stylish, alas, but oh-so-practical…

All of this to say, if you care at all about the digital economy and are searching for another reason to stare at a screen, get amongst Professor Galloway’s stuff. Enjoy!


Expensify this

My day job, as you’ve probably noticed by now, involves making YouTube videos for a small business audience. At a small business software company.

Expensify, another small business software company, just won that game with their Superbowl ad:

When my colleague Luda shared this with me last week it had fewer than 500 views; it has 7.2 million as I’m writing this. They’ll be paying an estimated USD$5.25 million to air the ad during the game, and I am so curious what percentage of those YouTube views they paid for. A lot of people are commenting that when they clicked to watch the video, the same one comes up as an ad, so clearly they’re paying more than they should have…

I was only half joking when told Luda I might as well quit, there’s no touching their big-budget over-the-top interactive star power collab sweepstakes approach. Definitely not my style, but still… wow. I catch new details every time I watch (”smoke a bong with a porcupine,” why not?) and I’ve watched it So. Many. Times. I even tried scanning the receipts but couldn’t get any of my blurry screenshots to scan properly in the app, which I already have on my phone because that’s what we use for our expenses. I feel so Silicon Valley right now.

Well played, Expensify, well played.

We didn’t flood the new carpets / Why it pays to put due dates on your invoices

Scott and I just spent about a week gradually moving out of our old rental and into a new one. The first order of business was replacing the carpets, a project we’d agreed to take on in exchange for not having to pay rent until the lease on our previous rental ran out.

On our first full day in the house, after the carpets were in, we triggered a small flood during a failed attempt at replacing the ancient water filter. It wouldn’t have been so bad except that the main water shutoff valve is broken (now we know!), so it’s impossible to shut the water main off completely. I’ve never been so grateful for my travel towel.

I was expecting to have to pay the emergency plumber Big Bucks for coming out in the middle of a three-day weekend. Amazingly, the invoice he sent later that day came to only $46 NZD (~$31 USD), a small price to pay for having saved the new carpets, yay!

But that invoice was missing a very critical detail: a due date. In fact, none of the invoices I received over the last couple of weeks — one from the plumber, one from the carpet people, and one from a doctor — included a due date! Clearly I need to share my latest video around:

Spoiler: Continue reading “We didn’t flood the new carpets / Why it pays to put due dates on your invoices”

How to raise money for your business – a couple presentations from the archives

I recently discovered a couple recordings of talks I gave when I was in my Finance for Food prime, traveling throughout North America to give keynote presentations and teach workshops on raising money for food businesses.

My book had already been out for a while by then, so I’d had the opportunity to figure out a few things that I hadn’t known yet when I was writing it. More importantly, I’d also given enough presentations (so many!) to learn which things people really wanted to hear about, and what bored people to tears… so I’d like to think that these two videos deliver the best-of-the-best of what I had to offer back then.

Both of these talks were given to audiences of farmers (the Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference and the Virginia Farm to Table conference, respectively), but I made sure to cover financing options for processed food businesses, too… and so many of these options are available to ANY type of business.

If you want to know about your options for raising money for your business and video is your thing, check these out!