The Economic Case for Fossil Fuel Free Investing

We really loved Betsy Moszeter’s article, “The Economic Case for Fossil Fuel Free Investing,” published in the November/December ’17 issue of Investments & Wealth Monitor. Moszeter is Partner & COO at Green Alpha Advisors, a responsible investment management firm in Boulder, Co. She is also good friend and colleague of us here at Earth Equity Advisors. Read the excerpt below and click through for the full content. 

The Economic Case for Fossil Fuel Free Investing

Investment industry practitioners and academics increasingly are talking about the financial and economic reasons why an investment advisor should offer clients investment strategies that are void of fossil fuel extractors, utilities, pipelines, and service providers. As advisors evaluate the economic and financial risk presented by fossil fuels, it’s also necessary to consider the resulting investment opportunities presented by companies innovating around the growing renewables industry. Even former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Bevis Longstreth is working hard to educate investors and investment professionals about why it’s entirely within one’s fiduciary duty to rethink the current and near­future investing paradigm of the sector.

In his article, “The Financial Case for Divestment of Fossil Fuel Companies by Endowment Fiduciaries,”1 Longstreth writes, “At some point down the road towards the red light of 2 Degrees Centigrade … it is entirely plausible, even predictable, that continuing to hold equities in fossil fuel companies will be ruled negligence.” Who knows more about potential negligence and what falls within one’s duciary duty than a former SEC commissioner? Let’s explore a few of the factors leading him and many others to recommend that invest­ ment portfolios be divested from fossil fuel companies.

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The Best Place To Start When Financially Planning Your Future

Someone recently asked me, “Where do I start with financial planning?”

There are many facets to financial planning and it can be overwhelming at times, but we all have to start somewhere.

First, develop a plan to get out of debt.

If you are not in debt, then you can skip to step two.  If you are in debt, then you need to develop a plan to pay off loans due and other debts.  If you only have a small amount of debt and/or if you have the discipline to create and follow a budget then you should be able to make a basic plan in several hours (a good introductory budgeting tool is  If your situation is more complex, you may need to consult a financial advisor or consider some online resources.  Here is a great first resource for trying to move past debt (

Second, create an emergency fund.

The general recommendation is to have 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund. What does that mean? Cash in the bank. You need liquidity when it comes to an emergency fund. Three months would be appropriate if you have more than one income earner, multiple sources of income, and/or some other significant assets.  Six months is recommended for families with only one income earner.  Some people prefer to have more cash on hand and some circumstances may dictate that, but as a baseline 3 to 6 months is a good place to start.

Third, consider your life insurance needs.

In some circumstances, this may be the number one priority, but start with the understanding that life insurance should always be there to address a need.  A classic example of insurance need is this: a young family has one income earner and one stay-at-home parent. If the working parent dies or is severely injured and cannot collect any form of disability payment, the surviving parent would need resources to cover expenses for the family.  Another classic need, that often overlaps with the previous example, is a couple with mortgage debt. Life insurance can potentially be used to eliminate that debt after a death.  It is also important to consider disability insurance for these examples as well.  And finally, there may be other needs to address such as the need for liquidity if you’re tied up in delays over an inheritance, or business partnership dispute. Insurance can help. These need to be discussed with a financial advisor or insurance agent. However, if you do fall into one of the first two examples mentioned then you need to consider life insurance a top priority.

These essential steps are the first you can take on the journey to financial independence.  My experience is that starting is the hardest part, so set aside a free day or weekend with your family to sit down, plan, research, and set up what you need. These few hours could save you months or years of stress and worry.


Do You Need a Robo-Advisor or a Human Financial Advisor?

Society moves at a breakneck pace these days. Smartphones have given people access to virtually any information they want regardless of their location or time of day. With financial planning needs changing in seconds and people wanting information instantly, robo-advisors are being implemented more and more.

Which type of advisor is right for you?

A financial advisor’s role is to help you live the life you choose, whether that involves a big family with lots of college tuition down the line, early retirement, property investment, world travel, or more. Robo-advisors put your portfolio at your fingertips, giving you a snapshot of your investments in an instant.

A robo-advisor puts control of your future in your hands more than ever before. With the ability to make changes to your plan, you can make your money work for you using a robo-advisor. However, just because you can make swift changes to your strategy doesn’t mean you should, and which is where a human advisor comes in.

It Depends On Your Stage in Life

Much of the human advisor versus robo-advisor decision depends on your stage in life. If you’re just starting out as an earner and have only a small amount of investment capital, a robo-advisor, with its lower fees and more hands-on approach, could very well be the best option for you.

Young or first time investors are typically used to the technological savvy required to manage their own investment strategy, so a robo-advisor may feel more comfortable. Using a robo-advisor provided by an investment firm allows for a DIY approach with the safety net of a human advisor should questions arise. An initial meeting with a human advisor can help them understand the full impact of their investments through both the immediate and long-term future. The lower fees and transparent pricing of a robo-advisor may also be attractive for a group without a lot of assets (or rapidly building assets). As time goes on, the robo-advisor becomes an essential tool, giving them more flexibility to drive their portfolio themselves and make adjustments on the spot.

Another group to benefit from a robo-advisor are the savers, looking to build their portfolio for the golden years. This group is generally climbing the corporate ladder and balancing college tuition for their children. Because needs can rapidly change at this level of investment, there are sometimes questions better answered by a human advisor. A robo-advisor may give more control over the investment options, but a human advisor can answer questions pertaining to more dynamic investment considerations. Talking about money isn’t just about money, and a human advisor can tailor a plan that answers unquantifiable questions like how do I plan for an adventure trip of a lifetime or purchase the mountain cabin where I want to live out my retirement years?

“While a robo-advisor alone puts more control in the clients’ hands, there are still situations where a human advisor is a better voice in your corner, with their expertise and ability to think dynamically to plan your strategy. ”

While a robo-advisor can give easy access to the state of their investments, those who are high earners but not rich yet should have a human advisor who can answer questions revolving around taxes and alternate income streams. A robo-advisor is helpful for quick changes and immediate control over the portfolio, but for someone with quite a lot of investment capital, a strategic plan with a human advisor’s expertise can be more beneficial, keeping the robo-advisor as a single tool in an arsenal of tools to best manage the portfolio.

Those at the pre-retiree/post-retiree point in life are less likely to benefit from a robo-advisor over a human one. Plans that have been years (or even decades) in the making benefit from the human touch to ensure everything’s on track. Life can surprise us, and if that happens after retirement, a human expert can produce a creative solution to minimize any setbacks where a robo-advisor can only inform of the setback’s consequences. Keeping the road smooth through retirement years takes investment savvy and creativity that perhaps cannot be duplicated by a computer.

For those who’ve come into an inheritance, are named in a trust, or have gained a windfall through other circumstances will benefit most from a human advisor who is experienced with planning and executing an investment strategy around these specific life events. Such advice can cover questions around taxes, disbursements quantity and frequency, and can mean the savings of thousands of dollars in penalties if not properly handled.

A human advisor can offer advice on this and much more, as well as recommend investments that fit the clients’ social consciousness. While a robo-advisor alone puts more control in the clients’ hands, there are still situations where a human advisor is a better voice in your corner, with their expertise and ability to think dynamically to plan your strategy. A robo-advisor opens many doors to the understanding and control over one’s investments. Be sure to research carefully which option most fits your needs. Perhaps the answer for you lies with a combination of human expertise and the flexibility and control with a robo-advisor that gives the most value and peace of mind for a future lived the way you choose.

Set up a consultation with us to discuss your sustainable investment options.

A Look at Your Financial Health

I was honored to write an article for Women AdvaNCe, “A Look at Your Financial Health.”

Women AdvaNCe is a not for profit organization that delivers thoughtful content and builds a supportive community that empowers women and enables women leaders to further the cause of full equality in North Carolina.


Just like an annual physical exam, it is helpful to take a look at your financial health at least once a year.  Having the knowledge to not only handle money responsibly, but to use it to create the life you want, and that reflects who you are, improves all aspects of your day-to-day living.

More women are now making the financial decisions for their family, including investment decisions. According to the Family Wealth Advisors Council, nearly 95% of women will be their family’s primary decision maker at some point in their lives.


How to Cope When The Unexpected Disrupts Your Planning

This summer, I prepared to go on an extended trip through four countries in Africa. I had been anticipating this trip for quite some time–it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My adventures were to include: attending a July 4th celebration with fireworks, an amazing tent safari in a remote area of the Serengeti, seeing Victoria Falls (the largest waterfall in the world) in Zimbabwe, and a mission trip in the mountains of Kenya.

Planning Down to the Last Detail

An extended weeks-long cross continental trip has very different requirements from, say, a week-long vacation at a beach you already know. I had to carefully select every item I packed in my suitcase. It was a meticulous planning process, one in which I felt proud. There were weight and suitcase size restrictions on the safari planes, so unless an item of clothing served a good purpose and was comfortable, it did not make the cut. I researched and found that khaki and olive green are preferred on safari so that you become part of the background for the animals, and black is avoided to keep insects away. Again, I researched, planned and packed until it was perfect.

Everything Seemed Taken Care Of…Until Something Happened.

One delay. That was all it took. Our first flight had mechanical difficulties, which dominoed into missing our next flight.

Suddenly, the whole 32-hour trip to Africa went sideways.

We were re-routed on another airline and arrived at our final destination at three in the morning. When our bags were not on our flight, initially I did not worry. Instead, I took a deep breath. Surely they would be delivered over the next few days.

But our baggage ultimately arrived in Tanzania four days AFTER we left that location (over a week after we left the U.S.)

After all that careful planning and packing, I ending up traveling for 22 days in Africa with only carry-on luggage, (2 outfits and 1 pair of shoes). Different from most parts of the world, there are no shopping centers or stores to buy new items where we traveled, and so I made do with what I had.

by Leesa Sluder

“That Won’t Possibly Happen to Me.”

Writing this now, back home in the U.S., our bags remain in Africa. And we are wrestling with the airlines to get them returned to the States. Before the trip, I would have believed the chances of this happening were slim to none.

As I reflect on this experience, here are some observations:

  • I needed a lot less than I thought I needed when I packed at home. Decisions about what to wear each morning were easy (particularly shoes!)
  • It was delightful to have so few items to keep up with, and only a carry on bag as I traveled around—no worries about weight on the safari plane!
  • It was a great opportunity to joke about my situation, and opened up conversations with fellow travelers; many even offered me their clothing.
  • I made it a game to challenge myself to handle this situation with as much grace as possible. It was truly out of my control, and I wanted to rise to the occasion and be flexible enough to handle it.

Coping and Building Resilience In Our Lives

This experience helped me build resilience, although of course it did not impact me long term. Other life experiences that did impact me long term (including divorce, bi-lateral mastectomy, and raising a special needs child) put trials like this in perspective. My life plans did not include these experiences, yet I can look back now and see that these events are all part of the fabric of my life, and have contributed to the richness of life. As a (reformed?) Type A personality, I love to plan and prepare for contingencies, and the majority of the time this is a helpful attribute to keep things orderly.

However, life is messy, and the best laid plans get up-ended by something that you don’t see coming.

Planning For Your Financial Future

From a financial perspective, we budget, save, prepare for contingencies and still get blindsided by something we never saw coming (for example: the 2008 market, or personal challenges like losing a job, getting a divorce, or losing a loved one).

A strategy is to take a deep breath, remember that there are resources of support to help you figure it out, make do with what you’ve got, and get creative about how to handle this situation as gracefully as possible.

A friend, who is a physician and neuroscientist, explained to me years ago that you cannot hold fear/anxiety and gratitude in your brain at the same time; they use the same pathway in the brain (I realize that’s not a medical term, but I like to think of it like it’s a hiking trail). I can choose between these emotions in the moment, so when I feel the anxiety rising in me, I try to think of at least three things I’m grateful for right then.

I tried to use this strategy in Africa when I remembered all the glorious things carefully packed in my suitcase that I did not have with me when needed (like rain gear at Victoria Falls). My grateful thoughts to offset this included: 1) I’m looking at one of the seven natural wonders of the world and it is jaw-dropping beautiful; 2) I have hiked long distances to see far less impressive waterfalls, and this one has a beautiful, flat pathway and 3) even though I’m soaking wet from the waterfall spray, the sun is out and my clothes and shoes will dry. There’s even a rainbow!

Whether planning with finances or planning with other life events, try the strategy of positive thought, or the act of thinking of three things, to help take up all the space in the mental pathway, so there’s no longer room for anxiety.

For guidance with finances during life transitions, set up a consultation.

by Leesa Sluder