Releasing my “noble poverty” mindset has been an exhilarating journey.
When I first heard the term “noble poverty,” I had a visceral reaction of relief at finally having a name for a condition I had lived with since I was a child.
Mikelann Valterra, founder of the Women’s Earning Institute, has defined noble poverty as “the belief that there is virtue in not having money and that good people do not have it.” People with this mindset live by the phrase “It is better to be good and poor than rich and evil.”
The roots of the noble poverty mindset I used to carry run deep. I was raised in a devout Catholic family in a small rural town in Kentucky. My parents had me when they were both nineteen and worked hard to make a sweet little home for my siblings and me, but they struggled over money. The conflicts over power and control were exacerbated during their divorce, when I was a teen.
My experience of church teachings gave me clear messages about money: “You cannot serve both God and money,” “The love of money is the root of all evil,” and the most memorable to me as a child, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
I first started earning money through small jobs: brushing my grandmother’s hair for ten cents and later babysitting. At sixteen, I worked at a local video and record store and did my own tax returns. I worked two to three jobs at once to put myself through college, and even still, I took out as much in student loans as I could to pay my tuition; I was part of the first generation of students to incur unprecedented educational loan debt without fully grasping the consequences.
I went on to get an M.S.S.W. in social work and worked for nonprofit organizations with refugee and immigrant families and affordable housing. In my early thirties, when I began teaching financial literacy, I realized that I needed to start a retirement account and found an SRI mutual fund for my first IRA.
Even then, by age forty, I was still living with a mindset of noble poverty. I realized that I wanted to retire from this way of thinking and living. I came to understand that my calling was socially responsible investing, and I began doing deeper personal money work to liberate myself from the noble poverty mindset as I helped people align their money with their values.
As they say, when the student is ready the teacher will appear. Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money, taught me that we live in a world of abundance, not one of scarcity. From her work with Buckminster Fuller, she saw that our systems that are still catching up with the reality of abundance. I now work with my clients to leverage their investments to transform these systems, so that fair trade, gender equity, inclusion, and economic justice become integral to our economy.
Barbara Stanny, in her book Sacred Success, taught me about women and our relationship to both money and power. She says that women’s challenges with money are often really challenges in their relationship with power. I continue to explore this for myself and help my clients in their own challenges with power.
There are many other teachers, of course, who have helped shaped the unique path I find myself on today. I am thankful to have defined my own “brand of joy,” an idea coined by Tanya Geisler that emphasizes the WHY of my work. As we begin a new year, I am thrilled to be continuing this journey with my clients and colleagues.
In June I participated in the inaugural Conscious CompanyGlobal Leaders Forum, a gathering of about 200 business executives who are interested in evolving themselves as a conscious leaders. They share a goal of bringing deeper awareness to bear inside companies to change how business is done, and to create positive, meaningful ripple effects in the bigger world.
As you might guess, some of the attendees were from recognizable companies like Google, Patagonia, Clif Bar, GoPro, and Seventh Generation. Economic innovators like Kat Taylor from Beneficial State Bank, and mission-oriented CEO Vincent Siciliano with New Resource Bank were there. Game changing leaders from BALLE, Bioneers, Social Ventures Network, Oxfam, B Lab, and American Sustainable Business Council attended as well, along with many chapter heads and members of the Conscious Capitalism national network, NEXUS, and Village Capital.
Natural Investment’s Carrie Van Winkle was recently featured on Forward Radio, a Louisville radio station. This is one of the best overviews of NI’s approach that we’ve heard. The forty-minute conversation covers some of the themes of resilient investing, as well as offering a quick introduction to SRI in general. Topics include fossil-fuel free investing, first steps for millennials, and bees.
The new year offers us a burst of energy for starting fresh and recommitting to the changes we’d like to see in our lives. In the Mindful Money Transformation work I do to help clients achieve their money goals, I’ve found that there are four important ingredients that work together to help create powerful change.
#1 – Our WHYs
We start by identifying the goal (the WHAT) but then quickly dive into the WHY. There’s little energy in the “what” until it’s accomplished—the energy to fire our actions is in the “why.” If the goal is to pay off credit card debt, the why might be “to feel free from the stress of the debt hanging over me.” If the goal is to contribute the maximum amount into their IRA for the year, the why might be “to know that I am sending love to and caring for my elder self by what I do this year.”
# 2 – The energy of 90 days
Many of our goals are long term and that’s OK, but it can be overwhelming and hard maintain momentum toward goals that are still out of reach. So looking at the year by seasons can be a powerful lens that really focuses your energy: using the energy of your WHY, look at the next three months (set a specific target date) and set yourself an achievable goal. Shifting to this seasonal focus can really help you keep the momentum.
Calvert Foundation | Senior Officer, Investor Relations
Katherine is a Senior Officer on the Calvert Foundation’s Investor Relations team. She is responsible for managing relationships with individual investors, institutions and financial advisors to increase their understanding of Calvert Foundation’s impact investing products and services. Prior to Calvert Foundation, Katherine worked at the Aspen Institute where she focused on building entrepreneurial and early-stage investment ecosystems in the Middle East and North Africa. She also worked for Louisiana Economic Development, crafting policies and strategies to enhance the state’s economic competitiveness, and Goldman Sachs, managing both equity and fixed-income investment products. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in economics and mathematics from Bucknell University and her M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Namaste Solar | Co-Owner, Human Resources Specialist
Teri joined Namasté Solar as a full time accountant in 2006, bringing with her a background in small business management and bookkeeping. She has recently moved into a new recruiting role on the Human Resources team, finding a passion for the people side of Namaste Solar’s business. Teri has previously worked for a small software design firm as their business manager. Teri studied business administration at Anna Maria College and transpersonal psychology at Naropa University.
Namaste Solar | Co-Owner, Director of Strategic Planning and Initiatives
Amanda has worked in the solar industry since 2003, first promoting renewable energy policy in Austin, TX while at Public Citizen, then at Meridian Energy Systems, before finding her home at Namasté Solar. Amanda joined Namasté Solar in January 2006 as an early member of the team. She has held numerous roles over the years, from business administration to human resources to sales & design. Today, Amanda serves as the Director of Strategic Planning and Initiatives, devoting her energy to strategic planning and special projects that benefit the company and its customers. She is a passionate advocate for Namasté Solar’s unique employee-owned, holistic business model, and is excited to extend Namasté Solar’s reach on a national scale through our Commercial Service offerings. She obtained a BA in English and French from the University of Texas at Austin, and through solar, has also found her “inner engineer.”
Susan has over 20 years’ experience in the investment industry. Mentored early in her career by Joan Bavaria, the founder of Trillium Asset Management and a pioneer in the field of responsible and sustainable investing, Susan has long believed that women’s voices and leadership skills are important and beneficial to the investment field. She has held several positions at Trillium and for the past ten years, has been a member of Trillium’s Shareholder Advocacy team, leading direct communication with company leadership on issues including board and workplace diversity, human and labor rights, and environmental health. Susan lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with her husband, George. She can be frequently found tending their tomato garden, hiking and keeping up with the lives of her two grown children.
Elyse Cherry is Chief Executive Officer of Boston Community Capital, a sustainable $1 billion national nonprofit organization fighting for social and economic justice. Under her leadership, Boston Community Capital has leveraged $6 billion of public and private investment in underserved communities nationwide. Elyse helped found Boston Community Capital in 1984 as a member of its original Board of Directors and has been integrally involved in its development and growth from a start-up organization to what is, today, a national model for community investment.
Before she started working with me Hope had spent many years trying to build her wealth like a butterfly. She was flitting from one money guru to the next. Reading their books, following them online, and changing course as she found the next lovely “blossom” (investment approach, idea, stock) that caught her eye. Trying to build wealth on our own can often lead to this butterfly approach, fueled by fear that we’re doing the wrong thing (especially when the market takes a deep dive), and ever seeking new ways to make the most of this money are investing.
Hope is a smart businesswoman. She wanted to be smart about building her wealth, too. We are now working together using a honeybee approach to building her wealth—and getting her to her ultimate goal, financial freedom.
Watch a butterfly. It flutters from blossom to blossom in what seems lovely but a bit random. The butterfly is primarily there to drink the liquid nectar; the pollination they do is by accident. While butterflies are eye-catching with their beauty—and important pollinators—their focus and their purpose are very different from the behavior of the honeybee.