Invest for Better’s Core Curriculum is our foundational course and tends to be the series most women chose to begin their values-aligned learning journey. Based on Janine Firpo’s book, Activate Your Money: Invest to Grow Your Wealth and Build a Better World, the course starts with conversations that break the taboos around money, helps participants understand their current portfolio, and introduces them to values-aligned investment options. At the end of the course, they will be ready to move from knowledge to action.
The content of the Core Curriculum is delivered over a 6-month period, during which participants meet in a group of 8 to 20 women on a monthly basis. Discussions and exercises during the meetings take place in a combination of small and large groups to provide participants with both intimate settings and broader learning opportunities.
Each month, participants perform 1-2 hours of self-study to prepare for the conversations and discovery that take place in the meetings. During their first meeting, each participant is placed in a triad with two other women, who serve as accountability buddies for the remainder of the course. The triads also build continuity between meetings and provide an opportunity to collaborate on pre-work. Participants are able to ask questions during live sessions with financial advisors and other experts, which are conducted monthly.
By the end of the Core Curriculum, participants will have:
Prerequisites & Level of Effort
Although there isn’t a prerequisite for this course, it is recommended that women who are just getting started take our Starter Course, which is titled Back to the Basics: Financial Planning, at some point. The Starter Course can be taken prior to, concurrent with, or after the completion of the Core Curriculum.
Monthly Commitment: 3-4 hours
As mentioned earlier, there are 1-2 hours of self-study each month. The meetings themselves last about 1.5 hours, and there is another hour between Circle meetings when participants will connect with their triads. Together, this adds to about a 3-4 hour/month time commitment.
The Core Curriculum was designed to build women’s confidence as investors, demonstrate the power of their investment assets, and show them how to activate those resources to enable a more just and sustainable world for all. Structured to guide participants through a series of steps, the self-study and meetings build on each other. Recognizing the busy lives we all lead, the course creators strove to minimize the pre-work and to make each meeting interactive, engaging, and informative. Prior participants have commented on the critical difference this course has had on their attitude about, and relationship with, their money.
Connections & Money Stories
Participants in the Core Curriculum are also members of Invest for Better, which provides a range of benefits. To help members navigate those opportunities, the first meeting kicks off with an easy-to-follow introduction to Invest for Better and the resources membership provides. During theif meeting, participants establish connections with their peers through introductions and story-telling. Ground rules for engagement and confidentiality are also established at this time. Together, these activities set the stage for what is to come.
Risks & Rewards
The second session begins the process of identifying and documenting the way in which each participant wants to approach her money and investments. This includes taking a quiz to assess risk appetite, prioritizing participant values through joint activities, and breaking into buddy pairs to articulate high level goals and aspirations. Through the reading that is assigned prior to the meeting, participants will also learn about the importance of asset allocation and will be introduced to all the asset classes into which they could chose to invest their money.
The purpose of the third meeting is for participants to really understand – perhaps for the first time – exactly what they are invested in right now. Using a simple spreadsheet, participants will capture their current holdings, discover where they money is invested, and recognize how it is allocated across asset classes. Through discussions in the meeting, participants are exposed to differences that can exist within the investment process and are able to see how their portfolios are similar to, or differ from, others. This session has provided a breakthrough for some women and is considered one of the most valuable in the course. However, it also represents the heaviest lift in terms of pre-work. For that reason, the effort is introduced in Meeting 1, so participants have a long time to prepare.
Now that participants know where they stand, the next step is an inquiry into what else is possible, particularly in regards to values-aligned investments. This conversation begins in Meeting 4 with a discussion of the public markets, including our cash, fixed income (bonds) and stock market investments. Since the Core Curriculum is only an introductory and foundational course, there is not enough time explore each of these asset classes in depth. However, the worksheets, examples, and exercises definitely get the wheels turning. The Deep Dive, or advanced courses, that are available to all members provide an opportunity to dig in further.
Private Markets & Alternatives
In this session, participants will learn about crowdfunding, angel investing, and other approaches to invest in privately-held companies. This conversation is particularly important for women because only a tiny fraction of female entrepreneurs (only 2.0% in 2022) in the US receive venture capital funding. Women have not been educated about private investing, nor are we encouraged to get involved. Even if we chose not to invest this way, or are not ready to do so yet, we should at least be aware of what it is and how it works. This session also touches on other non-public forms of investing, known as Alternatives. This enormous asset class includes virtually every type of investment that is not cash, stock, or bonds.
Financial Advisors & Next Steps
In the last meeting of this course, participants will talk about the pros and cons of having a financial advisor, including the different types of advisors and services they provide. The Deep Dive (advanced) courses available through Invest for Better are presented, enabling members to determine whether one of those courses might be a good next step. After that discussion, members break down into small groups to complete their Investment Policy Statements and to committo their next steps. The group will set a time to reconvene in six months to report on their progress and celebrate achievements. In this session, participants also have an opportunity to pay it forward by providing feedback to IFB.
Co-Founder, Bainbridge Graduate Institute
Jill Bamburg was one of the co-founders of Bainbridge Graduate Institute/Pinchot University (now Presidio Graduate School), the first school to offer an MBA in Sustainable Business. Prior to that, she worked in adult education (Antioch University/Seattle), high-tech marketing (Aldus Corporation), and community and environmental journalism (High Country News, Jackson Hole News and Guide). She is the author of Getting to Scale: Growing Your Business without Selling Out. In addition to advising IFB on curriculum, she is the moderator for the Seattle Impact Investing Group.
Co-Founder, Invest for Better
Janine Firpo is a seasoned values-aligned investor and social innovator, with a long history of working at the intersection of women and their money. From the early years of Apple Computer to senior positions with Hewlett-Packard, the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Janine has always found herself making an impact. 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. Janine walks her talk. She is taking action to move all her own assets into investments she feels good about and is watching them grow with market-rate returns. In 2021, she joined forces with Ellen Remmer to co-found Invest for Better.