Politics and portfolio alignment at Portland, Oregon-based RIA Modernist Financial, whose investments have a clear focus on progressive politics. Talking about politics with clients is by no means taboo at this firm.
“The golden rule of giving financial advice is never to talk about politics. But everyone I talk to is dying to talk about politics,” Modernist CEO and founder Georgia Hussey told ThinkAdvisor in an interview.
Founded in 2013, the firm is a certified B Corp and manages $70 million in client assets.
People in the creative arts and those related to the real estate and property development worlds make up the majority of Modernist’s clients.
Hussey, 43, a former writer and sculptor, started working as a financial advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors in 2011 before moving to Rosenbaum Financial Group, a small Portland firm.
In both cases, she felt blocked.
During her tenure at Wells Fargo, “I lost money on a lot of clients because I needed to be able to charge financial planning fees to do the work I was doing,” she said.
“My entire career has been told that what I want to do is crazy and no one is going to pay for it. Over the years I’ve learned that’s not true,” Hussey said.
she continued. “My business isn’t based on an industry. If anything, if the industry disagrees with me, “I’ll be like, ‘Oh, fine. I must be on the right track. ‘”
When Hussey left Rosenbaum to start her own company, again because of financial planning setbacks, she knew her company “had to be oriented in the interests of everyone, not just my financial interests,” she said.
Through sustainable investment choices and financial life planning, Hussey helps investors structure their wealth according to their progressive values.
In the interview, the certified financial planner discusses her savings and investing advice in downturns and recessionary environments, as well as her tips for keeping clients calm when markets tumble.
ThinkAdvisor recently spoke with Hussey from Portland on the phone.
The Sarah Lawrence graduate, who was a writer and sculptor before becoming a consultant, declared in her company manifesto: “We reject stereotypes—the cheapskate, the spendthrift, the self-made man, the golden spoon.”
Here are the highlights of our interview:
THINKADVISOR: What is your ideal customer?
Georgia Hussey: I want to work with people who are interested in how we make simple decisions in a broken culture and how we can make the world a better place — not just our own families richer — through the choices we make .
What is your overall goal?
Much of our work is about acknowledging that investment management is built on a society of inequities, be it gender, race, class or immigration status.
The work we’re doing is driving that forward and helping people make fundamental decisions that are more in the collective interest, not just their own, by incorporating the needs of the larger community into their decision-making.
Modernists have become laboratories for understanding what moral decision-making means when we have the resources.
You are politically progressive and choose to focus on progressive investing. Please explain in details.
When I started my business, I worked with creative professionals—designers, writers, musicians—because a lot of people have money stories about whether or not they were able to make it.
When I [founded] Modernism in 2013, then 2016 [presidential] In elections, I see an overlap between my creative clients and the political work I’ve been doing personally.
With the Trump administration in place, it was obvious that all I wanted to do was talk about the political implications of the decisions our clients were making.
They feel limited within the system within which we all operate. I looked at my client list and saw that everyone was politically progressive because they were already attracted to me – and they wanted to work with a certified B Corp, which we became in 2017.
In 2018, we pivoted to progressive politics across the board, making it a clear focus for the company. In some ways, it’s always been there.
Have you encountered resistance from a primarily conservative industry?
I don’t do business by industry. If anything, if the industry disagrees with me, I’m like, ‘Oh, good. I must be on the right track.'”
My entire career has been told that what I want to do is crazy and no one is going to pay for it. I’ve learned over the years that this isn’t true.
People will say, “Wait – you’re talking politics with your clients!” The golden rule of giving financial advice is never to talk about politics. But everyone I talk to is eager to talk politics.
You were a financial advisor for Wells Fargo Advisors and a financial planner for Rosenbaum Financial Group. Why did you start your own company?
At Wells Fargo, I lost a lot of clients because I needed to be able to charge financial planning fees to do the work I was doing.
I left Rosenbaum for financial planning.
Also, I need to choose my investment committee.
I feel like I’m actually being forced to start a company because the industry is very distrustful or blind to my vision of the possibility of working with clients.
We’ve had clients pay us $25,000 in cash for financial planning and they’re happy with it. They understand the value of advice.
I’ve been told it’s crazy, no one pays more than $2,000 a year for financial planning.
my goal is [increase] Clients with assets over $1 million no longer pay us for financial planning.
How has your portfolio performed during this market downturn?
very good. Several positions significantly outperformed the baseline. In a rising interest rate, recessionary environment, everything is working out as I expected.
Broadly speaking, what position should investors take?
I think the mistake a lot of people make during a recession or a downturn is to shut down their financial structures because they get scared and panic.
But you shouldn’t turn off saving and investing. Just save a little less for retirement, or start living off your business’ nest egg instead of cash flow.