Money, Power, and Abortion Funding

Okay, Funders. We're getting real on the blog today. We're going to talk about money and power and oppression and how that all intersects with The Trust Fund. Ready for some fun? Here we go...

As I mentioned previously, I grew up reading the business section of the New York Times, checking stock prices, and playing with test portfolios, so when I started The Trust Fund, I started with a baseline understanding that is vastly different than most people. And that is not okay.

In a recent study, only 33% of Americans were deemed "financially literate", able to answer basic questions on interest and diversification (common issues for anyone with a credit card or bank account). And, more strikingly, the people most likely to get these questions right? You guessed it - white men

Worse still is that levels of financial literacy are lower among the less educated, minorities, and women. Almost 65 percent of Americans with graduate degrees possess basic financial knowledge and skills, compared to just 19 percent of high-school grads. African Americans and Hispanics score lower than do whites on surveys measuring knowledge about financial concepts like debt. And analysis done in the U.S. and Europe has consistently found that women are significantly less likely to answer financial-literacy questions correctly than men.
— Marianne Cooper, The Atlantic


This is not surprising if you know anything about the history of power and oppression in the United States. Wealthy white men formed the cornerstone brokerage firms on Wall Street (think J.P. Morgan Chase, Charles Schwab, Goldman Sachs). The men that made these firms what they are today, were often wealthy to begin with. That wealth came from having access to  opportunities and exploiting deregulated systems that women and people of color did not have access to because of a societal structure that excluded them based on biology and skin color. Of course, this is an oversimplification of literally centuries of oppressive behavior that led to the exclusionary system we have today, but the point is still relevant. As time went on, these behaviors turned into policy - you have to be a landowner to vote (and you can't own land if people think you should still be enslaved and/or won't pay you for your labor); you can't open a credit card account without your husband's signature - and policies like these excluded large swaths of the U.S. from financial institutions. 

State Street Financial Advisors  literally  has brass barriers to its entrance. That's not intimidating at all...

State Street Financial Advisors literally has brass barriers to its entrance. That's not intimidating at all...

Meanwhile the wheels of capitalism kept churning and, without having people of color and women involved, continued to validate existing structures that kept people out. Another byproduct- the rules of the game got more complex, as necessary regulation (the depression-era New Deal) came into play to protect average people who just gained access to the financial system (still largely white men with families). And, as with any good free market system, corporations worked hard to get around those regulations. Modern examples continue today, with corporations moving headquarters to Ireland to avoid corporate tax rates, or lobbying Congress to overturn protective measures.

Corporations aren't just complicit in these banking maneuvers. They actively participate in the continued exclusion and exploitation of people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, and women. They advocate for weaker regulations, sue to keep compensation low or non existent when they pollute our water, poison our food, refuse to provide reasonable accommodation, and hide behind religious objections to avoid taking care of their employees.

There is so much more that can be said on this stuff - it really could be its own mini project. For the sake of brevity, let's focus on what The Trust Fund is doing about it all. First, The Trust Fund is an abortion fund that is committed to reproductive and economic justice. Second, The Trust Fund is an abortion fund that invests in the very institutions and corporations that stand in the way of justice. So how can they work together?  I don't want to be one of those "the only way to change the system is from the inside" people because, honestly, that's BS.

Instead, The Trust Fund is using the privilege that comes with being a white person steeped in the world of finance (indeed, an ancestor of some white dudes with cornerstone seats on the stock exchange) to exploit the oppressive and exclusive world of securities and redistribute that wealth to other abortion funds and patients. As I've talked about before, I have little control over the current test case (turns out, full-time work and school + abortion fund side project is kinda exhausting and an ETF was the best way to test the model without having to spend a ton of time monitoring it). Once I can figure out this incorporation and 501(c)3 stuff, the ETF will be history and The Trust Fund will refocus on investments in companies owned and managed by women, black, Latinx, and native folks, and LGBT people. The Trust Fund will focus on renewable energy, sustainable  companies, and companies that bake giving back into their company values. And, with any luck, in a few years, The Trust Fund will be able to bring together RJ/EJ communities and finance folks to build an equitable base of financial literacy, organizational sustainability, and diverse support that will tear down centuries of consolidated financial power. With this intentional design, The Trust Fund portfolio will have a strong economic AND human return.