Laura Oldanie is a green living and money coach who blogs at Rich & Resilient Living, where she explores money and lifestyle choices for a regenerative future. Her goal is to help people achieve financial freedom and live their best lives in socially and environmentally conscious ways that equally value people, planet, and profit.
She received her Permaculture Design Certificate in 2009 and has been exploring how to earn, spend, invest, and manage her money to bring about the change she wants to see in the world ever since. She has been a sought-after source of knowledge on regenerative investing, and her work has been featured in Forbes, Your Money or Your Life, Good Housekeeping, CNBC, All Star Money, ChooseFI, The Firedrill Podcast, the Permaculture podcast, and many others!
She answers the question of “What Could Possibly Go Right?” with thoughts including:
- The “possibilities for us to think more holistically, more resourcefully about wealth and what constitutes wealth”
- The need to “think about retirement planning on a climate challenged planet”, and to build resilient homes and communities
- The self-actualization and joy elements that come from resourcefulness and creative frugality
- Thinking beyond socially responsible investing to more regenerative and meaningful opportunities
- Book: Growing FREE (Financially Resilient and Economically Empowered) by Michael Hoag & Laura Oldanie https://growingfree.money/
Connect with Laura Oldanie
Vicki Robin: Hello, Vicki Robin here, host of “What Could Possibly Go Right?” in which we interview cultural scouts, people who see far and serve the common good – and social creators, people who innovate in service to the life we all share. We ask our guests to respond to just one question: in the face of all that seems to be going awry, what could possibly go right?
I met today’s guest while wearing one of my other hats as author of Your Money or Your Life. One of the many ways we described the promise of the program we taught was putting your life in service to your values rather than your time and service to money.
Laura Oldanie is one of the rising spokespeople in the FIRE – financial independence retire early – movement, and she focuses on values, rich and resilient ways of living. More than anybody else, I feel that she reflects the my own thinking.
She is a green living and money coach and founder of Rich and Resilient Living, where she explores money and lifestyle choices for a regenerative future. She helps reluctant capitalists achieve financial freedom and live their best lives in socially and environmentally conscious ways that equally value people, planet, and profit. She is a sought after source of knowledge on regenerative investing, and her work has been featured in Forbes, CNBC and Good Housekeeping.
Laura is co-author of the life-changing book, Growing FREE – Financially Resilient and Economically Empowered: Building the life of your dreams without losing your soul or destroying the planet. She also contributed to the book, Activate Your Money: Invest to Grow Your Wealth and Build a Better World. And now here’s Laura.
Vicki Robin: Welcome, Laura Oldanie, to What Could Possibly Go Right? Our premise with this podcast is simple, that in the midst of all that is breaking down around us, in the midst of all the complex entanglement of issues of justice, ecological unraveling, mass distraction, and the basic dynamics of capitalism eating the host are beautiful, bountiful earth, there are possibilities emerging. Our guests help us to see these more clearly so we can act more courageously.
You are a special guest to me. I met you through the FIRE – Financial Independence, Retire Early community, and you were the first person who felt like me, who brought ethics front and center in their strategies for earning, saving, and investing; so much so that one year when I was invited to speak at a conference, I asked them to invite you instead, that you speak my heart and at the same time you have fresh and clear ideas.
You are a specialist, because you really bring resilience, a big idea of resilience, down to earth in what you live and what you teach. You aren’t academic. You don’t lead with big ideas or theories or analyses. These are certainly in the background, but you are practical, warm, and with social media and you make TikTok videos. So I’m glad to give our audience your refreshing, grounded ideas on how to live in a post-capitalist world.
So here we are, Laura. I will ask you the one question I ask all my guests. In the midst of all that is going awry, what could possibly go right?
Laura Oldanie: Oh, Vicki, thank you so much for inviting me to have this conversation with you. You are one of my favorite people to talk through all of this with because so much of my thinking and my work stands on the shoulders of Your Money or Your Life and so much more of the work and your amazing way of framing this all, in such a positive, actionable way. So I’m delighted to have the chance to talk this through more with you and your audience.
For me, when I think about what can possibly go right, I’m given so much hope by the fact that I feel like people are hungry for these types of actionable solutions, that a lot of the time, the more positive discussions about solutions hover at the macro level, kind of systems change, which of course we need, but when we can offer the practical, the actionable, like you were talking about, I think it feels more doable for people.
So the more we can get those actionable, practical, doable examples and suggestions to people, I think the more likelihood there is of seeing things go right. I will say right up front, none of us have crystal balls and I don’t know if we’ve passed the point of being able to stop something major and cataclysmic from happening.
But I do feel like, when you talked about resilience and approaching our personal finances from a financial resilience perspective, that at the very least, we’re setting ourselves up when we think things through this way and do these things to be in a better position to navigate it all.
I so often harken back to another interview you did on this show with Nate Hagens and he talked about his reality 10 class. One of the things he talked about was what he’s really trying to impart to his students is this ability to cope, thrive and transcend. I really have taken that into my thinking and I think that we individually can prepare for that. And great if we can do that and avoid the cataclysm, but if we’re doing it that way, if the cataclysm does come, then we’ve got that foundation and we can have that for ourselves, but we can also be that foundation for our communities to help them go forward if something, cataclysmic does happen.
So, these things I’m gonna talk through are kind of, I think of them in that vein that they’re moving me towards that there’s no lose. It’s a win-win with this approach. Of course I hope for the more optimistic outcome. In my work as a green living and money coach, I’m really taking what you wrote about in Your Money or Your Life and pairing it with permaculture, which is this ecological designer’s toolkit that looks to nature as with its closed loop, no waste abundance based system, as the model in these regenerative practices.
How do we bring that into our efforts to build wealth? Because if we look at forests and ecosystems and natural systems, they’re constantly enriching themselves through synergistic relationships and interactions. So how do we bring that into our human pursuit of true wealth? How do we?
And for us as humans, that involves a lot more than thinking about money because we can’t achieve financial resilience only thinking about money. Even within the conventional personal finance thinking, the common knowledge is to diversify your assets. So if we’re gonna bring in this regenerative thinking, it opens up so many possibilities for us to think more holistically, more resourcefully about wealth and what constitutes wealth, and even cataclysmic shifts in how we think about retirement planning when we move beyond just money. So that’s a whole lot right there. I don’t know if you wanna respond to any of that.
Vicki Robin: Wow. Yeah. One thing I wanna say is that, whether the cataclysmic event will happen or is in the future, there’s people right now and there’s ecosystems right now that are in the middle of the cataclysmic event. I think early on in my work, I saw it as trying to head this off at the pass, trying to prevent something and trying to turn the tide if you will.
Now it’s the idea that we’re in the middle of it now. We’re not anticipating, it’s not like the media is out there, and can be moved. I think it provides a different set of thinking, a different kind of thinking.
I’m not gonna say that much about what I think that means. Do you find that you see us in the middle of something and that you think differently about resilience, resources, money, community? Do you think differently about that now?
Laura Oldanie: Yes, yes I do. And actually, right now in my part of Florida, we’ve had very little rain this spring. This isn’t a major weather event, but even in terms of stewarding a food forest on my land or trying to grow more of my own food, it’s being impacted by,a simple shift in weather patterns.
I do think about this a lot, Vicki, and I think about, like I already mentioned, retirement planning. I think there’s a whole new shift if we’re gonna look just into personal finance about how we need to think about retirement planning on a climate challenged planet. The questions we’re asking ourselves, the things we’re saving money for, the ways we’re preparing, preparing.
I mean, even just thinking about how do you fortify your home and property for whatever there are the potential weather events where you live? How does water move through and across your property? How are you holding water on your property? Where might you not be able to live someday in retirement? So definitely yes to all of that.
Vicki Robin: Yeah. It’s so interesting when you talk about this because here in my community, I have similar ideas. I have a cistern on my land. We have wells. I, at some point when it gets possibly desperate, I’m gonna drive in a well point. So I think about this, and I joke about I’ve got a little survivalist streak, but I live in a private property world. Private property is the sinan of our society.
Thinking systemically in my community, that’s a big, beautiful, bright idea. But when it comes right down to it, on one committee I was serving on, what’s actionable is maybe getting another charging station in town. What’s actionable is developing a fund so people lower income people can put in heat pumps. It’s almost like we have to think systemically at a level of what the world might look like if we had the consciousness and the practices that could foster post-capitalist, thriving society, and at the same time, understand the constrictions that we’re in right now as the systems really resist. They resist change. The headwind.
So you come across quite cheerful. You cheerfully dumpster dive, you cheerfully research organizations that are brilliant and are sort of pro a resilient future and possibilities. And you make like sweet TikTok videos. How do you balance the headwinds and your capacity to continue to spread a good word, if you will? That’s sort of a little religious, but you know what I’m talking about.
Laura Oldanie: Yes. I will say for me personally, I find that the dumpster diving and the riding my bike more because I don’t wanna be consuming fossil fuels, the things I do that feel like they’re acts of resistance, but also building, something better; they’re the things that add so much joy and meaning and fun to my life.
We, Albert, my boyfriend, and I, that’s what we do when we go out on a date. We go dumpster diving and we’ve been doing it so much at our natural health food store and gotten so many of our friends into it. It often turns into a social occasion. It’s like, okay, here’s an impromptu gathering at the dumpster of our local health food store. Or we will ride our bikes to the beach for sunset. It doesn’t feel like it’s a pushing, it’s not hard. It’s the self-actualization in pursuing this and going back to this idea of how we think about retirement planning, and the joy element.
It’s so striking to me that we’re so focused on sacrificing our health and working so hard to save for money for our healthcare later to afford the diseases and sicknesses and illnesses that we’re giving to ourselves during our working years. By just enjoying life, I think one of the best ways we can push back against capitalism is to be healthy, happy, fulfilled, and content.
For me personally, those things make me happy. They get down to the essence, they take me out of the noise and the fray.
Vicki Robin: Right. Yeah. There’s a few other things that I wanna be sure you talk about. One of them is what inspired you to write this book with two other people?
That’s one of them. And then the other one is, you’ve done a lot of research about socially responsible investing. There is brand capture of every good idea by the corporatocracy. You know? So socially responsible investing, is now you think you’re doing it because you buy X fund rather than y fund.
So I’m really interested in what you’re finding in terms of organizations and businesses that help you inform yourself about pro resilient investing. So what are you finding?,What kind of screens? What are you doing? I can tell you a little bit afterwards what I’m doing, so, okay, let’s talk.
Laura Oldanie: All right, well first, we’ll start with the book and why we wrote the book. And the name of the book is, it’s called Growing FREE – Financially Resilient and Economically Empowered: Building the Life of Your Dreams Without Losing Your Soul or Destroying the Planet.
Everyone involved with the book is steeped in permaculture. So while we don’t have permaculture in the title, a lot of the thinking is that regenerative thinking, the looking to nature as the model thinking is woven throughout that book. Anyone can read and appreciate it, but that’s why we wrote it, from my perspective, because we’re reaching out to two audiences.
One would be the audience that is already somewhat confident and stable in their relationship with money, but they’re conflicted for what you were going into about our investing options because, even with the socially responsible, the ESG, the environmental social governance screened mutual funds or the socially responsible mutual mutual funds, they still keep our money in sugary beverages and single use plastic bottles and predatory financial institutions with predatory lending practices. We all know that. So there are people that are confident with money, but they’re looking for how to navigate money to feel less conflicted about it.
So that was one audience. But then there are also a lot of creatives, artists, activists, people homesteading, people pursuing permaculture that struggle financially; whether it’s because they just feel money is icky and don’t wanna deal with it, or they feel overwhelmed and they don’t understand it enough.
And so, especially for that audience, we really wanted to give them a toolkit to learn about how to step up to money to earn it in sustainable ways, doing regenerative work, and then design this financially resilient life. Our book is more a lifestyle design book than it is even a personal finance book.
It’s a regenerative lifestyle design book. How to have a regenerative livelihood. We need all hands on deck when it comes to doing these jobs, to address these major social and environmental problems that we’ve created. So this is the toolkit to enable people to step up, to create those livelihoods addressing our problems, but do it in a way where they are financially secure, but not in a way that they become totally tied 24/7 to this new livelihood stream that they’re creating for themselves.
They’re creating this meaningful life when they’re thinking more strategically about resources, more holistically about resources and in general, what a wealthy life looks like to them. And a word you’ve used a lot: what is enough? How do you determine your point of enough and design your life around that, doing the work that needs to be done and creating a fulfilling and meaningful life for yourself, while also contributing to your community.
Vicki Robin: Tall order.
Laura Oldanie: Yes, but the book is the roadmap for people to be able to do that. So that’s the book as far as investing and what’s going on. There are a couple things I’d like to share. Not only just about what kinds of things people can invest in outside of the stock market, but really, some pockets of what I see going right out there too, because there’s a lot of interest when I say people are hungry for this and they just don’t know. I get a lot of, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know”, or, “that sounds like fresh water”, or, “I want more of that”. People just don’t know this is out there or where to look for it. So that’s my work is trying to get more of the message out there.
For me it started, I discovered your book Tim Ferris’s, the Four Hour Work Week and Permaculture at about the same time, along with the FIRE community – financial independence retire early – and I really liked fire. But I didn’t want it through investing in the stock market or creating a large real estate portfolio that was gonna exacerbate affordable housing issues in my community. Your book is a great roadmap, but especially the earlier versions for the money, it was really a large part of putting your money in treasuries, which at that point wasn’t a viable option when I discovered the book.
So it sent me on this learning curve of, okay, I’m not a wealthy accredited investor, I don’t have millions of dollars. Not all of these big, really truly meaningful investing opportunities are gonna be open to me. But I started finding little pockets.
I learned about slow money, that where people were investing in their local food sheds. I learned that they were doing that often by opening something called a self-directed IRA. And most people have never heard of self-directed IRAs, but about 4% of Americans, I believe, have them. Most people who do are investing in real estate portfolios with their self-directed IRAs, but there’s so much more we can do with them. We can make loans through our self-directed IRAs. We can invest in startup companies with missions that are again, aligned with addressing our challenges in our social and environmental challenges. So many things.
I’ve invested, I created a self-directed IRA for myself and I bought an ownership share of our local permaculture farm. When our longest running organic farm in the area was at risk of going under, someone stepped up and asked a lot of people to make low interest loans to the farm so they could take over the mortgage and save it. And I did that.
I started having conversations in my community with people also interested in local investing to see what’s going on, because local investing is very important to me. But beyond that, I started again looking at these crowdfunding platforms or websites that are out there like Wefunder or Seed Invest.
Like you said, this isn’t financial advice. This is just informational and educational information.
I was able to find a Native American food products company raising money for their business. I was able to find a project in a low income neighborhood, I think in the Chicago area, raising money for a project, and lend them money there. I was learning about more and more things and then I learned about the Next Egg, which is a playoff of a nest egg. Your retirement nest egg. And it’s a community of practice, a learning community of people who are interested in pursuing this investing off of Wall Street into companies and solutions, opportunities that are far more regenerative and part of the solution than we could ever find investing in Wall Street.
So through the Next Egg, I learned about a number of financial planners who are working with people to help them move more of their money into the solidarity economy. People don’t want to have their money in the stock market, but they don’t know about these other options.
Then these financial planners eventually realized that there were a good number of them and that they could help and support each other. So they’ve come together to co-form the Rad Planners, the radical financial planners, and they have monthly meetings. They’ve created a Slack channel, and they’re recruiting people to their ranks because they cannot keep up with the demand for their services. People want to work with radical financial planners that are gonna help them use their money and get it out of the capitalist system, or at least the very extractive version of it that exists.
So it’s striking to me that these Rad Planners have found that they have a better success rate, or it’s easier for them to onboard activists than it is to onboard current financial planners that are entrenched in the conventional thinking, and they wanna get CPAs on board. People want this. We just don’t have the service providers out there for it.
Vicki Robin: That is super exciting. I mean, I love the enthusiasm that you express and also your clarity that you not only were excited about it, but you actually pursued this and you got it in a very grounded way. So would you let people know what this solidarity economy is?
Laura Oldanie: Sure. So the solidarity economy is a couple of different things. I don’t know if I’ll do it complete justice, but in large part it’s, instead of investing in companies with these hierarchical extractive share beholden to shareholder models, we’re looking at creating more cooperatively owned businesses; where there’s a democratic business model, where there’s not a huge pay gap between the CEO and the janitor and the employees have more of a voice in the way that businesses operated.
It’s creating, it’s prioritizing credit unions, local credit unions, keeping the money local, so it’s very much about removing the extraction and exploitation from the economic model.
Vicki Robin: So let’s go from the big picture, and I thank you for all of this, back down to how you live your life and your community and some of the ways you’re solving for food, water electricity, entertainment, romance, all of the things that fill our lives, that for many people there’s a sort of an uneasy background conversation about, I know I’m participating in, I’m sort of funding with my attention and with my activity, a world I don’t believe in, but somehow or another I can’t get out of it. So what are your strategies? What are the things that you do joyfully?
Laura Oldanie: I’ll mention a couple things. One thing for me that I think really has helped me connect with and build community around this. I live in a bubble here in Florida, in the St. Petersburg area, but I got involved right away when I moved here with our Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition. I tapped into our permaculture community. These are people who are already somewhat thinking along these lines. Maybe they’re not bringing the personal finance aspect into it as strongly, but they’re thinking about resilience and transition.
I tapped into that. I’m very fortunate to live in a community with an active time bank, and there’s a good bit of crossover with our Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition and our time bank. And I’ve made the effort to get to know my neighbors.
Another thing I’m doing is, I love the idea of an intentional community, but I already own my own home and so does my boyfriend. We have some other friends that have their own homes, within a couple miles of us. And right now, for me personally, I don’t want to sell my home and give up this property that I’ve already started stewarding in a direction that I wanna take it in and move into an intentional community.
But, we had a friend who started talking to us about the idea of a decentralized, intentional community. So we are making a point to get together with each other, every month. There are four couples. Two of them have children, two don’t. My boyfriend and I are the oldest, so it’s a somewhat of a age range.
We decided when we first started that we’d focus on food preservation, because we all grow food to some extent. It hasn’t only been that, but we’ve gotten together and preserved avocados, pickled avocados. We’ve gone to the beach together, we’re gonna go visit another local permaculture property together next weekend.
So we’re just trying to create more connection and community and skills together. And so that’s a conversation people can start having with others in their own communities. How do we become more intentional and connected right where we’re at?
Vicki Robin: Exactly. I somebody I knew was moving to my village and he asked me, well, just give me the lay of the land. I said, it’s like co-housing without the meetings. We all live in different houses.
But sort of, the intentionality can be so detailed that it’s restrictive, you know? So it’s sort of like a not too hot, not too cold, sort of Goldilocks place where you have your privacy and you also have your connections.
Yeah. So turning the corner to winding this up, I really would like to open it to you. What have we not talked about? Interesting, unique things that you hold dear that you would like to mention.
Laura Oldanie: Sure. Well, it actually takes us back, as I suspected it might, although not exactly the way I thought to Your Money or Your Life, and this idea of true wealth. For me again, the resilience comes from the true wealth, the multiple forms of capital or as you talk about them, the ABCs of wealth, the abilities, belonging, and community.
Capitalism stifles our creativity. It stifles so many things in us, and it makes us reach for our wallet to address and solve our problems, to meet our needs. It’s a very convenient way to meet our needs, spending money, but it is the least creative, the least fulfilling, the least meaningful.
When we start, when we can make space to slow down and think about the ABCs of wealth, the multiple forms of capital that are available to us, the social capital, the living capital, the cultural capital, the material capital, all of these other forms of capital; we make space for stepping out of that extractive, exploitive, capitalist economy more, and for tapping our own creative creativity, resourcefulness and joy.
Again, to me, the solution sort of, it’s like what people think is deprivation, you know? Not spending money to meet a need. It really opens up the door to so much self-actualization and fulfillment.
Vicki Robin: Very cool. Yeah, I mean, I think that listening to you, and I think anybody listening to this is gonna have, like you said when you told people about certain strategies you have… it’s like, whoa, I never knew this existed, and being able to turn toward one’s life and realize that there’s a lot of wealth one has, maybe you don’t have financial wealth, but you have neighborhood wealth and neighborhood wealth can make a big difference.
It’s not like the booby prize, like if I could, I would be wealthy, financially wealthy, although that’s the tendency of the minds of people. Yeah, this just opens up so much space to meeting our needs in such a way that future generations have everything they need to meet their needs, which was the original formula for sustainability, which is now sustained growth. It’s like the corporatocracy grabbed the word.
So I just am so glad that I could bring your light and your creativity and your absolute unapologetic enjoyment of this different way of life to people who I think very often feel a split, that they have to stay in the world in order to make a difference, and if they were to do a more ecological lifestyle, it would take them off the front lines.
I just think in the background, there’s so much angst in well meaning incredibly committed people about how to reconcile their personal way of life with what they know about this earth. I just think that you’ve given us a window into what that’s like and I really, really appreciate it.
Laura Oldanie: Ah, thank you. Yes. We need more people to redefine rich.
Vicki Robin: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. And often in these movements, we talk about personal change as a necessary but not sufficient approach to making the changes that we need. So I think people also do that split; like t’s not enough to do the personal change. If we can’t make everybody think about enoughness rather than more, then what good is it? So I just think these levels of scale and being able to freely think, in a post-capitalist way about meeting personal needs, social needs, political needs.
It’s really important, Laura and I hope that this conversation actually inspires a lot of people. So thank you.
Laura Oldanie: Thank you. I hope so too.Vicki Robin: Hey, thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a five star review so that this hopeful message can get out to more people. Check out Post Carbon Institute’s Resilience website for show notes and for more guest information. Thanks also to Asher Miller, Amy Buringrud, and Clara Winter at Post Carbon Institute, plus production assistant Michelle Wigg from FrugalityandFreedom.com.