Marco Vangelisti: Investing Outside Of Wall Street

Marco Vangelisti worked in high finance for 25 years before self-ejecting from that industry and dedicating his focus to providing capital to local and sustainable ventures. He is a founding member of Slow Money, as well as a founding member of the National Coalition for Community Capital.

Marco wrestled with cognitive dissonance during his years on Wall Street. Not only did he perceive many of the same risks and abuses in the financial system The Crash Course warns of, but he also noted that the capital from foundations and other 'socially responsible' organizations were often invested in businesses that were ecologically and/or socially destructive.

His entire portfolio now is invested at the local level or in sustainability-oriented vehicles where he has visibility into its direct impact. This kind of investing is a lot more complicated than simply buying shares off of ETRADE with a few mouse clicks, but is worth the effort. By deploying our capital locally into ventures that we value, we use our savings to help create the kind of future we want to live into:

I basically had to stop and say What should be my guiding principal? What is my personal investment compass? I realized that started from two psychological motivators for me. One is biophilia which is the love for everything that is alive and the other one is empathy. And so the way I deploy the capital from that point is to say Is an investment in agreement with those two principals? And if yes, let’s establish a relationship with either the person that is managing the fund or the entrepreneur that is seeking capital and only after I have a relationship in an alignment in terms of values with this person will I consider investing. And so a lot of my investments are local. I have full transparency as to what I am investing in. I know exactly who is the end beneficiary or the end user of my assets.

And I have some things like peer to peer lending and I have some of the new opportunities that have opened up because of the Title 3 of the jobs act which has made offering to the job public more available. But basically 100% of my portfolio is aligned with my values. Everything else is really outside Wall Street and outside the stock markets and bond markets. I do own some municipal bonds for projects I know exactly what they are funding. If there are some schools for example or some you know upgrades of some infrastructure the county or municipal level those are the type that I might have.

There's a good portion of my portfolio for which I think I will get a positive return. And there is a slice of 'deep impact' things that I really care about and I am prepared to have maybe a slight negative financial return over all, but that's fine because I view the known financial return of that part of the portfolio as building the world I want to live in and build the community I want to live in. 

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Marco Vangelisti (50m:00s).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

For those interested in learning more, here's the link to the upcoming seminar in Santa Rosa, CA on Dec 3rd mentioned in the podcast.


Loved the chat! This really brings into focus some important aspects of the new ecology economy. Also I love the new adware, temple of the light for those that haven't looked it's worth your time and the experience is remarkable. In times of such emotion, fortitude is central. 

Where are you going to invest? What should one do with their liquidity?
 How about moving in with your kids? A friend of mine recently sold his home. His daughter and son-in-law, have purchased a place in the country (4 acres). They’re pulling in a good income and asked their parents if they would be willing to move into a basement suite of close to 1100 sq. ft. in the new building.  The building will be slab heated, situated for maximum solar gain, expandable PV system, rain water collection system, aerated septic system, and treed with a large garden area. He figures the pay back should be around 10 - 15 years. The parents are going to float the kids a “forgivable” demand loan with a rate considerably less than market rates. The principle and interest on the loan will be less than the rent would be on one of those “retirement villas” and would be applied to the mortgage.  It won’t be located an hour’s drive away from the grandkids, yet will provide a familial connection (and  I would imagine free day care and babysitting services). The house design allows adequate isolation so that no one is in each other’s face all the time and would provide a natural environment for the benefit of all involved.

The concept looks good on paper, and knowing the individuals, shows a lot of potential. I don’t know the financial particulars or tax situation of these folks, but both parties seem to be doing pretty well. As far as a local investment goes, I think they may be on to something. Of course there may some risks associated with this arrangement, but is it any more risky than a 401k, retirement income fund, or pension? The area has a majority of young families that appear fairly stable with one other family in the same arrangement.  

Is anybody else out there trying something like this?  Is this resilience and/or social experiment? Not much different than what some of my ancestors have gone through. Food (home grown) for thought?

One area to cover with such an arrangement would be elder care. Our new president in the usa has indicated that a change in the tax law is on his agenda. One idea is an elder care Health Savings Account. I would prefer to keep Uncle Sam and his fine print away from the money.
If parents finance an expanded living space one of the moving parts will one day likely be elder care. This should be discussed and put in writing if needed. Such extended family arrangements are not usual in our modern social contract.
I have elders and in my family who are house bound due to health. Their granddaughter now has their car with expenses paid in exchange for weekly help with shopping and medical visits. It’s not easy from an emotional perspective to convert love and duty to money, but it is not much different than parents with kids working to provide. This is the extended family version of the reverse mortgage. It also preserves a family’s wealth!
As we move forward this will be the better approach for family security. I can.remember visiting afront I friend as a child. The house was in a rough area. As we came up to the house he hollered out to his grandfather sitting in the front porch rocking chair with a shotgun across his knees. “Pops is hard of hearing”, he said. Extended family security! This is the future.

I love the idea of investing in local economies…but I have yet to find a enterprise whose product I would buy with any regularity. Opportunities tend to be for companies that make value added products that are dearly priced.  Bone broth for $15 a quart, $15 dollar jars of jams and pickles, $10 chocolate bars, weekly subscriptions for variety of cuts of meat selling at 2-3x the price I pay per pound direct from the ranch, which I pick up once a year and freeze. 

What I mean to say is: you are paying a huge premium for fancy packaging, sometimes a bricks and mortar store, a cute website, and the convenience of having raw ingredients made ready to use. It all adds to the overhead. Which is fine, if you have the money.  It is analogous to the high overhead some funds carry with high investment and brokerage fees. If you have the time and know how, you can make all of the above for less than half what is being charged, plus the added satisfaction of being a "maker" yourself, not a consumer: a huge benefit IMO. 

I am not interested in supporting a food based company that relies on an affluent consumer to keep its business model afloat. What happens in a down turn, when their customers may not be able to afford the product any longer?  I want to support a company that sells a no frills healthy raw material/product that someone of average means can afford.  Like a bean CSA (pinto, navy, black).  I already grow the stuff I could get at a local CSA.  

Same with material goods. I have seen kickstarters for companies that make all sorts of things locally: fancy bags, xmas ornaments, high end clothing, body care products, candle holders, wall art.  Who cares?  Really not necessary, its the fluff that cheap oil provides. It will go away.  

Would love to hear about local slow money investments for things we really need: medicine, health care, shelter, clean water, transportation, affordable healthy food.