Here it is. The moment you’ve all been waiting for. It’s time for… THE BITCHES GET RICHES PODCAST, SEASON 4!!!
Bitch Nation, we took a nice long hiatus between seasons while we jiggled some cords and perfected our format to bring you only the finest in podcastatory entertainment. And the premiere episode of season four has EVERYTHING… if by “everything” we mean the Bitches singing Hamilton show tunes, discussing the ethical practicalities of gun ownership, a minimum of 3-5 juvenile jokes related to poop and/or sex organs, and the terrible fake Wisconsin accents no one asked for.
Also… WE’RE ON YOUTUBE! That’s right, dear listeners/readers. This season you can consume the one and only Bitches Get Riches podcast in three ways: by listening on your favorite podcast streaming platform, scrolling down and reading the episode transcript, or by gazing in awe at our YouTube channel.
This week’s question
Today’s question comes to us from an anonymous listener we’re cleverly calling… Anon. Anon writes:
I take it you have investments in broad-based index funds (since it’s the prudent thing to do). At the same time, many of your posts have an anti-capitalist bent. How do you address this conflict? Mind you, I’m not pointing fingers here, because I’m in much the same situation—private equity overlords booted me out of a job, but my own capitalistic investments allowed me to walk away without any pain, so I don’t know how to feel about that.
A pat answer is to point towards ethical-investment funds, but while I was reading up on it, I ran across an article that mentioned Wells Fargo as one of the companies listed in some ethical index because they aren’t in the sin or war industries. It turns out, as I scrolled back up, that the article was published before Wells’ fuck-the-customer practices came to light. I’d hardly call them an ethical company today, so these indexes aren’t the solution that one would hope for.-Anon
As you can see, we’re starting the season off light.
tl;dr: The perfect is the enemy of the good. OR IS IT? Listen to find out:
Watch our answer below, or listen in the podcast player of your choice.
And if you’d prefer to listen without video, you can subscribe in the podcast app of your choice, or listen here…
We’ve written a lot on index fund investing and ethics. I kind of feel like the below articles should be required reading before you dive into today’s podcast episode.
- Investing Deathmatch: Managed Funds vs. Index Funds
- Ethical Consumption: How to Pollute the Planet and Exploit Labor Slightly Less
- What’s the REAL Rate of Return on the Stock Market?
- Do NOT Make This Disastrous Beginner Mistake With Your Retirement Funds
- The Dark Magic of Financial Horcruxes: How and Why to Diversify Your Assets
This episode was brought to you by our sponsor Capitalize. Support our show by using their FREE retirement fund rollover service today. Don’t waste another damn dollar in banking fees letting your old 401(k) languish at an old employer—let Capitalize save you from all that nonsense!
And like everything around here, season four is brought to you by our Patreon donors. We love them with all of our bitchy little hearts. Because of their generosity, we were able to update our podcasting equipment, improve the quality of the new season, and keep paying our incredible producer and editor Ducky for her tireless work making these two dumbasses look and sound like professionals. You can join the gang for as little as $1 a month over on our Patreon.
Episode transcript (click to reveal)
This episode, like all of our episodes, is brought to you by our beloved Patreon donors. This week, we would like to thank Polly, Rachel, and Sarah. And an extra special thanks this week goes to Samantha. Samantha is a wholesome, uplifting TV show that’s legitimately good, but everyone in the family can enjoy.
This is our first time recording video.
It’s kind of like we’re locking ourselves into, this is our default, this is just who we are and what we look like. It’s very intimidating.
Yeah. No, I just want everyone to know that I woke up this morning and my hair looked exactly this straight and lustrous and shiny.
We need more Patreon donors, considering all of the effort we have put in. I showered, even though I had showered yesterday which—
I have very dry skin. I can’t do an everyday shower.
That’s too much showering. That’s too much showering.
But I did it, for the fans! For the fans.
For the fans. And we are murdering polar bears for the fans. That’s how many showers we’re taking.
Is that what showers do?
Showers? Yeah, showers kill the polar bears. No, when I was a babysitter, I had this family where they like—these two kids under the age of 6, like rushed through their showers really fast and I was just like, oh wow, where’s the fire? And they were like we don’t want to kill any polar bears! And I was like, wait, what? And apparently their mother had been like, we have to take fast showers and wash our hands quickly ‘cause we don’t want to kill any polar bears and wasting water kills the polar bears and it was so cute.
That’s really genius. I mean it’s unnecessarily traumatic to those children, however, what this ho was actually 100% doing was keeping her water bill manageable.
Oh, frugal queen! She was all about saving on that water bill.
Now let me ask a shot in the dark question. Catholic family?
[whispering] …how did you know??
It had to be Catholic or Jewish. Listen, we have cornered, the two of us—
The guilt market? Oh hell yes.
—have cornered the market on guilt. We know how to employ it naturally, as like a naturally occurring weapon.
It just oozes out of us. No, it doesn’t ooze out of us. We strategically select and shoot it like, very like…like Spider-Man! Pew pew! Like with web sacks. Guilt guilt!
Kitty & Piggy 2:24
Kitty & Piggy 2:26
Oh my god!
We’re a visual medium!
We’re a visual medium now.
Visual medium now, guys! Visual! Medium!
We’re on the tubes!
Theme Song 2:31
If you need some dough
You don’t know where to go
In this patriarchal capitalist hellscape
Well here’s the ‘sitch
We’re gonna help you, sis
Because bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
And so can you
Alright, I’m Kitty.
And I’m Piggy.
And we are the bitches in Bitches Get Riches.
We are a chaotic good adventuring party.
And we are here to shake the realm and our asses.
Ooh! Our time on this planet is limited.
So, let’s get started.
All right, so today’s letter comes to us from an anonymous reader-slash-listener and they ask, or Anon as we shall call them, asks: I take it you have investments in broad-based index funds (since it’s the prudent thing to do)? At the same time, many of your posts have an anti-capitalist bent.
You dare, madam!
How do you address this conflict? Mind you, I’m not pointing fingers here, because I’m in much the same situation—private equity overlords booted me out of a job, but my own capitalistic investments allowed me to walk away without any pain, so I don’t know how to feel about that. A pat answer is to point towards ethical-investment funds. Ooooh! but while I was reading up on it, I ran across an article that mentioned Wells Fargo as one of the companies listed on some ethical index because they aren’t in the sin or war industries.
Sin industries being alcohol, tobacco, that stuff. The fun stuff. Back to our question.
It turns out, as I scrolled back up, that the article was published before the Wells’ fuck-the-customer practices came to light. I’d hardly call them an ethical company today, so these indexes aren’t the solution that one would hope for.
Alright, so kind of a round about way of being like, how do you sleep at night, owning index funds?
Yeah, I think that is basically it, I think in many ways like—
[holding up a BGR mug and whispering] Product placement.
That looks like something that you can purchase for a very affordable price with very speedy shipping on Etsy.com.
I believe it’s Etsy.com/bitchesgetriches.
We should double-check that.
Don’t quote me on that. Ducky! Our producer, Ducky, can you please put the actual address at the bottom of the screen?
Etsy banner 4:59
Text reads: etsy.com/shop/bitchesgetriches
Ducky, can you make everyone buy our crap? Thank you.
Buy our crap.
So I think in many ways this is a pretty straightforward answer for me, which is fundamentally about perfectionism and leverage. So I’m thinking from this, from the perspective of what can I as a consumer do to change the way that companies do things. If I am a no one, I’m not a shareholder, I’m not a customer, I’m not invested in any way, shape, or form with the company, I can stand on a street corner outside of their headquarters and yell at them to like, hey, could you stop polluting? Could you stop—
And you do.
I do! While wearing a hat made out of full tin foil. Like, I don’t have any leverage with them. So you kind of have to think about it in terms of like, if you are someone who is an investor in the company, if you are a stakeholder, a shareholder, a customer, or an employee, then you have a lot more leverage to say to them like hey, I believe in what you’re trying to do, I really want to use your product, but I would be a lot more inclined to do so and to use your product if you were using it in this way that aligned with my values.
Totally, yeah, having that buy in, I mean, you said it, it makes you a stakeholder. It makes them more likely to listen to you. And also, like, HOAs are a great example of this and like small town town meetings where like you can’t walk into a town meeting if you don’t live in the town and be like I think you guys should really be—
You should stop spraying for mosquitos, it’s like super bad.
You should stop salting the sidewalks in winter. Yeah, it’s really bad. People are going to be like who the fuck is this bitch? But if you move to that town and you say, hey I’m really worried about my dog, and my trees along the road when you salt it.
That’s when you can walk in and say as a homeowner…
As a taxpayer…
I’m an American citizen.
I have rights.
So like some of it is leverage, right? And then also some of it is perfectionism. You have to think about it in terms of the perfect being the enemy of the good.
So let’s talk just a little bit about what are some of the ways in which people define ethical investing. Because there’s a lot.
Ohohoho, let’s. Yes, so Anon talks about ethical investment funds and I think we can extrapolate that they’re talking about ESG investing, which stands for environmental, social, and corporate governance. So ESG funds are all the rage right now. Basically, people with this exact question like, oh my gosh you know index funds that cover the entire market including things I don’t agree with like guns or tobacco or you know, giant pharma companies. Those are just—I don’t wanna touch those ethics. I will go with this ESG fund that only has environmentally-friendly, socially conscious, and you know, corporate moral or morally corporate, I don’t know, like can a corporation be moral?
You’re having a hard time putting these words together because they don’t go together.
Thank you. God, thank you so much.
So it’s not your fault.
You’re right. You’re right. Exactly. Corporate morals? Is that wh—huh?
Yeah. Corporate social governance.
Whaaaat. I don’t…
Um. Synergy. Something about synergy.
Quick, log off.
Circle back. Circle back!
We’re failing. Okay. No one company is ever going to do all of them. It’s not going to happen.
Or worse yet. They succeed on renewable resources and earth friendly packaging, but they use those poor 11 year olds in Bangladesh for their laborers. Or, you know, a great example is the fact that many oil and gas companies are in ESG funds. So if someone’s just like great, the word environmental is in the acronym. I am all set. If as a big old tree hugger, I just throw my money into this ESG—well, if you scratch the surface a little bit, you’ll notice that ExxonMobil and Chevron are in several ESG’s, not because they’re earth-friendly but because the steps they take to repair the damage that they do to the environment qualifies them as environmentally friendly companies. So the mitigation efforts that they do to repair the damage that they’ve already done somehow qualifies them for ESG and that’s in the letter but not the spirit of the law.
Yeah, I think what the anonymous question asker is really looking for and what I think we would all really love is for someone to just hand us a way to invest in a safe and profitable way across multiple industries, like you would in a mutual fund or an index fund, but to not have any of the guilt that goes along with not only what these companies do but your own personal limitations that you can’t, you cannot personally dig so deep into the company that you want to invest in that you’re looking into like what’s their board composition and what are their employee stats and like, let me be an investigative journalist digging into figuring out like, okay, well they do environmental stuff perfectly and they do labor rights perfectly, oh, but they have like a huge sexual harassment problem at their company that they’ve been covering up.
Back to the drawing board, now that I’ve spent three hours researching this company.
So the thing is, this thinking about companies, from my perspective, is very new. Like we have not set this kind of ethical standard for companies, and I think that—
I mean, it’s good that it’s a new thing, you know. I would love that it was the standard for all humankind, but I think we’re in a good era and trend in investing where people are actually giving a damn about the ethics in investing.
Yeah, we’re in this new time where we have access to information that we never would have had. Someone of my grandfather’s generation, when he was thinking about buying or selling a stock, how was he doing that research? Like I guess he was maybe reading the newspaper looking for stories about them? Like how would you know? We knew for a long time—I say we—it was known, for example, that tobacco companies, that their products were causing cancer among people, but it did not penetrate knowledge into the general public for decades relative to when we had that science and that data and then when it started to kind of become known, become reported on, became talked about. So we have more information than ever. I think the best thing that we can do is right now we need to hold companies to a standard.
And if we show as consumers that we are invested in, more likely to invest in a company that has some standards, what we can then do is raise expectations as we have more leverage into those companies.
If we don’t invest in the stock market at all, then, guess what? We are the person at the town meeting for a town we don’t live in, like they don’t care. They don’t care what we think if we’re not invested.
Yeah. They don’t care. Well, and worse than that, I mean, money is power. We’ve been over this. And if you are not invested in something, you know, your assets are diminishing exponentially due to inflation, depreciation expense. Meanwhile, the people who aren’t so scrupulous with their ethics are making bank in the stock market. So yeah, no, you got to show up to the town hall meeting, if you want to make change and I think that that’s a good compromise, you know.
Today’s Sponsor 13:34
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Kitty & Piggy 15:06
End of Sponsored Content 15:08
You know, I had this interesting conversation with my partner the other day where, the grocery store near us sells one brand of 100% recycled toilet paper. And we were going up and down the aisles and I was like, oh can you grab the toilet paper? Which we always get this one, and he went to grab a different brand that was not recycled. And I was like, mon dieu, what have you done?
And he explained, well I know that the perforations on these sheets really suck. It’s one of those ones where you pull it and instead of going neatly down the dotted line, it like grabs a random continent of stuff, so it makes it very not friendly for a user and it’s kind of a crappy product. Get it, kind of a little toilet paper humor there. A little bathroom humor on Bitches Get Riches, who knew?
Bitches Get Riches, not just poop jokes about money, but also money jokes about poop.
Exactly! That’s our tagline.
That is our tagline.
So, we had a conversation in the aisle of this grocery store where I was like, okay, but here’s the thing. If we don’t buy this product because the perforation kind of sucks, which it does, the message that this company will take home, they will look at their numbers and they will look at their competitor’s numbers, their competitors who aren’t using a recycled product, and they’ll say, oh, people are just getting the cheapest thing. Because that was what he reached for as an alternative, which is a cheap product that is nicely perforated. So all the information that they’re getting is that people don’t really care about whether or not the paper is recycled. So we’re not going to bother. It’s a lot of extra work! All of this is extra work. If you want to make sure that you have good diversity in terms of gender, in terms of age, in terms of race and ethnicity. If you want to have sustainable environmental practices, if you want to have recycling programs, if you want to have, like all this stuff is hard work for the company, why would they want to do it if it’s not going to sell their product better.
Right. No, I get it.
Like they are only doing this stuff because they think it’s going to make us buy it. And we’re kind of stuck in this capitalist society where it’s like, this is the best and only—not the only—it is one of the best tools that we have is how we spend our dollars. So if you don’t buy into companies that are at least kind of trying, even if they’re doing it imperfectly, like all you’re sending is the message that like we don’t care that you try, so don’t bother. Please don’t bother. Just make us the most profits.
Right. In capitalism, you do get an A for effort. Like you do get points for trying and I knew that in this episode, we were going to talk about the nefariousness of capitalism and toilet paper. Two things we’re known for. So.
Check that off our list. Bitches out.
That’s our brand, yeah.
No, so I want to bring up—I want to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment.
How dare you? I hate the Devil and all His works.
I know. And all His works.
And all his advocates.
Challenge me, go.
Oh, okay. So here we go. Tanja Hester, hallowed be her name, the matriarch of the FIRE movement. You can read her work at ournextlife.com. She has a book out called Wallet Activism. And a lot of it is about just what you were talking about. About, you know, using our dollars to influence capitalistic companies and corporations into doing better, but she also has a whole chapter on divesting.
Yes, right. So divesting essentially is, what our anonymous asker is talking about here, which is pulling your money out of companies that you don’t believe in or that aren’t ethically up to par. And the thing about divesting is we know that it also works. Take, for example, gun manufacturers. I know this will shock our very intentionally liberal, progressive, feminist audience, but I’m a gun owner! I own 6 guns. Why do I own 6 guns? It’s because we hunt, plain and simple. Like, gardening, sustainable agriculture, sustainable farming, and hunting & fishing, I think they’re all united as an environmentally friendly way of getting your food and your nutrition.
And anybody who doesn’t like that, we can talk about it later, off the air! So I’m a gun owner. But when it comes to divesting from gun manufacturers, I think that’s a great way to encourage change. So a lot of, you know, NRA lobbyists, gun manufacturer lobbyists, they are very invested in people buying as many guns as possible. And one way that they do that is by making fancy new toys every once in a while, and I do say toys because so many of them are—they’re fucking toys. They’re fun to play with in a shooting range and like, there’s just something that scratches that masculine itch about going boom boom with the fire sticks.
We are a masc for masc podcast, for sure.
We are, yes, absolutely. But if you, say, pull your money out of gun manufacturers who manufacture assault-style rifles or who manufacture bump stocks or high-capacity magazines.
Or who market the things that they produce specifically to emotionally unstable teen boys.
Children. Yup. Exactly. And who capitalize on tragedy, frankly, and horrific murders to sell their products. If you pull out of those gun manufacturers, and instead put them into a gun manufacturer who specializes specifically in hunting rifles and shotguns, that’s a great signal that you’re sending to the gun industry to say, hey, less weapons that can kill a classroom full of first graders and more weapons that can ethically and sustainably hunt deer in the middle of the legal hunting season.
Yeah, I think that’s a great example of like how powerful divesting can be. Fundamentally, there is exactly one thing that harms a capitalist organization, a company, a for-profit company, which is threatening their profits. That’s the only thing that they truly care about. They can talk about how they love their customers and they can talk about like oh our employees, we’re a family, they can say all that shit and it’s all garbage because like, it’s not true.
Right up until they fire your ass.
They are saying that stuff because they think it will make you more likely to purchase their products. That’s it. So divesting is the most powerful, investing and divesting I think are the most powerful tools that we have as consumers when you’re thinking about the stock market and trying to force more ethical behavior. If you kind of need to build up your stock portfolio as a baseline of, you know, establishing your own personal financial stability and growing the kind of wealth that will enable you to give yourself the life that you most want for yourself and to create stability in your life and the lives of people around you, you have to be investing in companies. So you have to invest in the companies that are trying.
And if they’re trying imperfectly, you can push that. If there are companies in your ESG, and this has happened, where certain companies have been cut loose from ESG’s because—
They failed to meet the minimum standards.
Exactly. So we kind of have to deal with the imperfect. You can’t kind of say like, well there’s no such thing as a perfect company, therefore, why bother trying at all? That’s a really grim view of the future and it’s one that will not impact change.
Okay, so we’ve talked about investing as a way to change companies from the inside. We’ve talked about divesting as a way of pulling out to send a message. Heh heh. Pulling out. That’s what she said.
I see what you did there.
Yeah, thank you, thank you. But let’s also talk about the impact that your personal investment has in giant vehicles, like index funds. So, and my point here, spoiler alert, is going to be that individuals don’t have as much impact as they would think in a giant vehicle like an S&P 500 index fund. ‘Cause an S&P 500 index fund, it tracks the entire S&P 500, which is one of the largest indexes in the world.
Basically the 500 biggest companies, publicly traded, yeah.
Well 502 I think, right now. But, you know, sorry poindexter. The point being if you have $1,000 invested in 500 companies, you don’t have much invested in each individual company, right? Like your investment is spread out quite a bit. They pay slightly more attention to the shareholders who have a bigger chunk of their company, and I think that that allows you to absolve yourself a little bit. Just a little bit of some of the ethical guilt involved with a total stock market index fund. So I think that going back to our original question, I love this as a thought experiment, but I honestly don’t think it’s an issue that the average index fund investor needs to worry about too much.
Yeah, I think I am all about investing as ethically as you have the means to determine that, but I recognize that not everyone has the means to do the research, to understand the statistics, like that is its own full-time job.
Or the means to pay the fees in, you know, an actively managed fund or something. The time alone spent investigating companies. Like I think that’s the biggest takeaway here, is ain’t nobody got time for that.
Yeah. And here’s another thing. Here’s a question that I would want to pose to our anonymous question asker, which is, what are you doing with the profits you get from this company? Maybe you were, as you mentioned in your example, maybe you were invested in Wells Fargo and you find out oh damn, I made like eight bucks every year off of this company based on however many shares I own and I found out that they did something really really rude with their customers and I don’t feel good about this money. Well guess what? The one nice thing about capitalism and kind of thinking about how you have the opportunity—
One nice thing.
One, just the one.
You get one nice thing.
You have many opportunities to spend money and to make money, and every time is an opportunity to spend and make money in alignment with your values. So, maybe you’re making a small percentage of your total profit off of a company that’s done some things that you don’t agree with. That’s great. You can divest from them. Please like, go to town on that. However, another way to think about this, when you go to the supermarket, are you choosing to buy a local product? Or are you choosing to buy a sustainably, farmed product, or a cage free product? When you have friends who are in need, do you help them out? When you have a family member who needs caregivers, do you supply some of that assistance? There are so many ethical ways that you can spend the money that you make that I want to encourage you to not hold yourself to a standard of I must be perfect and impregnable in my morality. A phrase I’ve heard often is that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism and I think that phrase has a lot of power behind it. I do also think that it can encourage people to just say well then fuck it. I’ll buy everything off of Amazon Prime and that’ll be my whole life because there’s no point in trying, and I think there’s always a point in trying.
There’s always a point in trying.
And if you get it right sometimes, not every time, that is better than just not caring and kind of saying like, I’m going to abandon myself to the ennui of the time and just say like, well the world will be on fire in a hundred years so who cares. And regardless of whether that’s true or not, like you have to choose hope, you have to choose action, you have to embrace what power you do have to gain more power rather than just kind of passively lie there and say, there’s nothing I can do about this so I’m giving up.
Yeah. And like, in the long run, if there’s nothing you can do to, you know, make things perfect ethically, like there is something you can do in the short term to improve the lives of others. So you brought up Amazon, that’s a great example. Like their workers are actively unionizing and striking and like, fighting hard for better labor conditions and we support them. You go, Amazon warehouse workers!
Get ‘em, yeah. So in the short-term, like while that labor rights fight is ongoing, hell yeah divest from Amazon. But in the long-term, you know, you also need to take care of number one. You need to put yourself in a position where if your people need to rely on you, you’re there for them and you have a nice fat investment portfolio with which to do so.
Absolutely. I think when you let the perfect become the enemy of the good—here’s the question I would throw back. Alright, so this company. Maybe they have covered up some sexual harassment in their US based offices.
But! But they have a commitment to not using child labor. That choice, choosing that company, even though they’re not perfect, does that make a meaningful difference to someone? Well yeah, to those kids who’d be working in a factory, makes a big fucking difference. If a company has an imperfect track record environmentally, but they have a policy of intentionally deconstructing caste preferences in their offices in India. Is that great for the environment? No. However, does it matter that they’re trying some things to some people who need some help? Yes, it does. So if you can make a choice that helps someone, don’t stop yourself from doing that because it doesn’t help everyone and everything. It can’t. It just can’t.
Well said. Well said. In the town hall meeting that is the stock market, you not only want to be in the room, you want to be in a position where the other people in that room have to listen to you.
Oh my god, there’s the sound byte.
Kitty & Piggy 30:54
[singing Hamilton’s “The Room Where It Happens”]
We’re giving the people a complete fucking experience.
We are harmonizing on Hamilton on our podcast which is now a visual medium. I’m so proud of us.
I am too. Are you good with that?
I’m good with that.
Listeners, if you want us to answer your question, go to BitchesGetRiches.com and click “Ask the Bitches.” After all, this podcast is listener-supported. We are committed to never ever putting our best content behind a paywall. Only our worst content. So if you like what we do and you want us to keep doing it, you can support the podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/bitchesgetriches. And if you need even more Bitches in your life, and who could blame you, you can read our articles or follow us on social media at BitchesGetRiches.com.
Alright, is there anything else they should know?
Yes, the screaming eagle sound effect you often hear in movies and tv shows—
[imitates the screaming eagle sound effect]
Yeah, where it does that thing. It’s never an eagle, it’s always a red-tailed hawk. That is the only creature that makes that noise. Frankly, if you look up eagles making noises, they sound like emotionally despondent cats.
And I’ve had it! I’ve had it with red tailed hawks getting the short end of the stick. No more! Not under my watch.
Good to know.
Kitty & Piggy 32:39