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What matters to you should influence how and where you invest every dollar of what you earn and save, whether you invest actively with an advisor or do it yourself through an online brokerage or robo-advisors. Other than family and friends, there is nothing more personal than the choices we make when we buy products, use services, and choose to invest in companies, mutual funds, ETFs, and bonds. Despite this, we tend to forget or purposely exclude what matters most to us when making these decisions. Our thought process is often clouded by advice and ads coming at us from all sides, trying to sell us on what’s best for us in our short term and long term future.
The fact of the matter is that if you haven’t taken the time to truly think about and prioritize what you value, you are doing yourself and the greater investment community a disservice. Now more than ever, we are presented with a confusing array of choices that don’t give a lot of attention to our individual preferences and values. We all know best when it comes to what we truly care about; why shouldn’t we make it a part of our decision-making process when determining where to put our money? Never before has there been a shift in power from those who manage money to those who choose where to put that money. Would you buy a dress or a piece of furniture if it didn’t fit or match your personal preferences for color and materials? How long would you put up with your family members or a boss ignoring what you had to say or telling you what to think, eat, wear, etc…?
We all have the power to really determine how we invest. A good example is a friend of mine who is 28, married and an entrepreneur. Just like many post-grads, she has school loans which limit some of her investment choices. In spite of this, she is still conscious of her investment decisions. She refuses to invest or buy from companies that make or have anything to do with the opioid industry. Her investment boycott also includes mutual funds and EFTs that have any association with companies that see profits from opioids. This guiding principle is so important to her that it’s a total non-starter for any drug company or drug-associated fund to approach her and even offer her company or fund shares. Her stance is admirable but it becomes even more powerful when it’s clearly communicated to these companies and funds so that they know exactly why she has turned away from them.
The actions that I’ve spoken about aren’t part of an unrealistic pipe dream; firm stances like this are real and happening right now. You have the ability to not only engage but alter how companies and fund managers behave. You have the power to make them respond to shifting impact themes and personal values.
The bottom line is that what matters to you should also matter to them. If it doesn’t, vote with your checkbook and let it be known that you won’t allow your fundamental ideals to be ignored. This should be your starting point for evaluating how to best allocate your hard-earned dollars, either as an investment or a spending decision. We should all use whatever power we have to make the world a better place.
Stefan Pagacik is the co-founder of AI4Impact, an AI/machine learning platform that helps investors, fund managers, and companies make sense of impact and sustainability metrics and taxonomy in order to contribute to the next generation of impact financial products. Follow him on Twitter: @ImpactNav
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