The Progressive Investor’s Action Guide for the Next Administration
Now that the 2016 presidential election is in the history books with a shocking outcome that few foresaw, the rough outlines of the next few years are starting to become a little clearer. We can reasonably expect a federal government with less interest in protecting voting rights, reproductive rights, and civil rights of historically disadvantaged and targeted communities such as immigrants, Muslims, LBGT people, disabled people, and people of color. We can also expect more interest in increasing fossil fuel production and distribution, stirring up international geopolitical conflicts over trade, territory, and resources, and lowering corporate taxes, among many other priorities. With our values and ideals—and for some, our lives—under what’s likely to feel like a constant siege, it’s natural to react emotionally with outrage or despair. And while it’s important to vent, we must not allow ourselves to be paralyzed into inaction or satisfied with mere talk! This is a moment that calls for us to activate our resources and engage our communities, not just to defend against potential losses, but to build on the gains of the last eight (and more) years. You, dear investor, are in the advantageous position of having resources that can be mobilized to help catalyze much-needed outcomes. With that in mind, here is your action guide for the next administration.
Step One: Lift up communities by investing in them. Lend your money to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that specialize in redistributing access to wealth to vital projects in vulnerable communities. For example, investors nationwide can open a High Impact CD at Hope Credit Union, which serves formerly under-banked communities of color in the Mississippi Delta region. While the Standing Rock Sioux blockade of the Dakota Access Pipeline highlights the myriad of challenges that Native Americans face, First Nations Oweesta CDFI is actively redeploying investor capital to create jobs, grow businesses, and secure ancestral lands across Indian Country. The Calvert Foundation offers two initiatives that invest in specific constituencies targeted by the incoming president: Latinos (the Raíces Investment Initiative) and women (the Women Investing in Women Initiative: WIN-WIN). Self-Help Credit Union and Beneficial State Bank take federally insured deposits and reinvest them in affordable housing and small business loans in low-income neighborhoods that are otherwise unlikely to benefit from the new regime. Seek out CDFIs doing similar work in your city or region. And help build a thriving economy right where you live by buying local and investing in local small businesses and nonprofits that you know.
Step Two: Fight climate change by investing in the ongoing green revolution. Upcoming policy shifts and fossil fuel favoritism can’t prevent us from using our money to accelerate progress in renewable energy, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, green buildings, sustainable agriculture, and more! Investments in the Calvert Green Bond mutual fund finance all kinds of pro-environment projects within companies, municipalities, and other institutions. Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company builds and buys solar and wind farms across North America for its investors, displacing dirty energy from the power grid and providing investors with monthly income from power sales. As an antidote to conventional GMO-herbicide farming, Iroquois Valley Farms invests in farmland, transitions it to organic, provides long-term committed access to young farmers at favorable terms, and partners with them to build soil health and diversity for the long run. These kinds of investments generate direct, positive impacts for our land, air, and water, and will be sorely needed to offset the damage that loosened environmental regulations and a disabled EPA will most likely do.
Step Three: Make your voice heard through your investments! Where we invest and save our money dictates who can access it and what they get to do with it. For example, you can financially pressure the Dakota Access Pipeline (and similar projects in the future) by divesting and withdrawing your deposits from the banks that are funding it, then telling their investor relations or customer service people exactly why you’re doing it. Research the holdings of your mutual funds and look for any socially and environmentally irresponsible companies that are lining up to carry out the next administration’s agenda. If you find them, divest from those funds, let the managers know why, and reinvest in socially responsible funds that practice shareholder advocacy (which holds corporations accountable and works to improve their behavior). If you already invest in socially responsible mutual funds that have questionable holdings (nobody’s perfect!), call the manager to share your views. If you work with a financial advisor, make sure they know what is and is not acceptable in your portfolio. You have a voice, and believe me, if you use it, it absolutely matters!
Step Four: Give. Those who are able to give money to crucial progressive causes will be greatly needed in the coming times. If you know of committed, highly effective nonprofit groups in your area working on issues like racial justice, access to reproductive healthcare, human/civil rights, or environmental protection, to name a few, please support them. Even better, make multi-year giving commitments and follow through without fail. Additionally, consider giving through donor networks, such as Solidaire, Women’s Donor Network (WDN), or Funders for Justice, that seek and fund the most effective grassroots groups working on these issues nationwide. Solidaire and WDN recently teamed up to create The Emergent Fund, dedicated specifically to defending targeted communities during the next administration, and advised by leaders from those same communities. Look to support these and similar efforts that resonate with you. Our collective future is literally at stake.
Step Five: Show up as your best self. Work to expand your circle of relationships beyond your usual comfort zone, especially with those that don’t look or think like you. Build unity by finding common ground. Practice compassion and understanding but do not tolerate hate or discrimination. Be a light of inspiration, as much as possible, within your spheres of influence.
Ultimately, our collective ability to pull every community and the earth we all depend on through the times ahead depends on how much we show up with a willingness to leverage our relationships and resources towards this common goal. We are only as strong as our weakest link. Let us not be timid. Let’s activate!
James Frazier is a Certified Financial Planner™ specializing in Socially Responsible Investing with Natural Investments LLC. More information about James is available at his advisor webpage.