Natural Investments as a firm has been on its own path of social justice since it began. It’s the core of our mission. And yet in the area of racial equity, we know there is much more that we can and want to accomplish.
Our natural focus is external, in that we are always looking for ways to help clients invest in systems change. But for the past few years, our firm’s rapid growth and circumstances in the bigger world have called on us to look inward—particularly when it comes to racial and gender equity.
It can be overwhelming to think about the ways that our values and money interact in our lives. Some people might know they want their money to create positive impact but feel unsure of where to start. Unless we bring intention and clarity to our money life, the money flowing through our lives may be fueling human suffering and environmental destruction.
What do we do with this knowledge? If we are able to work on our relationship with money, we can learn to engage with money so that it becomes not just neutral but positive. Money can even become a sacred tool for good if we use it purposefully to support a positive vision—for our own lives and in the bigger world.
FACTFULNESS: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
By Hans Rosling
Hardcover: 352 pp. Flatiron Books
The conundrum about this book is that it really should be read by those folks who never read books. You know who I’m talking about. The late Hans Rosling, who died in 2017 after an impressive career in education and public health, urges us to let the data tell the story, rather than imposing a narrative based on our “dramatic instincts.” He highlights ten ways that our instinctual bias and craving for drama, similar to our craving for sugar and lethargy, undermine our wellbeing.
Sufficient savings, diligent budgeting, and smart financial planning are of course crucial for a comfortable retirement. Adequate income and assets are essential for the basics— food, shelter, and healthcare—and to maintain one’s lifestyle. However, money is by no means the only important consideration in retirement.
During a recent conversation with a retired couple we serve, they shared how their community organizes an abundance of volunteer activities that offer opportunities to facilitate community engagement and encourage cooperative solutions to shared social barriers. Their enthusiasm illuminates the qualitative concerns that are central to resilient investing and highly desirable for what we might call “resilient retirement”: engaged communities, adaptability, and prioritization of the common good.
Let’s begin with a free association. Pause for a moment; write down what comes to mind when I say the word “money.” OK, done?
Based on my own personal relationship with money, and my work with hundreds of people over the last decade, I’m guessing many of your words have a negative connotation. Not all of your words, I’m sure, but some. The darker thoughts seem to be ingrained in us to some degree. Judgment. Shame. Heart is racing, feeling anxious. Anger toward oneself, and toward others—even your most beloved—about how their behaviors impact your financial wellness.
Perhaps since the dawn of money, humans have had a love/hate relationship with it. Money is one of our most enduring sources of personal stress. Even with the work that I do, helping others with their relationship with money, I have my moments of struggle with my money friend. The doctor still needs a doctor, right?
We have begun to bring the sacred back into parts of our lives where it was once lost. Mindfulness, as taught Thich Nhat Hanh and others, is a way of being in the moment: conscious and connected, aware. Books and articles abound with discussions of applying mindfulness to the core areas of our daily life. For example: eating mindfully supports our health and connects us to the wonder of our food. Sitting down together with those that we love, we give thanks and bless the food and those who have provided it to us. We think of the farmers and many others who are part of getting the food from seed to our table. We celebrate and quite naturally find the sacred in this practice.
As we begin this new year of 2014, I am inspired to build the same type of mindfulness practice with my relationship with money.