A Get Rich Slowly reader recently submitted a question: “What options exist for socially responsible investment?”
My husband and I save, and we own a house and may invest in more property later, but one thing we won't do is play the stock market. We spend a lot of time thinking about the ills of the world and the way to live our lives to make things even a little better. It seems to us that the root of the problem with business is greed. Jobs are outsourced, employees shafted, customer service is non-existent, and products are only safe and reliable in so far as government regulations force them to be so. And those government regulations are often written by the corporations they are meant to regulate, co-opting and damaging our political system. Part of this is the public constantly wanting cheaper goods, no doubt. But a larger component is the bottom-line mentality. The idea that dividends must always be paid in increasing amounts, and endless growth is the only way to survive. The root of this is the stock market — public companies are beholden to investors and boards, who place increasing pressures on companies to put profit before all else.
Those are not values that we share, and we don't feel comfortable investing in stock, even if the company itself is a good one. The system itself is counter-productive to our goals of a happy fluffy bunny world. So are frugality, saving, and possibly real estate the only “investments” open to us? Is there a way to build our reserves beyond these?
I submitted this question to a close friend, a man who is both socially conscious and fully engaged in the pursuit of financial independence. This is the sort of thing he thinks about all the time. His response: