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Investing with Your Values

Mark Bateman - November 27, 2017

Values [noun]–Deeply held beliefs and attitudes.

 

While investing is only a part of your life and action, it is something about which we all have control and make decisions. What do our investments say about our values? Are we comfortable with what they say?

Do you have any idea what your investments say about your values?

First, consider whether you know enough about your investments to answer these questions. Figuring that out what you own can be difficult, especially if you invest in mutual funds.

 

Whether you are an individual trying to answer these questions yourself, or a financial advisor helping your clients, the process is one of gathering information, figuring out the balance of issues and concerns, and making the best available decision. (ENSOGO Analytics helps financial advisors work with their clients to have these conversations.)

None of this is to say that there is a right or wrong approach to investing or that anyone has the right to tell you what your values should be or what your investments should be. Your values may be different than my values and there’s nothing that makes mine right and yours wrong (or yours right and mine wrong).

Some people will argue that if you invest with your values, you will give up financial return (more on that in a later post). First, it’s important to acknowledge that wanting financial return is in itself a “value.” It’s also important to realize that in many values conversations, you face “right versus right” decisions. You may care about two things (environment and economic development, for example) and you obviously would like to achieve both, and in some cases, you may be able to achieve both. But there may also be times that you have to decide which is more important.

Another example might be that you are concerned about climate change and nuclear power. You may decide that the risk of nuclear power waste is too great for any benefit potentially gained in the fight against climate change, or you may believe that climate change is a concern within the next 30 years and there will be time to figure out the engineering challenges of nuclear waste. I know environmentally conscious investors who argue passionately for each of these options.

In these examples, you have to make tradeoffs. The process of making those tradeoffs is fundamentally the process of being conscious of your decision-making. If you engage in this process, whatever decisions you make, you will be investing with your values. As you ask questions of yourself, of your family, and of your advisors, you will gain a better understanding of what you believe—what your values are—and how you want to reflect those values in everything you do, including in your investments.