Needless to say, 2018 was a crazy year. The chaos in the country’s politics, fanned virtually every day by our Chaos-in-Chief, finally caught up to the stock markets in the last quarter. The markets narrowly avoided their first bear market since 2008-09 and have begun 2019 with the longest shutdown of the U.S. government in history. The shutdown is causing more economic damage every day and unless some sanity kicks in somewhere to restart government services, this alone could tip the country into recession, accompanied by that long-awaited, and anticipated, bear market.
Lately, we’ve been a bit spoiled. Market volatility, until 2018 (and especially in the last two months), has been relatively tame while trending up in recent years, making it easy for investors to focus on other life matters, knowing their portfolios have been doing fairly well. Yet things never really stay the same for very long, and now the markets seem to mirror the nation’s ongoing political chaos.
It has been quite some time since socially responsible impact (SRI) investing has been a fringe phenomenon - something only a handful of mission-based organizations and morally-conscious individuals engaged in because they cared as much about doing something decent with their money as earning a return on it. Today, SRI could more accurately be characterized as the single largest and most influential trend in investing, period.
“Our communities are experiencing unprecedented levels of gun violence. Enough is enough. First Affirmative will continue to avoid investment products that hold positions in firearm manufacturers, and has added screens to avoid retailers that do not meet high standards of care in the sale of these products,” said George Gay, CEO of First Affirmative
In its 28th annual Retirement Confidence Survey, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) discovered that 64% of today's workers feel very or somewhat confident in having enough money to retire comfortably, up from 60% in 2017. And although far more retirees are very confident in their retirement prospects than workers, retiree confidence in their ability to meet basic expenses and medical expenses dropped from the previous year. Moreover, both workers and retirees question the role Social Security will play in future retiree income.
SRI investors like electric cars for obvious environmental reasons. Many have flocked to Tesla*, for example, despite some of its current cash flow statistics that might frighten some more conservative non-SRI investors. These Tesla fans might well be motivated by the company’s electric car models, but their investments are also supporting another fast-developing, and proliferating, technology – namely cars that drive themselves.
SRI investors care about people and the world. I know. I work with a whole group of them. They’re my clients. I’ve experienced many instances in my years of professional practice that revealed that my SRI clients care about me as a person, not just as their financial advisor. My favorites are the times one client or another has called me during a down market to ask how I’m holding up!
I care about my clients as people also (that is, not just as clients). Thinking about them, I was reflecting recently on what it might mean to live a socially responsible lifestyle. Your first thought might be, “Oh no, this doesn’t sound like fun – he’s going to get really serious here.” Well, no. What I want to suggest is that having fun, and having it now, is the way to go.