Think about what the holidays were like for you this year.
I hope you ate well. Maybe you ate or drank too much. I also hope you enjoyed your family and friends. Or maybe you feel like you overdid it there a bit, too.
Perhaps you celebrated the birth of Jesus, lit the Hanukkah candles, decorated with a Charlie Brown tree or Festivus pole, or otherwise enjoyed your other cherished traditions. Maybe you even found yourself distracted by the advent of Santa Claus and his tidings of great materialism. To be sure, I’m not judging.
It’s just that, more and more, people I talk with seem to not just recognize the major pitfall of the Christmas season — material things — but they feel increasingly dissatisfied by the pursuit of stuff.
Yes, Christmas is still a good excuse to gather with friends and family we don’t see regularly (as well as with those we do). It’s a good excuse to overindulge on peanut-butter buckeyes, roast beast and gratitude.
Sometimes we need a good excuse to be gracious. But why do we run back and forth to the malls (and Amazon.com) like Christmas preparations must be some peculiar combination of "The Price is Right" meets Whack-a-Mole?
Part of it is the satisfaction that comes with giving a gift. (And that’s the good part of it.)
The other part is the pursuit of meaning, purpose, joy, identity and fullness through people, places and things that are materially empty or spiritually unaffordable.
You could say this is a sign of the times, of a culture craving instant gratification. So, I don’t aim to condemn. (After all, we are investors — we make moves all year that are designed to generate a positive outcome in our portfolios, hopefully sooner rather than later.) Rather, I aim to help awaken and regroup.
Not Born on Christmas Day
So … Scripture says nothing about Dec. 25 being the birthday of Jesus.
Some say the Christmas celebration came to fall on this day because it was relatively near the Winter Solstice. And if you lived anywhere but in Florida centuries ago, winter meant that the vegetable supply was running low … meat needed to be eaten before it spoiled … new batches of wine and beer were ready … and the pace of work slowed down. (Because of the temperature, not the beer and wine!)
Now, I’m no calendar-ologist, so I don’t know why our New Year falls on Jan. 1. I just know that a decision was made to make a delineation that day.
It just so happens the New Year falls a week after Christmas.
Think about the New Year. What will it be for you this year?
Once again, to be sure, I’m not judging.
It’s just that, more and more, people I talk with seem to not just recognize the major pitfall of New Year’s resolutions — a treadmill of failed goals — but they feel increasingly dissatisfied by the pursuit of self.
Research done earlier this year revealed that — if you’re making an elementary school teacher’s salary or better — your income puts you in the top 1% of the world.
So, you are in the top 1% … and probably by a comfortable margin.
So what? So do something about it.
This year, make it your goal to do something truly good with your money.
What do I mean, exactly? That’s for you to figure out. But I have a few ideas.
For me, it’s easy to say something like "give it to a charity" or "send food and clothing to African children in need" or "invest it in my daughters’ farm education."
When it comes spending money and time, here are just a few of the thoughts that popped into my mind …
Why do I donate to charity? Why do I invest in-Coca Cola? Why shouldn’t I? Why do I buy the most expensive shoes? Why do I buy the cheapest shoes? Why do I buy organic food? Why don’t I teach someone something? Why do I buy American? Why do I hoard gold bullion? Why do I believe what I believe? Why do I spend so much time on Facebook? Why should I start an investing club in my community?
But I don’t want to tell you what to do with your money and time. That’s part of the process — your process. You need to determine what, to whom, how and, most importantly, WHY.
Do you ever ask yourself "why"? You might not ask as many questions as I do. But when you do, how do you answer yourself?
This coming year, as we always strive to do in the pages of Uncommon Wisdom Daily, we want to make you think. And we want to make you think in a way that makes sense, especially when common sense feels uncommon.
For my part, I’ll continue to deliver trading ideas in commodities and natural resources that challenge mainstream thinking and exploit investor complacency.
And, in an ongoing project to create meaning and provide purpose to you, our reader, I plan to foster an effort that helps us disseminate opportunities in Impact Investing.
Impact Investing is quickly becoming popular. It is the kind of investing that puts the underlying morals, ethics and common good at the forefront of an investment decision.
Barron’s defines impact investing as "the art of creating portfolios that earn market-rate returns while also seeking to advance social or environmental aims."
Years ago, opportunities like these were relatively off-limits to the retail investor. But that is changing, since the world is realizing that doing right does not require sacrificing financial returns.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of ETFs and mutual funds that are focusing on some form of impact investing. Barron’s recently published a list of its top 200 sustainable mutual funds, and reported that some 80% of S&P 500 companies are publishing information on their economic, environmental, social and governance performance.
Soon, doing right will mean greater returns for both the bank account and the soul.
Some of the ideas we’ll provide will give you direct exposure to exchange-listed opportunities. (Grant Wasylik recently wrote about one such investment, an ETF that tracks companies that promote gender diversity in their leadership positions.)
Others will give you ideas of how your investment dollars can be put to work in your community for the common good.
Still others will touch on ways your money can make a difference even if there is little or no expectation of financial return.
But don’t wait.
Don’t wait for us to drop ideas on you. (Although you can look forward to hearing about those ideas as we uncover them.)
Look for ways to engage your circle of influence. Look for ways to make a difference nearby. We can’t possibly know all the opportunities in front of each one of our readers.
So go exploring. Then dig in.
Ask yourself WHY. The what, to whom, where and how you go with your money will figure itself out.
If you come across opportunities of this nature to share with us, please do. And if you have any questions, let us know.
Your feedback will help incubate this project and see that it becomes a useful avenue for growing uncommon wisdom.
P.S. It doesn’t even require a ton of time or capital to make an impact with your investing. One easy way to get started is to check out Grant’s article about "Investing in Charities."