September 10th, 2020

mom walk


One of the things that has become more clear to me over the past few weeks of being settled in a house with a yard, sharing with roommates who own trucks, living in a town full of houses with yards and people who own trucks, is that i definitely do not want to buy a house or a yard or a truck. I already felt that way before, but i think i started getting confused because of my mom's inheritance burning a hole in my pocket.

I decided to open an investment account with my bank, move all of mom's money over there and then chuck it into funds that i can ignore.

The issue has been that politically i don't agree with land ownership. I don't want us to keep burning fossil fuels. I don't like big tech, i don't like private insurance, i don't like industrialized agriculture, i don't like chain restaurants or chain anything. I don't want to give money to fascist regimes. Also, fuck all banks. So, essentially, there is no way that i can exist as a person with money without having to compromise my principles in some way.

Separately, i think the whole concept of a "stock market" is bollocks. Gambling in general is shit, whether it's betting on the future value of companies you don't have a personal stake in, or betting on sports teams, or just working the probabilities at a casino.

Of course, i am not a fool. I know that this is just how modern society is by default. Even if i did somehow magically manage to live entirely off-grid, with scavenged or repurposed everything, i'd still have put 40 years into an entire supply chain of trash companies. And i wouldn't want to live off-grid anyway, because i like the internet, and i like coffee, and i like civilization in general. I do believe that medicine and agriculture and telecommunications and urbanization are good for our species, and that we can do it sustainably. I got no interest in retreating to some kind of anarcho-primitivist society.

So. There are lots of shit companies in the world. And there are lots of shit countries in the world. Don't want to support them. Have to support them. What to do?

Well, fortunately the capitalist boffins at global financial companies have come up with a product designed just for anxious millennial cowboys like myself - so-called "ethical", "socially-aware", "sustainable", "impact" funds.

When you look through the make-up of these funds, they still hold a bunch of shitty companies. Like, they don't hold an oil company, so they hold a natural gas company instead. They don't hold a tobacco company, so they hold a fast food company instead. They don't hold a firearms company, so they hold a luxury goods company instead. They're not perfect, they're just less bad.

I suppose if you were extremely dedicated, you could manually pick out a whole bunch of companies yourself and invest in them one-by-one. But that is a massive amount of work, as i discovered when i started researching this. I spent an entire day just looking at different funds, and each fund has 50+ companies on its own. One advisor suggested a middle path could be investing in funds that are based on sector, so you can put more money into agriculture and less money into extraction, for example. It's another approach to building a portfolio that best reflects your personal values.

Building a portfolio? Buddy. I feel like an asshole just typing that out.

So, i put all of mom's money into four funds. Number one Canadian government bonds. Yes, the Canadian government earns most of its money from extraction. But i can vote in Canadian government elections, so i actually have the power to try change those policies, and invest in making my chosen base of operations a less shitty place. The other three funds were the most leftie i could find, made up of all-Canadian stocks, miscellaneous "global" (read: mostly American) stocks and all-"EAFE" (Europe/Australasia/Far East) stocks. Zero "emerging markets" (Global South plus China) due to there not being a leftie fund for those regions. Most "emerging markets" are dominated by extraction companies and Chinese government stooges. There are still some questionable investments in there, like banks. Banks suck because they themselves invest in problematic shit, but i suppose at least i am one degree removed from the worst of the suck.

The truth is, there are not very many options when you look through full-blown "divest from fossil fuels" type of investments. Especially if you also want to avoid investing in Facebook or Tencent or some other evil megacorp.

I just asked myself "would mom approve?" And, although my mom would probably have recommended i buy land, i think she would have understood that i'm not a landowning type. I think she would have approved me putting her money into an investment (so i'll have a nest egg), while also doing what i can to make sure that the investment is not shamelessly destroying the planet. I think she'd think it sweet that i tried to make it global too. Or, at least she'd think it smart, because apparently this is what the finance nerds do. Diversify. Limit exposure. Whatever.

Anyway, point is, this money is now out of sight, out of mind. Within the first 24 hours i made over $600, which is ridiculous considering i literally did nothing except click some buttons. This is exactly how rich people keep getting richer. But no doubt it will go down again next time the stock market crashes. Then it will go up again. Maybe i will lose it all. Whatever. Whatever. I'll check back later.

Meanwhile, i have a year of salary in my checking account, which will give me plenty of sabbatical, should i choose to take a long one. It's also enough to make small charitable donations or help out friends, which puts me back in a spot where i am comfortable.

This has left me feeling much less stressed. I'm still fundamentally conflicted about being A Person With Money, but i feel i've put it to the best use i can, given how uncomfortable i am just spending any time at all dealing with it. Hopefully future me will appreciate it.