SMUG MONEY: Everything is political now, including your money

Written by Rebecca O'Connor on 25th January 2017

This will not be the most entertaining thing you read about Donald Trump today.

It will not be the most vital insight into the ramifications of Brexit you have all week – not even close.

But it’s worth just mentioning.

We can perhaps agree that one way or another, most of what is behind Trump’s rise is much the same as what is behind the UK’s decision to leave the EU: feelings of disenfranchisement, lack, anger at others.

And we might also conclude that many of these feelings arise as a result of either having money and wanting to protect or make more of it; or not having money and wanting some.

It’s not news, of course, that our own material positions can define our politics, whichever way it ends up swinging.

But what most of us perhaps don’t give much thought to is what our money says about our values and why it is so important to align the two, given everything that is happening in the world right now.

It’s interesting that still, even in this ultra-political landscape, a time of high macro anxiety about what one man, or group of individuals, might do in the name of ideals, we see ourselves as somehow separate from it all – as consumers of the news, which is happening over there, rather than a part of it. We treat it as a talking point at dinner or the school gate, a reason to feel a bit glum, rather than the monumental consciousness shift that appears to be taking part before our eyes, but which, through the medium of media, somehow becomes reduced to a quick flick through Facebook posts on Donald’s hair while we make the dinner.

But a sense of separation between self and the world is a luxury we can no longer indulge in. Everything out there affects everything in here.

Trump’s first few days, in which he appears to be committed to do all the things he said he would, but nobody thought he would follow through on, have been the catalyst for some people to publicly connect the dots in their own lives with the dots in other people’s. The global women’s marches at the weekend were a beautiful example of millions of people overcoming this disconnect between our personal, private spheres and the public, political ones.

In these strange times, the statement: “Be the change in the world you want to see” rings more true than ever. It is hard, caught in the daily grind, to do anything other than live our little lives as best we can.

But if we invest, in either pensions or ISAs, or are thinking of doing so, then we have some power that can be exercised even when we are too busy to march.

In a politically and socially volatile world, predicting what investments will go up and what will go down becomes a lot more difficult.

The current political landscape of ups and downs, surprises and second guesses, is yet another reason to consider investing ONLY according to your own values. Because really, in the absence of truth, or reliable global or even national policies, all we have are our values. Either that, or a set of meaningless predictions.

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Donald Trump hates wind turbines; I love them

I don’t want my fund manager to be trying to short stocks that might fall foul of Trump’s nastiest policies; I want one who takes a moral high ground and invests in renewable energy in spite of  Trump’s hatred of wind farms and love of “clean” coal.

I don’t want my pension to be invested in stocks with fat dividends, such as oil companies, even if under a Trump administration, I’ll see a 5 per cent uplift on the value of my portfolio.

In fact, if someone drew up an “anti-Trump” portfolio now, I’d invest in it.

We’ve got to draw a line somewhere, and personally, as much as marching, I believe taking a stand means not cynically, knowingly profiting from the actions of a man who is morally repugnant, under the mistaken view that profit and principles are separate. They are not. That belief is just one of the many that has got us into this global balls-up.

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The value of your investments may go up and down, but your values are a reassuring constant.

What are your values? It’s worth taking the time to think of 3. Do your investments reflect them? If not, move them.

Put your money where your morals are, and feel pleased that you are taking part in a quieter, yet equally important form of activism.