“Tend to the part of the garden you can touch.” – Jack Kornfield
It’s hard for empathetic and kind people to look at big problems in the world. They can be overwhelming because they seem unfixable. And to a degree, they are. The way forward is to do exactly as Jack Kornfield suggests; to do what we can with what we have.
Here’s some good news in an ocean of bad- by simply redirecting some of the dollars you’re already spending, you can have an impact.
Perhaps you’ve heard the term, “Vote with your dollars.” Every time you make a monetary decision, you’re essentially approving of (or voting for) the recipient. When you invest in a mutual fund, you’re voting for the fund company. When you eat out, you’re voting for the restaurant. When you buy a product, you’re voting for the manufacturer.
What (who) are you currently voting for? Are you casting votes for organizations making the world a better place?
My goal with this post is to empower you to examine your current spending, and to explore new options that could result in you doing good with your dollars.
Before any further, some facts about me:
- I’m a capitalist
- I love convenience
- I care about what my kids and grandkids will inherit
As I look at how we’re having conversations as a society, I’m as frustrated as you are by how polarized everything is. Not everything is yes or no. In fact, very few things are. As you read on, know that I’m advocating for a nuanced approach.
Also know that I’m not recommending you make wholesale changes to your life. If there are opportunities for you to make big changes, great. If there are opportunities for you to make small changes, also great. If there are opportunities for you to make an occasional change, wonderful.
Much of success and happiness is built on incremental changes. I submit that when you recognize the impact you can have by simply redirecting your dollars, you’ll continue looking for more and more opportunities to do it.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- How to get started
- Work to do along the way
- Easy changes
- Moderate changes
- Hard changes
Let’s get started.
How to get started
There are so many important causes in the world, and so many things and people that would benefit from our help. But it’s impossible to help everyone and everything.
No doubt you already know what’s important to you, and what’s not as important. I think the more we can continue to think about and refine what we stand for and what we stand against, the better.
Our values are the lenses through which we see the world. They help to inform how we allocate our most important resources of time, attention, and money. What are your core values? Mine are friendship, justice and learning. While you certainly don’t have to settle on three, or five, or 10, I do think it’s important for you to spend time thinking about yours.
If you’d like some guidance on how to do it, I’d love for you to check out our Values Course. It’s free.
Work to do along the way
At first, this will take some work.
You’ll need to take a second look at the places your money is currently going and determine alternatives. Some will be easy, and others will be harder. I encourage you to think about the time you spend as an investment more than an expense. Depending on how you decide to change your behavior, it could be a massive investment.
Think about it. If you’re 35 years old and you decide to change where you invest your money, you’re making a decision that will pay dividends for 60+ years.
Before we get into this, know that many companies are working to do better. Gone are the days where for-profit businesses made money, and nonprofits did good. Today, many companies are working to make the world a better place.
That being said, some companies are trying harder than others.
The first step is to create a list of everywhere you spend money. Once you’ve got your list, do some research. For example, swapping out your household cleaning products for a non-toxic alternative is quick and easy. This will benefit your health as well as the planet.
Buy local. This is one of the biggest things you can do, and you can do it immediately. The pandemic was hard on everyone; it was especially hard on small businesses. Opt for the mom and pop option.
As we move along, the changes will be more difficult (but you probably figured that out).
Where you bank and invest is important. Have you ever looked at what the mutual funds inside your retirement account are invested in? Now, you may read that and say, “who cares,” and that would be fine. But if you’re curious, you can go online to a site like Morngstar.com and research the “portfolio” of a mutual fund.
You’ll be able to see the companies the fund has invested in.
If you’re against tobacco, you might not want to own a mutual fund that invests in cigarette companies.
Going back to the important of local businesses, why not bank with a local bank or credit union? Yes, I know it’s a pain to make changes, but this is a long-term investment and your money will make a difference to the success of a local bank.
I could have flip-flopped this with “moderate,” but you’ll get the idea.
Stop buying from Amazon. Buy local instead.
I mentioned I was a fan of convenience, and I meant it. It’s really convenient to order something from my phone and have it arrive at my house shortly thereafter. But consider making a small change to your behaviors. If you could change your behavior by 10%, that would make a meaningful difference.
But remember, you can do hard things. In fact, I bet you do them all the time.
We all want to do good and have an impact. Look for small ways you can do it, and get started doing them.
You can have an impact.
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