More Than Money
Issue #15

The Human Side of Investing

Table of Contents

“Intro”

My portfolio statements used to make me fall asleep. The numbers would blur before my eyes; I couldn't even remember the total assets from one quarter to the next, much less any details about individual investments.

A few years later, I now examine each statement as it arrives, curious to glean changes in my financial condition and relieved that words like "cost basis" and "return" have become comfortably familiar. Yet I have to admit: my investments still feel unreal to me--just words and numbers floating on a page, the companies and products simply abstractions. Flesh and blood people must lie behind them, but who are they? What is my relationship to these people, given that my small share of stock makes me a part-owner?

I flip through annual reports, investment magazines, advertisements for mutual funds, and the language they use heightens my sense of disconnection. "Volatility." "Diversification." "Competition for highest return." Trying to understand the impact of investments through words like these seems akin to experiencing war through the reports of well-groomed TV anchors, or springtime by whiffing a bathroom spray called "May Blossoms."

We, the editors, decided to focus this issue of More than Money on "The Human Side of Investing" because we wanted to penetrate this veil of unreality, to somehow make vivid the fabric of relationships that underlie all investments. We also wanted to learn from people who have become personally involved in their investments and who have used them as an expression of their concern for the world.

While the most common way to do "socially-responsible investing" (or SRI) is to "screen" stocks and bonds, here we focus most on stories of people pursuing less familiar strategies: shareholder activism, community investment, and socially-responsible venture capital. (If you're unfamiliar with any of these terms, see "What Is Socially-Responsible Investing?") Their stories are inspiring. These pioneers are trying to build a new and more human economy glimpsed in the back cover poem by Robin Davidson.

As for me, the demands of parenting and directing the Impact Project keep me from much "hands on" investing. Yet, I did manage to switch to an investment firm where I have greater say in selecting socially-screened investments. The firm is also quite engaged in shareholder activism, and has just invited me to come visit one of the local companies in my portfolio! We can't all be pioneers, but we can take the next step before us. And the next....

--Anne Slepian, for the editors


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