Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller about his huge fortune, “Sir, how much money is enough?” His answer: “Just a little bit more.” Sometimes we reduce the goal of financial advising and money management too far: to simply make just a little bit more.
But the realities of life are more complicated: the market is uncertain, the job market is even less certain, and you find yourself in a whole web of relationships – marriage, kids, grandkids – so that it’s not just you and your portfolio. Your goals change, your values mature.
Goals–based investing and values–based investing are both approaches that take the complex texture of life into account when it comes to managing your money. Beyond the over-simplified answer of just making as much money as possible, these approaches give you the opportunity to let who you are shape your portfolio in a way that is profitable and yet still you.
Today, let’s look at what it means to set up a portfolio knowing that your goal is more than “just a little bit more.”
Know Yourself, Know Your Money
Knowing yourself is one of the most important goals of life. Knowing who you are and what you really want may take a lifetime to figure out, but you won’t be satisfied until you do.
Clarifying your values and your passions by looking at how you spend your time, money, and energy, is a good starting point for building a portfolio based on who you are. As the New Testament puts it, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Here’s an example. You take some time reflecting with your advisor on where you’ve spent your money and time over the last quarter. Your advisor points out that you’ve made consistent donations to cancer research, but you have no investments in the medical world.
You’ve lost a few friends to cancer, and you have a special place in your heart for it. So you and your advisor decide to bring some money over into medical investments, specifically in the area of oncology research. After researching the most effective and profitable investments there, you make the switch.
This is values-based investing – putting your money where your heart is. Not to be confused with value–investing, which is a different approach. A good way to start developing awareness of your goals and values is to take a values assessment.
Know Yourself, Know Your Goals
Goals–based investing is similar to values-based investing in that it widens your approach to investing beyond simple money-making. Your goals reflect your life and the life you hope to have in the future.
Is your goal to retire as early as possible to enjoy time with family and write a best-selling novel? That will set up your portfolio in a specific way with a specific rhythm. Is your goal to make sure all six of your children have a private Ivy League education that’s completely paid for? Your portfolio will need to be positioned in a certain way to optimize earnings and then quickly preserve them for when the day comes.
Your goals may not necessarily be in lockstep with what’s going on in the market, or what’s hot this quarter, but they will reflect who you are and support what’s most important to you. Blending values-based and goals-based investing is more of an art than a skill, and will take careful discussions with your financial advisor, as well as your family and those who know you best.
Socially Responsible Investments (SRIs)
Socially Responsible Investments (SRIs) offer one way to align your portfolio with your values and goals. These assets support social causes you care about, such as clean energy and affordable housing, and avoid activities that may have a negative impact (alcohol, tobacco, gambling).
SRIs can go so far as supporting grassroots community organizations that may have difficulty finding funding from traditional institutions such as banks or the government. There are even funds that allow you to invest in companies that are known for putting women in senior leadership roles. Thus, SRIs, especially as a unified force, can have a huge impact.
Re-thinking the Bottom Line
Is your portfolio’s primary focus on profit or your personal values and goals? How do you define success in this area?
A follow up question to that: Is your vision of success scalable? Maybe when you are in your thirties, your financial vision was to make the most money possible in the least amount of time, but will that still be your vision when you are sixty and looking to retire soon?
Investing, like many things in life, gets more complicated the closer you look. Most of us won’t be completely satisfied with Rockefeller’s answer of “just a little bit more,” especially as our relationships grow and deepen over time.
Letting your goals and values be your guide is the best way to keep what really matters in focus. At TFS, we are serious about your money and excited about your life – we have a passion for helping you find and reach these goals. We’d be honored to journey with you, drop us a line.
As a firm, our approach is goals-based investing as shaped and guided by your values. This holistic model helps you to build a portfolio that expresses who you are. As our friend and mentor Bill Bachrach says, “What’s important about money to you?”
Navigating the world of values- and goals-based investing can be difficult, and a financial advisor can help you gain more clarity. For more info on finding an advisor, download our ebook, “How to Choose an Advisor.”