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Weaning Off Wall Street
or, how to invest in your own resilience

by D. Patrick Miller

 

Even before the cataclysm of 9/11, the onset of natural superstorms, and the financial collapse of 2008, the US military had invented one of its infamous acronyms to characterize the sociopolitical and environmental scenarios that it anticipated in the 21st century: “VUCA”.

VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

It’s not the kind of prediction that gives anyone the warm fuzzies, and it can make investors especially nervous. But if the authors of a new book on “resilient investing” have it right, the best way to deal with an uncertain future is not forecasting for better or worse. Whether you have millions involved in multiple financial instruments or just enough money in a checking account to keep the cat fed, you’ll benefit from taking a broader, deeper view of everything you’re “invested” in.

“We have to ask ourselves what the ultimate point of investing is,” says Christopher Peck, one of four co-authors of The Resilient Investor: A Plan for Your Life, Not Just Your Money (Berrett-Koehler, 2015) and a managing partner of Natural Investments. A student of Zen Buddhism for twenty years, Peck has also earned a black belt in Aikido.

“For some, investing will always be just about MORE — more money, more security, more stuff. For us, investing is about creating a good life that you love. If we are looking for a high quality of life, inner contentment is foundational to that. Self-inquiry, personal development, and meditation cost little in money but generate huge personal returns in contentment and happiness. Why not invest in that first and live the good life now?”

The enrichment of such intangibles also supports the development of resilience, which the authors define as “anticipating and preparing for disturbance, improving the capacity to withstand shocks, rebuilding as necessary, and adapting and evolving when possible.”

According to Peck and his cohorts, the resilient investor’s “good life” is grounded in three realms: Close to Home, the Sustainable Global Economy, and Evolutionary Investing (the latter being partly served by the rise of crowdfunding and the so-called “sharing economy”). Their book explains how these realms interact and how individuals and families can create investment plans that incorporate such a holistic view.

Needless to say, the resilient perspective is a far cry from the Trumpian view of bombastic, self-serving economics — not to mention the transformation of the American democratic system into what former President Carter recently called “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.”

Given the immense and seemingly unstoppable forces of greed and bribery in our culture now, how does a resilient investor take a stand against the tide?

“First step, get out of the way!” advises Peck. “Don’t buy in to the over-consumption pattern that feeds the oligarchy. Design your life around walk-ability and bike-ability. Live simply. Invest your financial assets first to avoid harm, then to do good. Then vote and activate and occupy and stay grounded and be the change you want to see. Partner with your neighbors and friends and create the better world that we all know is possible.”

For some, this prescription may sound a trifle idealistic. But it just might be the best shot we have at preventing a world of VUCA from becoming totally FUBAR

 

Copyright 2015 by D. Patrick Miller. All rights reserved.
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