This is a Mrs. Micah redux…a post I discovered when wandering through my archives, and one which I wanted to share again. But instead of just linking back there, I decided to repost it for you.
A few months ago, Denise at Flamingo House Happenings wrote about a conversation she and her partner had concerning soul-selling vs. soul-sucking. Is there a difference? I think so…that some things we don’t want to do suck our souls. Other times, we choose to sell our souls, a la Faust, to something wrong or evil for some expected gain.
That got me thinking about souls and finance. Not necessarily in a religious way, but in a way that relates to our beliefs, our spirit, our happiness.
First-where do we work and who do we take money from?
I could never work for Altria (formerly Phillip Morris). Ever. Not only that, but I wouldn’t want to invest in their stock or take money from them for ads. I wouldn’t even want their charitable contributions (though I see arguments for either side). Maybe if they admitted their tactics in advertising to children, repented of their ways, turned their factories into teddy bear places and gave large portions of their profits to help people quilt smoking and bring about world peace. Maybe then.
When I was in highschool, my parents wouldn’t let me take scholarship money from Scientologists. Now I agree with them because I know more about the organization.
Normally, such choices aren’t that clear. The above examples are good ones (I think) of soul-selling. Suppose, though, that I had a job at an elevator company for years, working as their receptionist. I hated it, it paid good money and benefits.
For a few years, that’s soul-sucking. If I work there for 40 years, does it become soul-selling? Or does that just have to do with working for evil people? Is it evil to squash your own dreams and choose a miserable life when you don’t have to but it seems safe? I think it’s at least a very bad thing to do to yourself.
Or maybe we work at a company we don’t respect in some areas but which we think does fine on other things. Business is rarely clear-cut.
Second-where do we put our money?
I hate to say it, but some great-looking investments fall into the soul-selling area. With millions of people addicted to cigarettes (billions, actually) it’s a great industry to invest in. If I had no conscience, I’d love to get in on that stuff.
What about greyer areas like alcohol? After all, maybe you enjoy an appletini with friends. From what I understand, though, the companies make most of their money from alcoholics (I can’t find the source where I read this, but it makes sense).
We probably all make decisions not to invest in companies we despise. But if, for example, we use indexes or other funds, we may not have a choice. So we tell ourselves it’s part of the bigger pictures. Or maybe that we own such a tiny share of the company that it doesn’t amount to anything. Or that we hope this stock will be off the S&P 500 soon.
Obviously, we can look for socially responsible funds. But financially, they’re not likely to be as good as indexing. (though according to Investing With Your Values you can do pretty well esp with the Domini 400…do your own research!)
I’m afraid that this is a quandary we’ll all have to live with. How we approach it, I think, is a matter of conscience. It might not bother you at all. It might suck your soul a little when you think of it. If you feel like you’re selling your soul, then get into ethical funds.
Life is, fortunately, about more than getting out of debt or making money. And sometimes we have to turn down great fiscal opportunities to do what’s right. Those choices may be tough, but they’ll help us sleep at night and live with a clear conscience, an untroubled soul. And that is a true blessing!