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Selling Your Soul or Having it Slowly Sucked Away…

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!

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Guest Post at Get Rich Slowly, Round Up, and Carnival | Moolanomy
April 6, 2008 at 11:00 am

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Vered April 5, 2008 at 12:06 pm

My mom grew up poor. She worked for 40 years at a job she hated, but that job enabled her to build herself financially, send her kids to college and retire comfortably. I asked her about it, and she said that when you grow up poor (they sometimes went hungry), “safe” is a legitimate choice. I think I agree with her.

Re investing, I do invest in individual stocks as well as in indexes. With individual stocks, I invest in companies that I like and believe in. But I don’t bother myself too much with looking into which companies a certain index, or even an actively-managed mutual fund, holds.

Jared April 5, 2008 at 12:46 pm

I definitely agree with you that you should only invest your time and money in things that agree with your principles and not violate your integrity for the “almighty buck.”

One thing to re-evaluate, might be your stance on Scientology. I definitely recommend getting the facts of the situation. It’s quite an amazing organization doing a lot of good in the world.

Ron@TheWisdomJournal April 5, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Honestly, my soul is deeply troubled at my current company and I’m vigorously looking to change jobs. When the operations VP threatens every manager’s job over a single form he invented last week because 5 (out of 140) were 30 minutes late faxing it in to him, something is clearly wrong. He isn’t a leader, he’s a bully and a tyrant. His boss (CEO) thinks he’s a git ‘er dun kind of guy. The entire company disagrees but questioning ANYTHING will get you fired.

My soul isn’t for sale and I’m highly tempted to mouth off, but I have 4 others depending on my paycheck. If I could figure out some way to break away, I would!

Lisa April 5, 2008 at 4:52 pm

This is part of what my blog is all about. “Responsible personal finance.” It really can be a hard thing to do. Especially when you are trying to save for retirement, or feed your kids. I think everyone wants to do the right thing, but some times they just can’t afford it. It will be good when it becomes more expensive to pollute and eat unhealthy foods, instead of the opposite.

I really enjoyed your post!

Pete April 7, 2008 at 1:41 pm

I had a similar post series recently from a Christian perspective – as to whether or not we should invest in “vice stocks” or “sin stocks”. I think its a valid question even for non-christians – when to invest and/or work for a company you can’t believe in?

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