As I sat in church on Sunday, the text spoke to those who were the "haves" of society and outlined their responsibility to the "those who do not have." Part of the issue, as I see it, is that our economic systems have strong tendencies to benefit those who already have. Simply because of where I live, my educational level and other factors, I have opportunities that others would love to have. I confess, that like many others, I tend to under-appreciate those opportunities.
Like most people in the United States, I have some savings for retirement. Most of these savings are in various kinds of mutual funds. Some of those funds have elements of social justice as a part of there investment philosophy; however, even these funds invest in the US stock market. Stock markets tend to benefit the largest companies and seem to have limited benefit to those outside of the ones who already have enough to invest there.
Herein lies my difficulty and my question. While I have no problems investing in these funds per se, it seems that the recent past has resulted in lackluster returns where my portfolio decreases in value while I continue to read about excessive compensation for top executives. While returns shouldn't be my major motivating factor, I wonder how my investment strategies make sense in light of the Gospel. Prima facie, my retirement money is part of the continuing system of helping those who have to have more.
Now before you accuse me of being a communist or socialist or something else, let me state an alternative I which were out available to me and others. I wish that part of my retirement savings could go into a fund that would be used to finance micro-loans to persons attempting to start new businesses either in the blighted urban areas or in developing nations. I know there are sites where I can directly help in these kinds of endeavors, but I'm thinking that I'd like to put the funds into some kind of "fund" or large "pot" whose purpose is to give loans to help those who do not have in developing nations and portions of the US that traditional banks have forgotten. I also admit that with all the work related to my kids, my job, and life in general, I don't have the time to try to spend evaluating all of these options.
As part of the funds rules, one would recognize that the returns might be lower than some kind of funds that invested in stock markets. The lower returns would be offset by the knowledge that the dollars invested in this "fund" would have an uplifting effect on the "least of these." With some of the sites boasting a 98% repayment rate, it honestly seems much less risky tahn some of the traditional options. Obviously, most people wouldn't put all of their savings into this kind of fund, but what if it were an option? What kinds of good could happen if there were millions or billions of dollars that could be lent at affordable rates to those seeking to better their life?
Perhaps there are options out there, already... If there aren't, how could we start something like this option?
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