As a young adult, I was taught that money was evil and that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven. Because I feared money and didn't want to be that soulless rich person who had lost access to heaven, I undervalued, under-appreciated and underutilized my time, my talent, my earning potential and my money. Others could and did manipulate me and my money toward their own ends, easily, because I wasn't tending to it.
I was signed up for all kinds of things that I didn't really want to buy into. A lousy, low paying job where I had to work 18-hour days. (The sum total was far below minimum wage; breaking the contract that I had signed cost me more than I had earned, and almost killed me.) Expensive health insurance that I would never use. A retirement account with limited investment options, where I was profiting from the very things that I fundamentally opposed -- big tobacco, big oil, war and pharmaceuticals. All of this was removed from my paycheck without me ever knowing that I had a choice in the matter. I was bound by these expenses -- these automatic withdrawals. I didn't know it then, but that is financial oppression.
The quote isn't, "Money is the root of all evil." Jesus said, "The love of money is the root of all evil." In other words, "Greed is the root of all evil."
When I talk about money now, after a lot of deep thinking and extensive "doing" on the matter, everything is different. I'm really talking about value. I'm really talking about freedom of choice. I'm talking about time. I'm talking about partnerships. I'm talking about talent. I'm really talking about life purpose. I'm really talking about gratitude -- being grateful for the things that you love in the world, and that they are available to buy, such as clean electricity, organic food, shelter, beautiful clothing, fuel-efficient, reliable vehicles and even bright green bike lanes. Money is just the means of exchange of each of those valuable assets that each of us has inherently, and can aggregate collectively, but do not always understand and value to the extent of their true worth.
When I think about the value of an individual, of a life's purpose, of the world we live in and co-create and what each of us is here on the planet to do, then I would say that green investing is a conversation we should have with our teens and our young adults before we send them out into the world. Every young adult needs to understand, in a much deeper and holistic way, the value of you, the importance of your life's calling, the Big Picture, and how to integrate that into:
1. Your "job" (where you'll spend most of your time),
2. Your spending (where you'll spend most of your income),
3. Your play (an investment in health, which is key to living and being the best you),
4. Your charitable giving (creating partnerships and sharing in the overflow), and
5. Your investing (you are invested, the question is, "Are you taking ownership of your investments").
Every cent you own and every moment you spend is always an investment. When we give that power away, others are happy to take it and use it toward their own good. The world we live in is not, yet, a co-creation of an inspired partnership. It is still, largely, the product of an elite group of strong-willed people using greed for personal gain, without a cohesive, larger vision.
The solution begins in financial literacy, in each of us knowing and valuing the power of our labor, of our talents, of our "insurance" and "retirement accounts," of our bank deposits, of our spending and of aligning all of that with what we fundamentally want to see flourish on our beautiful blue planet.
Main Street owns Wall Street. They are us, or at least our money...
As I wrote in the forward of my book, Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is*, "When we start investing with heart and soul and wisdom, instead of fear, blind faith and greed, our lives will change immediately, and this world will become a much more beautiful place. A life like this increases in value every single day and becomes more valuable not just to you but to those around you as well."
So, let's wad up the old definition of money that many of us have, which is tied to all kinds of fear-based associations, and punt that myth out of the window.
Financial freedom, the ability to easily choose to invest in green products and services, and deny your dollars to old school, last century, cronyism business, is the next great revolution. And, financial literacy is the key that unlocks the prison door.
*the paperback version of Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is is titled You Vs. Wall Street.