Money is a vote for the world you want

11/01/2016 09:13 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

By: Rebecca O'Connor

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There is nothing quite as frustrating as the feeling of being sure you are right about something and everyone else is wrong. Self-righteous narcissism perhaps. But what if you actually ARE right, and the mainstream, for one reason or another, thinks entirely differently?

This is how I feel about responsible money. Every part of me believes it is the ONLY way money should ever be.

My background is finance and business journalism. Finance journalists work on the basis that they are there to serve readers' financial best interests. This usually means guiding them towards the cheapest or most profitable deal.

In a world battling manmade climate change, inequality and global wars, this 2D perspective doesn't cut it any more. What you do with your money is a vote for the world you want. It's time for money to move into 3D.

Through Good With Money, a personal finance website dedicated to responsible money options, me and my co-founder Lisa are trying to inspire people who buy personal finance products (which is all of us) to think beyond getting the very cheapest deal, to quit rate-tarting and instead find a provider the way they might choose a husband: a provider that has some values.

Moneysavingexpert and moneysupermarket are great, but they've turned us into a bunch of bargain-crazed, price-obsessed loonies, incapable of seeing the impact of our financial decisions beyond our own bank accounts.

I respect people's right to a bargain or a profit on their cash - the good thing is, they can still achieve this without their money being part of the problem.

There is nothing inherently wrong with money. It's the way we think about it that is flawed. We have been trained to think about wealth as a reward for being mercenary, not for being nice. That's why we turn a blind eye to exploitation, oil spillages and tax evasions as collateral damage in a profit-serving world. But being good can be profitable too.

Showing people how they can get value or returns from their mortgages, pensions, savings and insurance, without their money going into anything harmful is like watching a light going on.

To us, harmful means activities such as fossil fuel burning, child labour and weapons manufacturer, that kind of thing. And lots of money goes into stuff that makes us ashamed to be human every day, we just aren't told about it. Instead, we see our money going into X investment trust or Y tracker. Our statements, premiums and dividends don't tell us what we are profiting from.

It doesn't matter if you don't know what you think about such ethical issues. That thinking can be done for you these days, if all you want to know is that your money is funding solutions and not problems.

That means renewable energy tariffs, socially-invested savings accounts and pensions in sustainability-led funds that perform as well or better than the "non-ethical" alternatives.
I would never claim to be the sole pioneer of a positive money movement - there are thousands - but what I am trying to do, in my little corner of personal finance is a bit different.

I'm trying to create mass demand for all the work going into Environmental Social Governance behind the scenes; to make it relevant and interesting to the man or woman on the street, who might buy free range, organic food but doesn't apply that same spirit to their money - yet.

If all I do is make people think twice the next time they take out a car insurance policy, or open an ISA about where their money is going, even just once a year, then job done.

People get it and we've had a great response so far. Cultural changes start small and then before you know it, the new culture is normal. Believing that this will happen to responsible money - that one day, it will be as unthinkable to invest in an oil and gas ETF, as it is to kill a polar bear - gets me behind the computer every day. The good money revolution is happening, I'm here to give it a voice.

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About Rebecca O'Connor
Rebecca is an award-winning financial journalist, blogger and former staff writer at The Times. She founded Good With Money in October 2015 after spending three years crowdfunding renewable energy projects, during which time her "light was switched on" to where her own money was going.