People often learn about Abacus Wealth Partners through Lion’s Roar, Tricycle or Mindful, three publications focusing on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation practice, mostly influenced by various Buddhist traditions. The readers of these magazines who contact us are usually seeking a financial planning and investment management firm that shares a genuine connection with the Buddhist philosophy.
The Middle Way
While a few people might say that our portfolios are not “green” or “socially-conscious” enough, I have come to see that a balanced approach to investing minimizes harm to the environment while not putting our clients in harm’s way, in terms of risk.
I like to think that Abacus’ approach is the “middle way” of investment strategies. The middle way in Buddhism came from Buddha’s realization that his self-denying and strict lifestyle had gone too far, much like his time living in a palace had been too sheltered and luxurious, and that a path that encompassed both extremes would lead him to his goal of enlightenment.
At Abacus we employ sustainable investing, where we focus on companies in each industry that have the best environmental scores.
My Buddhist(ish) Guide to Financial Nirvana
Wisdom: I’ve always loved the serenity prayer, which directs us to accept the things we can’t change (like the markets, the economy or the tax code), have the courage to change the things we can (like how you earn, spend, give and invest your money), and the wisdom to know the difference. If one can master this art, the ups and downs of the market will have less power over one’s well-being and may just lead to equanimity.
Awareness: Knowing who you are, especially when it comes to your financial life, can reveal the clearest path to who you want to be. It’s Not About the Money, by Abacus Co-Founder, Brent Kesssel, argues how financial success and security is “not about the money,” rather, it’s about what’s inside us. In his book, Kessel introduces the eight dominant Financial Archetypes: the Saver, Pleasure Seeker, Star, Idealist, Empire Builder, Caretaker, Innocent, and the Guardian and explains how to identify your money type along with providing information, resources, exercises, and meditations to guide you along the path to financial security and true peace of mind.
Kessel also developed the Financial Archetype Quiz to help individuals easily discover their most dominant Financial Archetypes. His book and corresponding quiz helps people to recognize their dominant and dormant tendencies with money, and teaches them how to change their money relationship by cultivating more balance.
People who have a tendency to move to cash in a market correction, are afraid to spend, or don’t save enough, for example, would benefit greatly from this book. Gain awareness and explore your authentic money self by taking the Financial Archetype Quiz today.
What's your Financial Archetype?
Simplicity: Investing doesn’t need to be complicated to work well. Reasonable goals, the discipline to save, the patience to stay put and a low cost globally diversified sustainable portfolio is likely all you need to end up with financial sufficiency.
Generosity: Carve out time, energy and money for the causes that touch your heart every year, no matter what. Be a bold giver.
Equanimity: A little fear is okay. It’s the panic that worries me. Investors who are able to control their fear and aren’t reactive during market corrections tend to do better over the long haul. Jumping out of the market during a correction is the single biggest recipe for disaster.
Non-harming: What about socially responsible investing? Currently, the only way to have a portfolio of companies that is perfectly integrated with a person’s values is to build it with individual stocks (as opposed to, say, mutual funds). Such a portfolio, however, is likely to suffer from poor diversification and increased costs.
Consumers, however, can change the world through their spending choices, petitions, boycotts, and more. Take SeaWorld (no really, please). The marine life theme park saw a sizeable drop in attendance in 2013 as a result of the passionate response to the Blackfish documentary and all that it entailed. Heck, my mom, a once die-hard SeaWorld goer, is done with them. And recently, some well-known music artists have canceled their SeaWorld performances. Time will tell what this does to benefit marine life, but for 2013, their stock has gotten clobbered. And my instincts tell me that this will have happened because of consumer, not investor, behavior.
Taking a Buddhist Approach
If you own thousands of companies, your ownership in any one of them will be tiny. I encourage my clients to shift to the middle way path we take at Abacus, and to enjoy the good that can be done with the potentially higher returns from this balanced approach.
May all beings be happy. May all beings be free. May all beings have a great investing experience. If you’d like to explore how you can align your money with your values then schedule a call with a financial advisor today.