I have been challenged in recent years to consider how I spend money, how I give away money, how I save money and the ensuing implications of each of these actions.  I am challenged by this nearly everyday as I work for Edify in a country (The Dominican Republic) where there is a shocking contrast between the very rich and the large majority of people who are quite poor materially speaking. The way that we spend and manage our money can narrow this gap by investing in those who have little and not investing in structures that may keep them from rising up out of poverty.  Whether you have much or have little the responsibility to use your money wisely and in alignment with the desires of Our Creator should remain the same. Personally, I find the English theologian, John Wesley’s life and teachings to be of extraordinary insight in this arena. It was Mr. Wesley who famously quoted, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can”.  The following are some of the practical resources I’ve found that have helped me save and give in a way that tries to do more good than harm. 
Where do you put your money when you save for a family trip, a down-payment on a house, your kid’s college education, your retirement?  Where you save is heavily dependent upon the liquidity that you require, or how soon you will need to withdraw that money.  For longer-term savings, where you won’t need the money in the next couple of years, many people will wisely purchase a variety of stocks  (equity) or debt-instruments to allow them to generate a return on their investment.  The purchase of these instruments may be as easy as a click of a button on E-Trade trade. But it is important to remember that all actions have consequences and the reality is that you immediately assume a great responsibility when you become an owner or financial supporter of a company. You are responsible in-part for the good and the bad that comes with your relationship and support of this company.  If you accept this viewpoint as true, then it is essential you take a very close look at some of the companies you own and find good alternatives that will do more good rather than harm.  I believe the best investments you can make are in people and companies that you know personally or have an established relationship with.  I would also encourage you to check out the following list of some of the investment options I have found that allow you save money, generate a return on those savings, and help reduce poverty or promote environmental sustainability along the way.

MicroPlace – Earn 1-4% on your investment that will help the poor access basic financial services.

Oikocredit USA – Get a 2% Return on your 1, 3, or 5 year investment. 100% repayment history and you can invest for as little as $200. Some of their investments go to support Edify’s microfinance partner in the Dominican Republic, ASPIRE.

Kiva – While you don’t earn interest on loans via Kiva, it’s about as good as your personal savings account in a bank, except you can choose the country, microfinance institution and project that you want to support.  With as little as $25 dollars you can make an investment in organization’s like Edify’s partner Esperanza International in the Dominican Republic. Your investment will be repaid in 6-12 months whereupon you can get your money back or invest in other entrepreneurs around the world. 

LiveStrong 2050 Fund – A diversified mutual fund with a target date of 2050. A great choice for retirement planning. This fund doesn’t invest in tobacco companies or weapons manufacturers and some of the benefits on earnings go to support the Livestrong Foundation.

Calvert Solution Funds – Diversified funds that invest in companies dedicated to producing products or services that work towards  solving pressing environmental sustainability problems. Click Here for a longer list of socially responsible mutual funds. Giving. This is where things really start to get tough for me. My frugal side kicks in and it is so tough to give as much as I could or probably should. How do we find the balance between saving, spending and giving?  Again, I find inspiration for how to live in the words of Christian witnesses that I admire and who live out what they believe.  On giving, C.S. Lewis said, 

”I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare…If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us,… they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures excludes them.”   

Just as I encouraged investing in those that you know personally, I believe giving and sharing your personal resources is best done with those that you have an established relationship with.  If you’re looking to support ministries, non-profits or other organizations with a donation there is a new online-platform that just emerged and is way too cool not to check out.  Pure Charity is changing the game of philanthropy.  You can easily sort through potential projects that you would like to help fund by geographic area, sector, organization, etc. Edify currently has two projects listed on Pure Charity. After finding the different projects you want to support you can easily manage your various contributions and see updates as well. The part that really sets Pure Charity apart, however, is that you can earn money for your donation portfolio by making purchases online or in-person at stores like Best-Buy, Target, ITunes and more. Check out Erin’s blog-post for more information about Edify and Pure Charity.  

Remember that no matter how much or how little, the way we spend, invest, and give makes a difference.  Find responsible ways for investing and creative ways of sharing what you have with those around you and around the world.  Please leave a comment if you know of other socially responsible investing vehicles that should be on the list.