Less Than Revolutionary Finance

I’ve gotten some good natured pushback on the idea of buying oneself out of corporate servitude.  The objection seems to come in two general forms.

  1. Contingency of Financial Autonomy: Deriving financial autonomy from investments in corporations whose operations are fundamentally destructive creates a morally corrosive dependency — your interests end up being aligned with theirs, because your autonomy depends on them remaining profitable.
  2. Opportunity Costs: Even if investing in corporations doesn’t actually give them financial support, there’s an opportunity cost: the same money could be used to invest in small local businesses or social enterprises.  Wouldn’t that be more powerful and potentially transformational?

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Buy Yourself Out

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.
— Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

A slave: someone over 40 who makes more than $100,000 but still has a boss.
— Nassim Taleb

A couple of weeks ago I ran a workshop on retirement investing for some other co-op folks.  I’ve run this workshop before, but lately I’ve been thinking about it differently.  Turns out calling it “retirement” investing can be a turn-off when you’re talking to a bunch of mission driven people who are working on things they love, and think they’ll never want to “retire.” The word can have a connotation of hedonism or idleness.  The permanent worthless vacation.  Or just sitting around waiting to die.  “Early retirement” serves no purpose when the work you do is done primarily because you believe in it.  There’s also a sense with “retirement investing” that you can’t touch the money until you’re old.  Which is a long-ass time if you’re in your early twenties.

So I’ve started thinking about it as “autonomy investing” instead — becoming financially autonomous quickly, so that you can do the work you’re compelled to do. Without having to worry about whether your political activism will put your job at risk.  Without caring if your mission is compatible with the Nonprofit Industrial Complex and their funding metrics.  Without having to work a soul-sucking day job that leaves you too fried to spend your evenings and weekends on civic engagement and organizing. Or alternatively… without having to beg investors to pay your living expenses while you work on the early stages of your startup idea.

This is, essentially, the project of buying yourself out of corporate servitude.

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Legalizing Crowdfunded Startups

Crowdfunding, Why the SEC Bans It, Obama Wants It, and Banks Fear It.  Kickstarter would be illegal if you were making investments in a business, instead of donations to a cause.  Even so, people have raised on occasion hundreds of thousands of dollars via the site for honor-system bound innovation.  Hopefully this will be legitimized soon.

A license to lie, backdated

Investment management firms have license to lie, backdated, courtesy of the Supreme Court decision in the Janus case.  It’s hard to believe, but the court decided that ultimately, nobody could be held accountable for misleading statements made in the mutual fund’s prospectus.  All the more reason to go with Vanguard, as it is the only mutual fund company which is wholly owned by the people whose money they manage, making it in effect a large investing cooperative.

Links for the week of March 4th, 2010

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Empirical Investing

In my previous post I described the stock and bond markets by analogy with a casino, but you might reasonably question the validity of that analogy.  Are market returns really as unpredictable as coin flips?  The real payoff probability distributions obviously aren’t binary; what do they actually look like?

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Links for the week of February 26th, 2010

If you want to follow my shared links in real time instead of as a weekly digest, head over to Delicious. You can search them there easily too.
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