A Money Coach in Canada

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2650359120_f03d519fd0photo credit: Jaroslaw Pocztarkski

If you haven’t heard about it yet, you will over the coming months:  Bees are disappearing and the implications for our food supply are a whole lot scarier than you probably think.

Eat apples?  check

Eat carrots?  check

Onions? check

Blueberries?  check

Garlic?  check

Broccoli?  Tomatoes?  Squash? Cherries?  Almonds?  What about oranges?

Each of these foods among countless more, require pollination by bees.

Truth be told, my knowledge about the role bees play in putting food on my table only extended as far as honey on my toast.  I didn’t realize they played such a keystone role in so many other foods that both humans and livestock require.  In economic terms, in Canada the value of honeybee pollination is estimated at $1.2 Billion a year.

30% of all bee colonies in the USA have died in the past couple years.  And similar numbers are being reported from all over the world.  No one really knows why.  They’re just dying off every year.

So while we’re increasingly anxious about peak oil and climate change, it could be the demise of this tiny little creature that does us in.

Haagen-Dazs has created a site with further info, a wee bit lite in tone: www.helpthehoneybees.com.

What does all this have to do with money?   Not much, directly, but everything indirectly if our food supply suffers a catastrophic breakdown.  So if you’re able, #HelpHoneyBees !

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Photo Credit: mysza

One of my girlfriends dreads gift shopping events – birthdays, weddings, and above all else, Christmas. She feels like whatever she purchases just won’t cut it with the recipient. Similarly, a former client of mine deliberately traveled out of town on any occasions involving gifts, holding the firm view that she’d rather choose what she wanted for herself rather than accept whatever someone chose. Fair enough. (No, they weren’t sisters!).

Me? I enjoy the process of selecting gifts, for the most part. Most of the time, I’m reasonably confident that the recipient will enjoy what I’ve purchased, at least enough to have made the effort. And usually once per season, I find That Perfect Gift which goes over particularly well. For instance, when cds were just coming out (yes, I’m That Old), I found a christmas album (The Hollywood Bowl Christmas Album, recorded in 1957) which had been a christmas staple in our family, but the vinyl version had long since been all scratched up. It wasn’t spendy, but it was quite a hit. And usually once per season something I was less confident about ends up being a surprise hit. Perhaps I have particularly polite friends and family, but on the whole, selecting gifts is pleasurable.

I’m curious: do you enjoy selecting gifts, or hate it? Do you have any awesome “find” stories to share? Or any disasters?

I love when disparate elements converge. Yesterday, a twitter pal asked for info on investing ethically. Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is Climate Change. (check out Gordon Brown’s blog post on the topic, or The White House’s post, er, but they’re not much better than mine – wicked grin) And the rapidly melting polar ice-caps made the news again – of much greater significance to me now that I live in Yellowknife.

Combine these, et voila:  How could I *not* post about how I factor in eco-ethics in my investment choices for Blog Action Day? (transparency: I’m drawing on an article I had originally published in Shared Vision magazine)

Disclaimer!  Disclaimer!  I am not a financial advisor (see masthead).  This is how I approach my personal investment choices.  Do your own research, or hire a financial planner.  This isn’t investment advice!

OK then.  Here goes.

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So I saw The Corporation, I saw Inconvenient Truth, and I know about how Halliburton is this really evil company and so is Monsanto.  It’s enough to make you swear off investing forever, and in fact one woman in my (former) investment club did just that.

“It’s all dirty!” she cried, “I’m outta here” (or words to that effect).  I empathize.

There’s little old me with my middle-class income on the one hand. There’s great big planet-screwing corporations we love to hate on the other.  And somehow I need to bridge the two if I hope to retire in a manner to which my dachshunds are accustomed.  I need to leverage my money off the initiatives of the c-word entities in order to become the multi-millionaire I aim for (yes, really.  And don’t laugh – my tiny loft in gastown may just do it all on its own if the real estate insanity continues.)

Here are 3 approaches to building our wealth and keeping our consciences, as well as the planet, clean.

1. Get comfortable with wealth. Many of us with a strong ethical orientation carry deep in our hearts a quiet distaste for wealth in general. The last thing we want to do is participate in inequity, when there are kids not getting the basic nutrition they need.

Here’s how I handle it.  No bones about it:  I want to become a wealthy (in the bank account sense of the word) woman. I believe that if there’s money floating around out there in the world – and there is! –  I’d like to be one of the people directing its flow.  Unless my own values change, I’m quite sure that a million here or there in my own portfolio will be directed towards initiatives that I want to see thrive because they’re doing something good in the world.  And I bet a million or two in your portfolio would be similarly directed.

2. Get comfortable in bed with imperfect corporations. Consider this:  Just like within the mix of humans, there are in fact some lousy corporations, but also some pretty wonderful corporations (I have a crush on – and invest in – Apple for example), and just like humans, even the good ones may have asymmetries, areas where they screw up until someone calls them on it (like Apple who got their knuckles rapped about their lack of commitment to the environment, and has since had a remarkable turnaround).  Let’s allow for that – a measure of imperfection that we can live with.

3. Let’s work on changing from the inside rather than critiquing from the outside.  I’m not suggesting we take on the truly dreadful companies, of course.  But if there’s a company that’s doing well, but with an area or two that could use improvement, let’s support what they’re doing right, and use our shareholders’ votes to move it further in a good direction.  Individually, our few votes may not hold a whole lot of sway (although never underestimate the power of one!) but collectively, if those of us with like minds start purchasing up shares, we may be stronger than we dream of.  A great example of this is the Interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility. Sister Daly had a legendary exchanges with GE CEO J. Welch regarding the polluted Hudson River, culminating in GE paying to clean up the river.   So be strong!  As a shareholder, you have every right to request the company you own take climate change seriously and examine its operations accordingly.

There you have it – my general approach to this investing ethically business.  In the coming week, I’ll review a couple of the companies I own and how they stack up vis a vis our planet earth.  Readers – any of you have investments you feel good about?  Care to share?

I’ve been a bit glum recently.
Bono summed things up for me with the query:

When you look at the world
What is it that you see?
People find all kinds of things
That bring them to their knees.

What I’m seeing up here in the north, increasingly, is just how complicated is the relationship between Canada and First Nations peoples. And it’s bringing me to my knees, frankly. It’s pretty damn dark. And that’s probably all I can say about it.

Reminders that sometimes Big Ideas that Change the World actually do get realized and really do start to change the world provide welcome cheer to me on this rainy Saturday in Yellowknife.

RED

The RED campaign initiated by Bono is one such Big Idea. Yeah, it can appear commercial. Yeah, it probably lets us all too easily off the hook. But as Raincoaster once pointed out (kicking my ass all over town, as only she can do! -I say with gratitude and affection), small starts can lead to deeper thinking about the underlying causes of injustice. So I say, YES! to RED!

What is RED? It simply offers each of us a choice as consumers, with several iconic brands, to select the RED brand item to purchase. A percentage of each sale then goes to a their global fund, and every penny goes directly to Africa, especially towards AIDS relief.

Products you can choose include:

Starbucks – RED card/mugs

Apple – RED ipod

Dell – RED computers

GAP – RED scarves, t-shirts

AMEX – RED card (UK Only?)

Hallmark – RED cards.

Sometimes when it all seems to overwhelming, and when I just can’t see how I can possibly be of any help to anyone, it’s nice to know other people with a whole lot more influence than me have done some serious legwork. The RED campaign has already raised millions of dollars, a scale I can barely comprehend.

Me? Sure, I’m in. I’ll buy RED when I can. That’s easy. The hard work for me is to find a way to serve (I am a civil *servant* after all) and not impose upon, the original peoples of the NWT – if it’s even possible.

Hi all —

I joined the green party several months ago.  I think it’s to everybody’s benefit that their platform – the environment especially, and also social justice – is at least on the formal political radar.

Plus, I’ve always had a thing for the underdog.   They’ve made a LOT of ground in the past few years, but they are also the little-party-that-could and does not have the corporations or labour movement behind them as other parties do (or certainly not to the same extent).   As you can imagine, running campaigns is expensive, and it looks like another campaign is going to be required.

Even if you don’t think you’d ever vote for them (although I hope more of us will!), would you consider donating to the party to ensure at least this nascent party can continue offering an alternative to Canadians? This money coach thanks you!

DONATE: here

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Here’s a letter from Elizabeth May which I shamelessly cut and paste from an e-mail:

Dear Supporter,

Do you ever find yourself yearning for a time when Canadian politics was not quite so exciting?  When elections seemed to happen every four years and the two main parties represented a sort of middle ground, not great, but not scary?

Of course, these turbulent times are what is putting the wind in our Green sails, but it cannot be altogether satisfying to see our growth as a party while the country and the planet are in such turmoil.

I have never been so sure as I am today that Canada needs Green MPs in Parliament.  My own view is constantly reaffirmed by strangers who come up to me in train stations, airports, and farmers’ markets across Canada saying “Next time you have got to win a seat.  We all need you in Parliament.”

The party decision makers, the federal council elected by the members and the national campaign committee, realize this as well.  We know that an election could happen as soon as this fall.  We have learned a lot from the last campaign.  One central lesson learned is that we need to target and focus resources so that the Leader will be an MP when the election results are tallied.  But I do not want to be the only Green elected.  We have a campaign plan ready and a strategy for bringing home the results we want.

What we desperately need is to finish paying down the debt from the 2008 campaign, before we find ourselves in a 2009 campaign!  You will be happy to know that of the roughly $2.5 million we borrowed, we have paid back over $1.5 million.  Most of this was made possible through the federal financing rules and rebates from Elections Canada.  But, no surprise, the recession has affected our donors.  We need to reach out to more Canadians and we need our current donors to consider making regular monthly donations.

Would you be willing to take a moment to send this email to friends that you know support our goals and aims but may not already be members?

Even a $25 donation is a big help and, of course current Canadian tax law has important consequences. If the donor pays income tax, 3/4 of any donation up to $400 is rebated. $400 donation only costs $100.  It is an extremely cost-effective way to help make the change you want to see in the world.

Secondly, would you be willing to donate NOW knowing that paying down the debt is essential before the next campaign begins?

You know we won’t spend a penny on attack ads!  You know we will keep a positive message of hope.  You know we will work to engage young people and call for greater civic engagement by all Canadians.

That is the message of my new book, Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy.  For a limited time, if you send the Green Party of Canada a $400 donation, I will personally inscribe the book.  If you can send $500 I will inscribe two books and you can pass one along to friends and relatives.  (Never too early for Christmas shopping!)

If you cannot give more at this time, I totally understand. I hate to even ask again, as I know you have received appeals from the party before.  It is a big help if you can share this message with your email list of friends.

Thanks again, more than I can say for all your support.

Elizabeth May, O.C.
Leader
Green Party of Canada

Photo Credit:  Grant Neufeld

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