Return On Investment
Updated: Mar 8, 2019
(Do excuse me if this post seems dubiously tangential to the operation of Hereabouts B&B! In my mind these things are all related - Hereabouts came about partially in response to my grappling with ideas like this one on investment.)
"Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest. Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years."
- Wendell Berry
These are uncertain times, agreed? It's hard to know how to advise our children on the best way to navigate a world that's transforming so quickly. It's hard to know how our own futures might look - likely not how we once imagined them: easing into retirement while a world we recognize chugs happily along more or less the way it "always" has. The climate is becoming erratic, tasks traditionally requiring the minds and bodies of people are being fulfilled by technology, and our monetary system is being challenged by cryptocurrencies, to name a few disruptions.
So what to do? Gamble on Bitcoin in the hopes of striking it big? Learn to code? Drop out and live as a recluse in the woods?
It gets me thinking about those things we can be putting our energy into that aren't vulnerable to shifting circumstance and that actually set us up for resilience in the face of unpredictability. I'm not talking about diversifying our investment portfolios - I'm talking about what remains unshaken even if every investment vaporized overnight. What offers us true return on investment? I don't mean that in a trite, symbolic sense. I mean literally, what things can we invest in now that, apart from rewarding us in the short term, we can draw on in the future as needed? Here are some thoughts:
RELATIONSHIPS: What will keep an old age, even one that's swimming in retirement funds, from being lonely, or dull, or empty? The people we've built relationships with! Family, friends, neighbours. Who'll have our backs if our retirement funds do vaporize? Those same people! Plus, the very process of investing in these connections is rewarding.
COMMUNITY: Businesses owned by locals that serve our needs, endeavours of creativity and beauty, spaces that foster learning and exchange of ideas...These are things we want to endure even through global upheaval. So we invest now with our time, energy, and money and support a community that, in turn, supports us.
PHYSICAL RESILIENCE: An excellent way to exercise sovereignty over one of our basic needs and to insure against vagaries of climate and politics in our global food system is to grow our own food. Or support others in our region who do. Water is a precious resource - let's invest in it's continued availability through rainwater capture and systems that conserve it both indoors and out. Having a very modest-sized home (a tiny house, even!) has myriad advantages from smaller energy bills to cleaning time freed up to invest elsewhere. The list goes on of ways we can set ourselves and our larger community up for resilience.
KNOWLEDGE: Where does the wisdom come from when we face great challenges either personal or societal? Investment now in expanding our own knowledge and maintaining it communally will return to us later as guidance, discernment, and indispensable practical skills.
ECOLOGICAL: I think it goes without saying that any way we invest in the planet that sustains our very lives will return to us manyfold.
All of this is in no way meant to be a doomsday scenario prep strategy! Rather I'm suggesting a pouring of our attention and energy into those things that produce a win-win - the world we desire now with the prospect of more of it regardless of turns in climate, economy, or politics. Build our RRSPs if we will, but let's not forget to invest where the true returns lie.