Friday, September 16, 2016

Morality and Investing

About the Book:

Offering time-tested wisdom on the complexities of the investment process, this guide provides advice on how to invest in a morally responsible way. It provides information on how to screen and exclude companies according to a clear set of faith-based criteria: those who support or service the abortion industry, producers and distributors of pornography, and companies involved in embryonic stem cell research. Based on this set of guidelines, as well as the success of the Ave Maria Mutual Funds, the guide demonstrates that high returns are achievable without supporting companies that do not support similar values. Also included is insightful commentary on the current political policies affecting the country’s financial state.

My Comments:

Good Returns: Making Money by Morally Responsible Investing is written by the founder of the Ave Maria family of mutual funds.  The Ave Maria funds practice what they call morally responsible investing--they do not invest in companies that promote abortion or donate to its supporters, sell or promote pornography or which have policies supportive of homosexual or other non-marital sexual unions.  He contrasts "morally responsible investing" with "socially responsible investing" which generally supports left-leaning causes. 

While this is a book about investing and the economy; not about religion, the author, George Schwartz, does quote papal writings on the economy and a little scripture.  He sees free-market capitalism as a moral good and socialism as a moral evil.  The book is definitely pro-Regan, anti-Obama. 

Good Returns: Making Money by Morally Responsible Investing has its good points, and its weaknesses.  The first chapter, on money and morality is excellent.  The next two chapters were about Schwartz himself, and frankly, I wasn't that interested.  He then spends a couple of chapters talking about his investment principals, and about how investors think.  Those chapters were good.  Chapters 6 and 7 are highly political; my husband will love them.  They do serve the purpose of reminding the investor how politics affects the economy, for good and for bad--and how even good intentions, like  providing home ownership for those kept out by traditional lending practices, can have bad effects--like the housing bubble and its subsequent pop.  Chapters 8-11 are, in many ways, commercials for the Ave Maria funds. If you know nothing about investing or financial planning, there is good information there--and even those who read investment books may learn something about investing that they can use, even if they never buy Ave Maria mutual funds.

While most of us want to follow our values, most of us also invest with the idea of making money.  One question that came to my mind after reading this book was "How well do Ave Maria funds do?".  Ave Maria has a Rising Dividend fund which outpeformed the S&P 500.  Morningstar give it four stars and the expense ratio is 0.92%.  Their Growth Fund has also outperformed the S&P 500.  However their Values Fund and World Equity Fund trail their indexes.  Still, I don't think any of them are really bad investments and I do like the idea of investing in companies that share my moral values.  


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