At my graduation, Alex Tiberi, one of my teachers and the vice president of the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, said, "You can take acupuncture anywhere and make it." I was so excited and fired up about OM that I believed him.
Two months later, I found myself in upstate New York, nestled between Albany and Adirondack Park. My reasoning was that since Albany is the capital of New York, with almost 1 million people, there must be some of the culture and excitement from New York City. In addition, I still would have easy access to wildlife and nature. However, I wasn't prepared, coming straight from Southern California, for the level of consciousness here.
Awareness and the ability to grow emerge from new ideas and by doing something different. However, many of the things I've grown to cherish, such as healthy foods, alternatives in health, a natural lifestyle and forward thinking, were absent. Most people were third-and fourth-generation rural New Yorkers and resistant to change. I spent five years questioning why I was here, what I was doing and whether I wanted to stay. But Alex's words, "You can make it anywhere," stuck with me. Seven years out of school, I now have my own beautiful office, a thriving practice and three associates working with me. A tipping point happened for me that allowed me to abandon resisting where I was and embrace where I was going.
So, a modicum of success brought with it something I wasn't used to - money! Not a lot, mind you, but more than the $7 an hour I'd been making in a bookstore before I enrolled in school. With a house, a practice, expenses and bills reasonably covered by my income, I now, for the first time in my life, have had to decide what to do with this extra money.
Investing for the future and my children's education seemed like a good idea. But how? A savings account? Stocks? Mutual funds? The mattress in my guest room? I spoke to a financial advisor and decided mutual funds were the way to go. (Check out SEP IRAs.) Even though the market fluctuates, mutual funds have been consistent money makers since their inception. The next question was: which fund? Not an easy answer considering the thousands of funds available and the different aspects of each that need to be explored.
Furthermore, I brought a core belief as to how I live my life to my prospects of investing; that is; how do I do what is best for the world? How can I take the money I earn and invest it, not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of all? This meant looking at socially responsible funds. My advisor was no help whatsoever. He had no experience with green funds and ran his business with one goal in mind: profit at all costs with no concern for anything but the bottom line. Habitat loss, the extinction of species or a hole in the ozone - no problem as long as you make money. I tried to explain why a social conscience was important to me, but he was mostly unresponsive and negative. So I thanked him for his time and left, hoping perhaps a seed was planted that would germinate one day.
My reasons for green investing are: I don't want to contribute to world suffering by supporting things like tobacco, pharmaceuticals, big oil and weapons of mass destruction; I want to feel good about where my money actually goes; and I feel alternative energy and environmental responsibility will be a growing part of the future and therefore, a sound investment.
No one in my circle of family or friends could help me, so I turned to where most people now go for information - the Internet. The Internet is a great asset but can become confusing when trying to separate facts from fluff, authentic companies from advertising. It did help me to come across the Green Money Journal (www.greenmoney.com). This is a journal that has been around for 15 years and focuses on socially responsible investing. Digging deeper, I came across the Natural Investment Services (www.naturalinvesting.com). They rate mutual funds by social responsibility and performance. There are many more resources available, but these allowed me to focus initially on which funds are green and which of those have the most potential.
I'm not a financial advisor, I'm not an analyst, and there are no guarantees in investing. However, I would like to urge you, when your practice begins reaching the point at which you are in the black, to consider investing in green funds. Saving the planet is not just a job for the rich. The concept of individual wealth and gain will never disappear, but hopefully it will flower into a desire to be more humanitarian and less self-serving and greedy.
To do this, we need to transform our relationship with money. This already is happening. As our world view widens and evolves, so does our relationship with the Earth (as we can see by the environmental movement), so does our view of health (which we see as a burgeoning of alternative medicine) and so do our transactions within business and commerce (as seen by the greening of many companies and socially responsible funds).
There is nothing wrong with making money, but how we do it is a matter of ethics. We must move beyond egocentric greed to a global-centric vision. You bear the responsibility for the impact your decisions have on the world. How we spend and save can dramatically influence the fabric and consciousness of society.
Click here for previous articles by Gregg St. Clair, BA, MSTOM, LAc.
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