As I explained earlier, for the past 25 years, I’ve put these questions to more than a thousand audiences across America — in all, probably more than several hundred thousand people. And the results are always the same.
The vast majority answer yes to the first question about mindfully buying local products and supporting local businesses. They care deeply about their local economies and many have dramatically shifted their buying habits. They are flocking in expanding numbers to local brew pubs, farm-to-table restaurants, local cooperatives, and businesses. Most everyone is proud at supporting and promoting their communities’ locally owned, locally operated or locally grown initiatives.
However, fewer than half of those who take the quiz do most of their banking locally. The Move Your Money campaign launched after the 2008 financial meltdown convinced more than a million people to shift their money from Wall Street banks to local banks and credit unions. But most Americans continue to conduct their daily financial transactions at a few increasingly powerful global banks like Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, to name a few. And many of those who do most of their banking locally still find it hard to completely forgo either the allure (in terms of miles, points or cash) of theses institutions’ credit card offers.
Though we all care deeply about the shops and people in our daily lives, we do not know how to apply those same “but local” intentions to the rest of our financial clout. The vast majority of us systematically overinvest in Wall Street and underinvest in Main Street. That includes even the most resolute anti-globalization activists — those who have savings to invest that is.
We have a dilemma. We want to support our local businesspeople, our city’s infrastructure, our shared green spaces and environment, our neighbors, and our kids. Yet when it comes to our money, we listen to the financial advisors and experts and surrender it to financiers hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Imagine pulling off the highway and finding the House of Broc, a diner that serves only broccoli. To be sure, many variations of broccoli are on the menu — broccoli salads, broccoli casseroles, broccoli shakes, broccoli ice cream. But you might feel inclined to point out the obvious. Where are the other vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and spinach? How about beef, chicken, fish, or plant-based protein (maybe only plant-based if it is a true vegetarian restaurant)? The rest of this course is about pointing out how many delicious and healthful alternatives that can and should be on the investment menu.