long term investment strategy

Three Elements of a Smart Long Term Investment Strategy

Dart Throwing Monkeys ≠ Long Term Investment Strategy

In my view, as investors seek to construct a long term investment strategy that holds potential to achieve above average performance over the long term, it is critically important to take a systematized approach.

It has been rightly stated that investment success is measured with a calendar, not a stopwatch. Anyone can get lucky with stock picks over a short time frame, and even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

But investors who have been successful over the long term consistently adhere to a defined system of identifying the stocks they want to invest in, whether that is a focus on finding undervalued companies, high growth companies, strong fundamentals, competitive ethical advantages or what have you.

Whatever your focus, a proper stock selection process must have three characteristics: It must be measurable, repeatable and produce beneficial results.

No dart throwing monkeys allowed.

Measurable Long Term Investment Strategy

At the most basic level, the metrics used in selecting stocks must be measurable in an objective fashion.

Financial factors such as corporate earnings growth, discounted cash flow and debt to equity ratios are easy to measure and objective in nature. Numbers don’t lie (except when they do, but that’s another story). And many investors focus solely on these data for precisely that reason.

However, subjective analysis such as “a great leadership team”, or “unique products”, or “strong integrity” are all important investing criterion – and I would argue are even more important than financial metrics such as discounted cash flow because in reality, all of the financial data is derivative from these more subjective criteria.

Poor leadership, irrelevant products and unethical business practices are not qualities that make a great investment opportunity, neither from a moral nor a financial perspective. But there must be an objective measure of those subjective characteristics, otherwise they are unhelpful and we’re back to dart throwing monkeys.

So, how do you objectively measure the greatness of a leadership team, unique products, corporate integrity and other subjective criterion?

This is where a faith-based ESG (environmental, social and governance) factor approach to investing offers a strong value proposition to investors seeking to follow a long term investment strategy.

Converting Subjective Observations Into Objective Data

Let’s look at an example of how faith-based, biblically responsible ESG analysis can convert subjective observations into objective data that is useful to investors using the Inspire Impact Score methodology.

One of the many factors that the Inspire Impact Score takes into consideration is corporate ethical integrity, which is a subjective issue with many relevant effects on corporate productivity, profitability and therefore long term investment strategy success.

We begin the process of objectively measuring this category by collecting factual data regarding issues and events that correlate to corporate ethics. Instances of tax-related fines, political contributions, court cases, executive compensation controversies or reports from corporate watchdog organizations would be examples of items that might be looked at.

We then assign a numerical score to each of these issues according to a fixed formula and aggregate those scores to arrive at a total for that category. This numerical score for corporate integrity can then be objectively measured against those of other corporations within or across industries, geographies, market capitalizations or other categorizations to identify those organizations that have measurable patterns of ethical behavior, and those that have measurable patterns of unethical behavior.

If investors had that type of measurable data on corporate ethics prior to investing in Enron, WorldCom or any other scandal-ridden company, it is possible that those investors could have avoided a disastrous outcome for their capital accounts.

Repeatable Long Term Investment Strategy

The second criterion for a proper stock selection methodology is the ability to produce consistently repeatable results. It is not enough for an investor to be able to measure data and make a great investment decision today if that process cannot be repeated tomorrow, or next month, or next year.

Long term investment success requires a repeatable process that can be applied consistently over decades.

In my opinion, this is the primary reason most active managers fail to produce consistent outperformance. They do not have a systematic approach that is repeatable across market cycles and instead make decisions based on their gut.

Certainly they may look at financials, study price history and other analysis. But their shortcoming is that all of this objective data is then analyzed in a subjective fashion and results in a decision not based on facts, but based on the manager’s feelings about the facts.

Some investors have great intuitive sense and have had great runs operating this way. But when viewed across the long term — over decades, bull markets, bear markets and all manner of economic expansion, contraction, inflation and other myriad environments – even the best intuitive investors eventually hit a rough patch. Often that rough patch undoes any outperformance they may have achieved in their good years and they would have been better off just buying a plain vanilla index fund and accepting completely average results.

The lack of a truly repeatable, objectively measurable framework that creates precise results for conviction buys or sells is many an investors’ Achilles’ heel.

Beneficial Long Term Investment Strategy

Lastly, it doesn’t matter how measurable or repeatable your investment process is if the results it produces are not beneficial. Every investment strategy has its pros and cons, and every strategy performs better at certain times and through different seasons than at other times.

But some strategies just suck all the time.

Also, observe that there are different ways to measure how beneficial an approach may be, and an investor must decide how they will define “beneficial” for themselves.

Are positive returns the only statistic that matters? What about the level of risk comparative to the return? And what about the moral implications of the companies you invest in?

It is my experience that many investors are quick to say that “returns are the only thing that matter”. But they don’t really mean it.

Consider this: If I could offer you an investment that had consistent returns in excess of 100% per year, would you buy it? And if I told you that investment was in a business that laundered money for the mob and smuggled illicit drugs across the border, would that have any bearing on your decision?

Of course it would…I hope.

The reality is that law abiding citizens routinely choose lower performing investments (relative to the black market) to satisfy their moral and ethical concerns, such as not breaking the law.

As such, it is obvious that returns are not the all-important measure of the merits of an investment. Morality, ethics, risk and other factors play not even an equal role, but a greater role in the beneficial measure of an investment. Only when all else is equal (morals, ethics, risk) do returns play the part of tie breaker as the last and least important factor.

When returns are positioned as more important than morals, ethics or risk, bad things happen. Like 2008, for example. “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8)

Ask yourself: Does your portfolio violate your morals, invest in unethical companies or contain hidden risks?

Smart Approach

For all of these reasons, I prefer a long term investment strategy that invests using rules based, objectively measured index methods built using the Inspire Impact Score to identify unique portfolios of stocks that demonstrate compelling financial attributes and align with biblical values to boot.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but such an approach is measurable, repeatable and has produced beneficial results both in terms of moral values and risk adjusted return characteristics.

Is your long term investment strategy measurable, repeatable and beneficial (really)?





Find a Christian financial advisor

Find A Christian Financial Advisor: What Christian Investors Should Look For

How Do You Find A Christian Financial Advisor?

How do you find a Christian financial advisor? It can be a stressful process. Who can you trust to skillfully and wisely guide you through all of life’s financial twists and turns? What if you find a Christian financial advisor and they end up being the wrong pick? And what if you don’t realize they are the wrong advisor until it is too late? And for us Christians, are there biblical considerations that we should take into account to find a financial advisor?

Here are four qualities that Christian investors should demand when looking to find a financial advisor.

Find A Christian Financial Advisor Who Fears The Lord

If you want a financial advisor who has wisdom, then this is a non-negotiable. The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”(Proverbs 9:10) If we are to believe the Bible, which we do, then this verse states very plainly that only those who fear the Lord can attain to wisdom. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and a certain financial advisor does not fear the Lord, then scripture says that financial advisor does not have wisdom.

But some may challenge this notion, asking, “Surely there are non-Christian financial advisors who give good advice, aren’t there?”

To answer that question, let’s start by assuming that the Bible is actually correct, which it is. Next, let us consider the definition of “wisdom”. Does wisdom mean making decisions or giving advice that has beneficial earthly outcomes, such as a high performing investment portfolio? Or is there a deeper, and more important element to wisdom that the Bible is referring to?

Consider another verse of scripture dealing with wisdom, “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’”(1 Corinthians 3:19-20) This verse makes clear that God has a different definition of wisdom than the world does — and importantly, His definition is the correct definition! 

True wisdom has its roots in the fear of the Lord, and as such it always brings glory to God. Worldly “wisdom” has its roots in the cleverness of men, and as such never brings glory to God. We must recognize that there are decisions that the world would count as wise but that are complete foolishness to God. Conversely, there are decisions that God counts as wise, yet the world sees as abject folly.

Which decisions would you rather make?

Find A Christian Financial Advisor Who Operates With Excellence

But, that does not mean that all Christian financial advisors give wise advice.

That brings us to the second point. At the risk of sounding redundant, if a Christian investor is going to seek advice from a financial advisor, they should only seek advice from a Christian financial advisor. Always.

And they should also demand excellence from that Christian financial advisor, just as they would from any other professional advising them on the most important decisions in their life. Always.

Scripture warns believers about receiving advice from those who are not following after Christ:

“Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

We must remind ourselves that apart from Christ, “None is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Only by grace through faith in Christ can we escape our wicked, sinful, scoffing state of depravity. “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

The implication is that no matter how nice, talented or helpful an unbelieving financial advisor is, they have not had their minds, hearts and spirits renewed by faith in Christ, and as such their advice is inherently, spiritually flawed and the Bible warns us not to seek their guidance, not to “walk in their counsel”.

However, that does not mean that Christian investors should choose to work with just any Christian financial advisor. Putting a Jesus fish on a business card is not a free pass to deliver sub-standard performance. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Christian professionals should be the hardest working, most trustworthy, devoted to excellence individuals in the marketplace. Christian investors should demand excellence in their search to find a Christian financial advisor.

Find A Christian Financial Advisor With Godly Character

Jesus said, “Each tree is known by its own fruit.”(Luke 6:44)

There are many people who may claim the name of “Christian”, yet their pattern of life does not give evidence of the Lordship of Christ. Put another way, there are many financial advisors who may claim the name of “Christian”, yet there is no “fruit” to give us confidence that they are born again followers of Christ.

Worse than that, there are also those who would masquerade under the Christian banner with the explicit purpose of defrauding Christian investors. Wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Before doing business with a Christian financial advisor, be sure to evaluate their character and pattern of life. Check character references from a pastor, ask them what church they attend and what ministries they serve or volunteer in.

Only God truly knows the heart, but the Bible exhorts us to be wise in our assessment of the people in our life, and especially those who we take advice from.

Find A Christian Financial Advisor Skilled In Biblically Responsible Investing

Finally, Christian investors should look for a Christian financial advisor who is skilled in biblically responsible investing (BRI).

BRI is the practice of aligning investment portfolios to support biblical values by excluding companies that are engaged in immoral activities, such as abortion or human trafficking, and instead seeking to invest in companies which are more closely aligned with God’s heart and operate as a blessing to the world.

Unfortunately, many Christian financial advisors do not have the resources or experience to deliver high quality, biblically responsible investing advice. Often this is no fault of the advisor, but rather a result of their firm not having a robust lineup of biblically responsible investing offerings. And sometimes the advisor may have the investments available for his or her use, but lack experience in managing a quality BRI portfolio that rivals or exceeds the results one would expect from a worthwhile investment.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of biblically responsible investing options becoming available to Christian financial advisors at firms across the nation. And there is also a growing knowledge bank of best practices, training, screening technology and other professional resources becoming available to equip Christian financial advisors to become proficient in providing biblically responsible investing services.

The largest multi-firm, nationwide membership network of Christian financial advisors dedicated specifically to advancing the BRI movement is Christian Wealth Management. Full disclosure, I am also the founder and CEO of Christian Wealth Management, so I might be a little biased in saying that www.ChristianWealthManagement.com could be a great place to start for investors looking to find a Christian financial advisor to provide them with sophisticated guidance from a biblical perspective. I recommend you visit the site and judge for yourself.

All For God’s Glory

There are many important considerations when choosing a financial advisor, and for Christian investors there are additional qualities in the areas of godly character, fear of the Lord, God-glorifying excellence and biblically responsible investing which must be examined. Find a Christian financial advisor who displays all of these traits, and you have found an advisor who is worth listening to.

Scripture compels us to live our entire lives for the glory of God, and the management of our finances (which ultimately belong to God) is no exception. Don’t settle for anything less.





facebook earnings drop

Facebook’s $120 Billion Dollar Bad Day

Facebook, the Goliath social media platform, took a historic $120 billion fall on Thursday, winning the top spot for the largest one-day loss of market cap ever on record.

Interestingly, this massive 19% wipeout was heavily related to ethical missteps related to user privacy and data security practices, providing a strong reminder that ethical and moral analysis of a company is not just a feel-good activity, but can help investors identify real, tangible financial risk in an investment.

Scorching Decline And Murky Waters

The scorching decline was sparked by the company’s quarterly earnings call where Facebook’s CFO detailed decreasing user growth, shrinking profit margins and challenges related to new privacy laws in Europe which are hindering Facebook’s growth, engagement and ad revenues in the region.

Facebook’s epic evaporation of shareholder value also comes on the heels of the bombshell Cambridge Analytica scandal which put CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the hot seat before Congress and shed light on the murky waters of Facebook’s privacy and data security practices. That scandal also took a big bite out of Facebook’s share value.

Translation: robust privacy laws make it harder for Facebook to grow and earn a profit. Food for thought.

Ethics As Risk Management

Companies that stretch the boundaries of ethical business practices, or even outright cross them, may find short-term financial success. But, eventually their chickens come home to roost. Facebook — and everyone who owns Facebook stock — is finding this out the hard way.

Financial analysts would explain this by saying that corporations which externalize the cost of ethical issues (such as privacy concerns) are by definition over-monetized. Eventually those externalities manifest themselves in the company’s balance sheet, the over-monetization is corrected and shareholders pay the price.

The Bible says it this way, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galations 6:7)

Jesus And Financial Advice

Sometimes biblically responsible investors are mocked by the Wall Street establishment as bleeding hearts that focus too much on “soft” or “subjective” issues, instead of the cold hard facts of financial analysis. My question is, if focusing only on financial data is supposedly the highest and best way to invest, why did so many of these investing experts just take their share of a $120 billion bath in Facebook stock? Why didn’t they see this coming? Why did they get hit by this bus while biblically responsible investors stood safely on the sidewalk?

Because of ethical concerns, such as Facebook’s data privacy issues, as well as other moral problems like Facebook’s corporate support of abortion and jaw-dropping lack of concern for fighting child pornography which runs rampant on their platform, Facebook stock has never been included in any of the portfolios we manage at Inspire.

As biblically responsible investors, we look at both the financial and moral issues related to a potential investment. Only when both areas of analysis are satisfied do we take a position in a stock. As Jesus said, “Be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

As it turns out, this is not only great advice for your spiritual life, but for your financial portfolio as well.

Maybe Wall Street should start reading the Bible.



tobacco stocks burn

Investors Get Burned By Tobacco Stocks

Tobacco stocks lose big

“Big tobacco” company Philip Morris’ stock recently registered it’s biggest drop in a decade, plummeting 18% on April 19th. The sharp decline came on the back of news that the cigarette giant’s newest ploy to hook another generation on nicotine  — a heat-not-burn tobacco device they call iQor, which heats a tobacco plug instead of lighting it on fire — fell far short of sales projections.

The new iQor product, and several other new attempts at taking tobacco beyond the cigarette, are being brought to market as the smoking industry finds itself struggling to attract new customers…and as their loyal, longtime customers die by the millions due to lung cancer, heart disease and other smoking-induced diseases.

Global smoking statistics are gut-wrenching:

  • Tobacco kills up to half of its users.
  • Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year. More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Around 80% of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries
  • (source: World Health Organization )

Investors hooked on tobacco (stocks)

And yet, investors seem to have no qualms about profiting from the death of millions as tobacco stocks remain among the biggest holdings of some of the largest mutual funds and ETFs in the world. A quick survey of the most popular smoke stocks show companies like Vanguard, American Funds, SPDRs/State Street, DFA Funds, T. Rowe Price, TIAA CREF, iShares, Fidelity and others as their biggest investors.

Click below to see a list of the biggest investors in these three tobacco stocks:

Tobacco stocks wise stewardship?

Some investors justify their investment in tobacco companies with the excuse that excluding them from a portfolio might not be “wise stewardship” because their returns might suffer.

I’m sorry, but give me a break.

Since when did “wise stewardship” include profiting from the sale of an intentionally addictive product that kills half the people that use it? Do we really care more about our profits than people?

And for Christian investors, we should be very aware that an investment in tobacco companies runs counter to Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself”. If you love your neighbor, you don’t sell them cigarettes.

Christians quit tobacco stocks

Thankfully, despite tobacco stocks continuing to be embraced by some of the largest mutual funds, ETFs, pension funds and other investors, there are a growing number of investors who are kicking the tobacco stock habit and creating demand for tobacco-free investments. For example, the biblically responsible investing movement is adding to that trend as more and more Christians are realizing that they can align their investments with their biblical values.

Additionally, research from major universities such as Oxford, Wharton and Biola are finding that investing with a values based approach does not require a sacrifice of performance. And if the recent stock price struggles of big tobacco are any indication, investors might consider making a “wise stewardship” decision and purge their portfolios of tobacco faster than you can strike a match.

Will you kick the habit?


Inspire team on NYSE bell podium

Ringing The NYSE Closing Bell: One Year Later

Days are long and years are short. It was one year ago today, April 20th, that I pushed the big red button at 4pm Eastern and rang the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange, surrounded by my amazingly talented team at Inspire Investing and our amazingly beautiful wives. It was an experience like no other.

Not only did we ring the closing bell in front of over 100 million viewers worldwide to signal the end of the trading day, but we also rang in a new season for our growing company and the biblically responsible investing (BRI) movement around the globe.

Miraculous Milestones

The days have been long since the clanging of that bell sparked global interest in Inspire’s low cost, index based biblically responsible investing solutions. Our team has been fairly inundated with investor demand from both the retail markets and institutional markets from countries all across the world. We have added new talent to our phenomenal team, attracted capital to fuel our growth and made headlines in hundreds of media outlets around the globe.

But the year has also been short. So much has happened, there have been so many meaningful milestones, and yet it feels like just yesterday when we were standing on that platform above the heart of the world’s financial system, praising God for all to see. Below are just some of the miracles, big and small, that God has blessed us with since we rang the closing bell of the NYSE:

  • Grown assets under management (AUM) to nearly $200 million
  • “Best New ESG ETF – 2017” Award finalists
  • “Best New ETF Issuer – 2017” Award finalists
  • Launched new biblically responsible investing products
  • Earned a place in the portfolios of multi-billion dollar asset management firms
  • Hired several new members to our team of rock-stars
  • Attracted private capital to accelerate growth
  • Featured on FOX News, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg and other major global media
  • Rang the NYSE closing bell a second time on January 30th, 2018

And even better than that is the impact that God has allowed us to create:

  • Drilled a clean water well for the entire village of Birendranagar in Nepal
  • Provided relief for hundreds of Syrian refugee families
  • Helped mothers choose life for their unborn babies
  • Gave emergency relief to Hurricane Harvey victims
  • Influenced numerous large corporations to stop supporting unbiblical issues, such as abortion and LGBT activism
  • Helped countless investors align their investments to support biblical values

Only The Beginning

These lists could go on to mention the dozens of encouraging emails we have received from investors all over the world, thanking us for giving them the ability to invest for God’s glory, the numerous “transformation stories” of people’s lives changed through their interaction with our company, financial advisors who have transitioned their entire practice to align with biblically responsible investing, and many more.

We could not have accomplished any of this on our own strength; God has been so gracious to us! We are so thankful for His grace and for the overwhelming support and encouragement from our raving fans around the globe who are cheering us on and inspiring transformation for God’s glory throughout the world by investing with their values.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. We have only just begun.





biblical proof for stewardship

5 Bible Verses For Christian Investors

Investing Biblically

Did you consult the Bible before you bought into your investment portfolio?

That may seem like a strange question, but the Bible has a lot to say to Christians about how to manage investments  with both financial and moral implications.

Thankfully, in recent years there has been a resurgence of attention paid to the importance of applying the Bible’s commands and wisdom to our personal investment decisions. There has also been a corresponding proliferation of biblically responsible investing products and services that help make it possible for Christian investors to put that biblical teaching into practice with their portfolios.

Following are five Bible verses that every Christian investor should take to heart as they seek to be wise stewards of the money God has placed in their hands.

Investing For The Glory Of God

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

When you ate your oatmeal this morning, did you realize it was intended to be an act of worship? This verse says plain as day that our purpose for investing, and everything else in life, should be to glorify God.

This may seem like stating the obvious to some, but it is important because this verse is commanding us to intentionally pursue God’s glory in every investment decision we make. And God’s glory goes far beyond the financial aspect of investing and also includes issues of morality and ethics. To invest for God’s glory means that we must consider more than just our financial returns when making an investment.

If we can eat and drink to the glory of God, certainly we can and should invest God’s money for God’s glory.

God -vs- Milton Friedman

“Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8)

This verse could not possibly be more subversively counter-cultural. It flies in the face of all that Wall Street stands for. It contradicts the foundational economic theses of some of the world’s foremost financial experts, who boldly proclaim that maximizing profits is the first and only duty of business and investing. (I’m looking at you, Milton Friedman).

And the influence of this worldly perspective on wealth has also infected the Church, resulting in many Christian financial experts regurgitating Wall Street’s profit-at-all-cost stump speech. Sometimes these Christian voices even attempt (unsuccessfully) to validate that viewpoint with scripture.

Often they point to the Parable Of The Talents in Matthew 25 to make the claim that God rewards those most who make the most money. But that parable is not making that claim at all, and even if it was, it does not follow that the Master in that parable does not care about how his servants made his money grow.

What the parable teaches is that God expects us to use everything that He has given us in accordance with His expectations, His values and His will. Newsflash: God doesn’t need more money. He certainly could care less about how much money we make “for him” in this life. US Dollars don’t spend in Heaven.

Proverbs 16:8 makes it clear that God cares more about how we make money rather than how much money we make. Indeed, God proclaims it is better to produce a lower return on investment in a righteous manner than high-flying profits unjustly. There is nothing wrong with earning high investment returns, but they must never come at the expense of holiness and certainly cannot be our primary directive.

Therefore, it is a biblical imperative that Christian investors consider the moral implications of their investments. Are you earning money from abortion, pornography, human trafficking or other unjust industries? We cannot ignore these issues if we are to be true to God’s word.

Indecent Investment Exposure

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)

Here is another, more direct command to Christians to not only avoid participation in immorality, but also to expose it for what it really is. We need to call a spade a spade, or in this case, call an immoral investment an immoral investment.

Enlarging your investment account by investing in the “unfruitful works of darkness” is not an option for Christian investors. This is not an issue that the Bible allows us room for personal convictions. It is commanded. Instructed. Required.

Let me also say that there is grace here, too. Some investors are new to this concept of screening their investments based on biblical morality and as such are profiting from activities that would make them shudder. Praise God that He is gracious and willing to forgive our trespasses, including those made in ignorance! Lord knows that I am need of that grace on a daily basis!

Not In My House

“You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 23:18)

Here we get a strong taste of the Lord’s disdain for the wages of immorality. “Abomination” is not a word to be tossed around lightly, and the Bible reserves that word for only the most, well, abominable activities.

It should be well noted by all Christian investors that the Lord does not simply have a passing distaste for the profits from sinful business activity, He abominates them. So much so that God even forbids the money earned from sin to be brought into the house of the Lord and given as an offering. This is no small issue in our Lord’s eyes.

I have heard some Christian commentators attempt to make the case that a Christian investor can justify investing in the stock of companies which earn profits from immoral activities as long as the investor donates their portion of the profits generously to ministry, like some sort of spiritual money laundering scheme. Indeed, this same thought passed through my mind some years ago when I first was presented with the unsettling truth that I was invested in and recommending investments in companies with serious moral issues.

This scripture soundly rejects that notion altogether. The ends do not justify the means in God’s economy.

Joyful Reward

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)

Now back to Matthew 25. For all of the clear instruction to avoid profiting from and participating in works of immorality, there is also a great reward for those who have been faithful in stewarding what God has placed in their hands. And as mentioned earlier, faithfulness to God is not measured in financial currency, but by the measure of God’s glory.

There will be great joy for you when you stand before the Lord having faithfully honored Him in your life, by His grace and the Holy Spirit’s power. Our labor to honor God is not done from a spirit of fear of punishment, but from a longing to glorify our Lord and receive the “well done” as an eager child from a loving father.

“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-19)

Honor the Lord with all that He has given you. Glorify Him to the utmost in every word, deed and investment. Joyfully submit your portfolio to the lordship of Christ, for it all belongs to Him after all. Eagerly look forward and strive to “enter into the joy of your Master”, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God in your life.





Market Weakness Is A Buying Opportunity

Opportunity Or Armageddon?

This week the stock market gave investors the largest decline they have seen in more than a year. In doing so it is my opinion that the stock market has also given investors the best buying opportunity they have seen in over a year.

The S&P 500 Index* was down 3.85% for the week ending 2/2/18, representing the largest weekly decline since early 2016. This drop has some investors asking if this it is time to sell everything and run for cover. However, other investors are eyeing this decline as a potential entry point, allowing them an opportunity to put new money to work and “buy the dip” as they say on Wall Street.

So, who is right? Is this weekly decline just the beginning of the next financial Armageddon? Or is this a golden opportunity for investors to get cash off the sidelines and into the market in preparation for a continuation of the bull market?

I am of the opinion that while we may well see some short term weakness in equity markets, the bull market still has some room to run to the upside. Following are a few of the data points that tip my scales in favor of the bull market.

Uptrend Still Fully Intact

There is an old investing adage that “the trend is your friend”. Practically speaking, this means that so long as the prevailing trend (whether up or down) remains intact, it is a fool’s errand to invest contrary to that trend.

This past year has seen one of the strongest bull market up-trends in the history of the stock market. This week’s modest decline feels scary only because it has been so long since we have had any kind of meaningful dip in the market. While it is true that at some point the party is going to be over, it is premature to throw in the towel. By definition, a bull market cannot be over until the uptrend line has been broken, and we have a ways to go before prices are in danger of falling below that level.

Momentum Is Strong

Objects in motion stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. That is true in physics and investing as well. To date, there has been very little resistance hindering the charge higher in equity markets. The resulting momentum in stocks is literally off the charts, and are at levels higher than I have ever seen.

Strong momentum does not preclude a decline in stocks; however, what it does strongly indicate is that the market is not ready to turn on a dime and immediately plunge lower in a sustained fashion. For a trend change to take place, first the upward momentum would have to be worn down, typically by choppy up and down movement, a series of dips and jumps in prices. If we see sustained choppy-ness in the market, rather than a sustained upward move, then it is possible that the market is working on building out a top. But tops take time to form and it will take time for the momentum to be sucked out of this market before any serious decline begins to take shape.

Strong Support Near Current Levels

There are numerous levels of support just a few percentage points below current levels. Market prices tend to bounce off of these support levels, which are indicated by such things as previous highs and lows, moving averages and trend lines.

Over the past two weeks, prices have become overextended and stretched far above these support levels and it is makes sense that they should snap back like a rubber band after such a stretch. This week’s decline has brought prices back down to those support levels and until those levels are broken, the uptrend remains intact and the rally is still on.

Fear Not

All that said, I could be dead wrong. But, even if I am, investors would be wise to avoid falling prey to fear. Fear and greed are the two most dangerous emotions for investors. They cause you to make unwise, irrational and harmful decisions…typically at the worst possible times.

During market declines, fear is highest at the lowest point in the market. And the lowest point in the market is precisely the WORST time to sell, but ironically it is often the point when MOST people end up selling because they are just plain afraid.

Don’t fall into that trap.

Stick to your long term investment goals and strategy. If you do not have a long term goal and strategy, then you need to get one right away. If you need help or guidance with your plan, the Christian financial advisors at Christian Wealth Management are a great resource for sophisticated, biblical financial guidance.





Why The Wall Street Journal Is Wrong About Socially Responsible Investing

Is Socially Responsible Investing For “Suckers”?

“The basic idea is to throw money away,” declares The Wall Street Journal today in reference to socially responsible investing (SRI). In their article titled “Stocks Weren’t Made For Social Climbing” author Andy Kessler and WSJ make the misguided assertion that anyone who invests with an eye toward corporate responsibility and making the world a better place is a “sucker”. In Kessler’s words,

“Wall Street considers it a truism that money sloshes around the globe seeking the highest return. But there are countless investors, believe it or not, who are willing to accept lower returns. P.T. Barnum supposedly said there’s a sucker born every minute. Many of them go into so-called socially responsible investing…In reality there is no trade-off of Vice vs. Nice. There are only returns.”

I am more than a little surprised at the ignorance of this article, but I suppose it is an opinion piece after all, and hey, everyone is entitled to an opinion…even me! So, here is my opinion then.

Socially Responsible Investing Performance Studies

While Kessler has an entertaining writing style and definitely knows how to turn a phrase, his entire premise is flawed. He makes the rather uninformed statement that responsible investing requires one to sacrifice performance, but he gives no basis for this conclusion.

The facts are that research done over the past several years by the likes of Oxford UniversityWharton University, Biola University and others show that responsible investing did not require a sacrifice of performance in their studies. In fact, some of these studies show that there was actually a slight improvement in performance for responsible investors compared to non-responsible investments.

According to Oxford University’s study with Arabesque Partners, “80 percent of the reviewed studies demonstrate that prudent sustainability practices have a positive influence on investment performance.”

Socially Responsible Investing For More Than Returns

That aside, Kessler has also made himself out to be a hypocrite or a criminal. He proudly asserts that returns are the only thing that matter when selecting an investment, that “there are only returns.” He most certainly doesn’t believe that…unless he is investing in illegal prostitution rings, arms dealers and drug cartels. They make a ton of money, but obviously (I hope) he would never consider investing in such a thing as it is 1) illegal and 2) completely immoral.

So, returns are not the only thing that matter. The law matters, too. And for Christians, God’s law matters even more than the law of man, so how could we possibly invest in companies that are in direct violation of God’s law, even if they did offer tantalizing promises of high returns? “Better is a little with righteousness than great gains with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8)

Wall Street would goad us to give in to greed and chase high returns above all else. Sadly, there are many who fall prey to that siren’s call. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9)

As for me, there is no return high enough to entice me to invest in immoral industries like abortion, pornography and human trafficking.

Wall Street can keep their profits-at-any-cost approach to investing; I will keep my integrity. And if Oxford University is right, I may end up keeping more money in the long run anyway.

How about you?

PS – You can read the entire Wall Street Journal article here. But your IQ may drop after doing so. Just saying.




Should Christians Invest In Bitcoin?

Making heads or tails of Bitcoin

I just received an email proclaiming that if I started investing in Bitcoin today that I could “make as much as 55 times your money”. To which I assume they expect me to respond with something along the lines of, “55 times my money, eh? Well in that case, here is my life savings. Shall I wire it to you? Or do you prefer a suitcase full of cash?”

Maybe you have received similar emails about the phenomenon that is the Bitcoin investment rage du jour.

So, what’s up with Bitcoin anyway? Is it actually a thing? Should Bitcoin be a part of my portfolio as an investor? Should Bitcoin be a part of my portfolio as a biblically responsible investor?

If you have no idea what Bitcoin is, I don’t blame you. I think most people don’t really know what it is — including those who own Bitcoins and possibly even those who are aggressively marketing Bitcoins for investment.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is the first and most popular “cryptocurrency”, which are virtual, computer generated, de-centralized currencies available to anyone who has Internet access. Bitcoin allows you to convert your old-fashioned money (such as US Dollars) into Bitcoins by buying them on an exchange from someone who already owns Bitcoins.

There are numerous Bitcoin exchanges that offer “virtual wallets” which serve as a sort of Bitcoin bank account online, on your computer or on your smartphone. There are even Bitcoin ATMs that have sprung up around the globe to facilitate Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals (hint: no physical Bitcoins go in or out of those machines, they are strictly electronic transfer devices that provide paper receipts). And some bold businesses have begun accepting Bitcoin as payment, and even paying employees and vendors in Bitcoins instead of traditional currency.

If you are really gung-ho, you could even go into the Bitcoin mining business, wherein you purchase specialized computer software and hardware that enables you to run a complicated algorithm in an attempt to “crack the code” and “verify” a Bitcoin transaction. When your computer hits upon the correct code, you are rewarded with 25 Bitcoins for your efforts. Every four years, the number of Bitcoins granted in this “verification reward” is cut in half, reducing the payoff for this activity. Also, the “blockchain” code becomes increasingly complex with each verification, making it increasingly difficult to mine Bitcoins as the remaining coins become more scarce.

Bitcoin miners can continue their hunt for new Bitcoins until the total number of Bitcoins in circulation is 21M, at which point there are no more Bitcoins left to find. This limitation was built into the Bitcoin blockchain rules at the outset to ensure that there was a limited supply, and thus value relative to demand. The bigger your computing power, the better your chances of successfully mining Bitcoins becomes.

Yes, this is really happening. And no, George Orwell is not the author of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is big business

On January 1, 2011, $100 US Dollars would have bought you about 333.33 Bitcoins (Bitcoin was valued at 30 cents per coin at that time, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index). If you held on to those Bitcoins through the hyper-volatile roller coaster of price swings that has defined Bitcoin value since inception, on December 31st, 2017 your Bitcoins would have been worth about $4,600,154.00 US Dollars (Bitcoin value $13,800.60 USD per coin).

Total value of all Bitcoins in circulation today is pegged at $223.8 billion USD (you can see current values here: http://www.bitcoinblockhalf.com/ )

Wow. No wonder there is so much media noise about Bitcoin speculation.

Should Christians invest in Bitcoin?

No doubt the astronomical price returns on Bitcoin over the past years is very tempting to investors everywhere. I mean, who wouldn’t like to turn $100 into over four million dollars in just a few years?

Let me say that again. This time let it really sink in… $100 into over four million dollars in just a few years. Does anybody else hear warning bells in that sentence, or is it just me?

Well, King Solomon might have something to say about that. After all, he was the one who wrote, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11)

And the Apostle Paul would have a few thoughts on the matter as well as he wrote, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

If I had to guess at the primary motivation that drives people to exchange their actual money for Bitcoins I would say that it is greed, plain and simple. The desire to be rich. The desire to be rich fast. The desire to be rich easily.

Greed is never a good reason to do anything. If you are considering buying into Bitcoin, first check your heart and be honest about what your motivation is for doing so. Is it greed? Then don’t do it.

Besides, when anything goes up in value that far, that fast I can only think of tech stocks in 2001 and financial stocks in 2008. Also tulip bulbs in 1630. When will the Bitcoin bubble burst? I don’t know, but it is coming and I don’t want any part of it.

The dark side of Bitcoin

Aside from the problems of greed and bubbles waiting to burst, there is a very real, very insidious side to Bitcoin that Christian investors should think about very carefully.

It is becoming increasingly evident that ISIS and other terror groups are exploiting Bitcoin to fund their massive budgets and evil purposes. Just recently a woman was arrested and charged with laundering $85,000 through Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to the Islamic State.

Zoobiah Shahnaz, age 27 from Long Island, allegedly used 16 credit cards (which she had obtained by fraudulent methods) to purchase $63,000 in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, in addition to $22,500 she was able to acquire through a loan from a Manhattan bank. Shahnaz was detained by federal agents at JFK International Airport as she was attempting to board a flight to Syria to join ISIS in person.

And she is not the only one.

In fact, a prominent pro-ISIS blog which is used to recruit and train terrorists, explains to readers how Bitcoins can be used to fund the Islamic State’s detestable activities without being traced by Western “Kafir” governments. God only knows how much of the hundreds of billions of dollars currently in Bitcoin is supporting the most blatantly evil organization on the face of the planet.

Of course, terrorists can use any kind of currency to fund their atrocities. But Bitcoin is designed with the specific purpose of being completely anonymous, untraceable and detached from any government or law enforcement protections. The black market loves Bitcoin.

Bitcoin may be the closest thing to blood money the world has ever seen.

Bitcoin or bust?

Listen, you are not evil if you buy some Bitcoins. Unless you are a member of ISIS and then, yes, you are evil. But there are significant problems with the Bitcoin economy that any wise investor must take into consideration before jumping into that dark pool. Allow me to summarize them here:

  1. Bitcoin is very weird. You probably don’t understand what you are buying.
  2. You probably want to buy Bitcoin because of the lure of fast, easy riches. That is greed.
  3. Bitcoin values have skyrocketed to ridiculously astronomical heights in a ridiculously short amount of time. Usually, that means something has got to give. And usually that means the bubble is ripe for the popping.
  4. Bitcoin is perhaps the bad guys’ favorite thing in the world and is funding the most despicable acts of evil the world has seen in a very long time, all with complete anonymity and without the pesky oversight of law enforcement.

For all of these reasons, you can count me out of the Bitcoin binge. How about you?





Does Your Conscience Have A Price? Biblically Responsible Investing In The Age Of High Return, Low Fee Idolatry.

You probably remember the 1993 movie “Indecent Proposal” even if you never saw it (which I hope is the case…bleh) because of it’s infamous plot line: a billionaire offers a young couple $1,000,000 for one night with the wife. Indecent proposal indeed. The plot is brilliant, even if the movie is not, because it touches a very human issue that we all are confronted with on a daily basis: Does your conscience have a price? In our modern day of finance, where Wall Street calls for high profits and low fees above all else, the Christian investor must seriously consider whether there is a return high enough, or fee low enough, that would entice them to abandon God’s call to biblically responsible investing.

Make good choices

Everyday, moment by moment, we are forced to choose between upholding good ethics and morals, or giving in to the temptations of our more base desires. Sometimes the decision to do the right thing may come almost effortlessly, like opening a door for an old woman, or choosing to pay for your candy bar instead of stealing it away in your pocket. But it wasn’t always that way, was it? There was a time in all our lives (hopefully when we were very young!) when the temptation of the forbidden candy bar held an irresistible allure and we really had to wrestle with ourselves to ensure that candy bar did not end up sneaking out of the store in our little larcenous pocket.

When we were a child, the price of our conscience may have been scant more than a candy bar. But now, as adults, does our conscience still have a price, albeit a much higher one? Put another way, is there some payoff high enough that would cause you to accept an “indecent proposal”? In our best moments, and only by the grace of God, our answer is no. There is no payment high enough, nor penalty great enough, that would cause me to sin against my God. But in our worst moments, the answer unfortunately is yes. And often the price is ridiculously low. The Apostle Paul embodies this struggle as he was led by the Holy Spirit to write,

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:18-19,24-25)

50 shades of neon

Today, the siren’s call to Christian investors is to join the world and chase high returns and lower fees no matter what. On one hand you have unscrupulous brokers promising sky-high returns with investments in the booming marijuana business, cryptocurrencies (aka. Bitcoin, et al), gold, silver and ocean front property in Arizona. These con jobs are usually pretty easy to spot, especially because the popup ads they use are about 50 different colors of neon and size 3,000 extra-super-bold font. As silly and ridiculous as these gigs are, there are many who fall prey to their allure of greed. I know because some have come seeking my advice after losing their shirts.

But what about other businesses, such as abortion and pornography? If you asked the average Christian investor if they would consider buying into the porn business, they would probably (hopefully!) say no. But, if you asked the average Christian investor if they would consider buying into the porn business for a 100% annual return on their money…well…

I submit to you that this scenario is playing out every single day with Christian investors around the world, except instead of 100% annual returns, Christians are selling out for much, much less. In fact, in some cases they are selling out for less than the price of a candy bar. Allow me to explain.

King Solomon talks biblically responsible investing

Let’s say you have $50,000 to invest. Where will you put it? Many investors, including Christian investors, will end up buying a mutual fund or ETF (exchange traded fund) of some sort. Maybe you would choose the highest performing actively managed fund you can find, or maybe you would focus on investing in the lowest cost index fund available. In either case, you would sensibly be trying to maximize your return (either through stellar investment management or by saving money on fees), but is that a biblical approach? Now, there is nothing wrong with investing in high performing funds, and certainly there is no problem with keeping fees low with index investing (I happen to be a fan), but for the Christian investor there are other — and I dare say more important — issues to consider, namely those of biblical morals.

Hear the words of Solomon, “Better is a little with righteousness than great gains with injustice.”(Proverbs 16:8) In this verse and others like it, the Bible’s clear teaching is that righteousness is more important than financial gain. Biblically responsible investing (BRI) is the practice of making biblical values the first priority in investment decisions as an obedient act of worship for the glory of God. This means aligning your investments with biblical values, avoiding companies involved in immoral businesses like abortion and pornography, and instead choosing investments in companies which are a blessing to their customers, communities, workforce and the world — and then taking into consideration maximizing returns and minimizing expenses within the context of the available, biblically responsible investment options.

The problem is that by and large, Christian investors have gotten this process backward. They heed the advice of Wall Street first and God second. (That is never a good idea, by the way.) They put first priority on finding the highest performing, lowest cost investments without giving thought to the moral concerns of those investments…or if they do consider biblical values it is only as an afterthought and results in a portfolio that might employ a few screens, such as tobacco or alcohol, but falls far short of the standard of diligently stewarding God’s assets in accordance with his values for His glory. We have caved into the demand of this age that we fulfill our “fiduciary duty” to keep fees as low as possible and returns as high as possible, and abandoned our first and eternally more important “stewardship duty” to “honor God with your wealth.”(Proverbs 3:9) We have been “conformed to the pattern of this world”(Romans 12:2) and are bowing down to the idols of low fees and high returns.

And, by the way, just because you put biblical values first does not mean that you must sacrifice returns. Recent research by Wharton School of Business, Oxford University and Biola University all have concluded that employing values based screening like biblically responsible investing does not negatively affect performance…in fact, they find that screening actually can help improve performance. Some critics say biblically responsible investing advocates use the Bible as an excuse for charging higher fees or being lazy about choosing quality investments. I disagree. I think those critics use low fees and the ever-elusive seduction of higher returns as an excuse for their financial idolatry.

Now what about that candy bar?

To make matters worse, the price we have accepted in this compromise of financial idolatry is often pathetically small. Going back to that $50,000 investment you have to make, let’s say that you chose to invest in a very low cost fund that had a total expense ratio of 0.10%. And let’s say that there was an equivalent, biblically responsible investing fund with an expense ratio of 1.00%. That means that you chose to prioritize lower fees above biblical values for a total savings of 0.90% per year. Putting that into dollars, that means that you decided to invest in abortion, pornography, human trafficking and other immoral industries instead of honoring God first for a total annual savings of $450/year ($50,000 x 0.009 = $450). That is just $1.23 per day…the price of a cheap candy bar.

But, you might say, what if I have much more than $50,000 to invest? My savings would be higher than just a candy bar! Yes, this is true. If you have more than $50,000 to invest then your nominal savings goes up some, so maybe your price to sell out on God is a latte per day instead of a candy bar. Or maybe you have millions of dollars to invest and your savings would be measured in thousands of dollars. Maybe you have so much money that your savings would be, oh, let’s say an even $1,000,000. Is that a high enough price for you to accept the “indecent proposal” of Wall Street billionaires?

Wall Street would applaud your “wisdom” as a “good fiduciary”. The Bible would call that idolatry.

Grace, truth and biblically responsible investing

Now, let me be the first to confess that I invested as an idolater for years, never realizing that I was investing in and profiting from the vilest sin and immorality the depraved human mind can conjure. And I want you to know that I have a lot of grace for those still investing the way of the world, because I know that most Christian investors are just like I was, unwittingly investing in atrocities because they have never been taught to think biblically about their investments. And this is exactly what needs to change.

We need to heed the call in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We need to extend grace to our brothers and sisters who are caught up in the world’s ways, and at the same time we need to understand that ignorance is not an excuse. In the words of the Apostle Paul, we need to:

“…equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”(Ephesians 4:12-16)

And it starts with you. It starts with looking in the mirror of God’s perfect word, submitting to the call to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), including managing your investments, and then making the change to become a biblically responsible investor who puts righteousness and biblical morals in higher preference than fees and performance. And it continues by you doing your part to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” and sharing what you have learned about the importance of being obedient to God with your investment decisions with the other Christians in your life. Will you join us?

Beloved Christian, Wall Street is beckoning you to invest in immoral industries with the ephemeral allure of higher profits and lower fees. What is your answer to Wall Street’s “indecent proposal”?