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.



About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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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?



About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Get started with Biblically Responsible Investing

How To Get Started With Biblically Responsible Investing

Introduction to Biblically Responsible Investing

There is a movement underway in the world of finance where Christians are investing billions of dollars intentionally to support biblical values for the glory of God, and it is called Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI). More and more Christians are waking up to the opportunity to align their investments with biblical values, as well as discovering the unsettling truth that they have previously been profiting from immoral businesses such as abortion, pornography, human trafficking and other unbiblical practices. The growing demand for biblically responsible investments is changing the landscape of Wall Street and gaining global recognition as a powerful force for positive change for God’s glory throughout the world. However, many Christian investors are at a loss for how to get started with biblically responsible investing, but biblically responsible investing does not have to be complicated. Following is a step by step guide to make it simple and easy to implement biblically responsible investing in your financial life.

Step 1: Discover What You Own From A Biblically Responsible Investing Perspective

The first step in the journey towards biblically responsible investing is to discover the truth about what you own in your investment account. What are the companies that you own in your 401(k), IRA, mutual funds, ETFs and other investments doing to turn a profit? Are they manufacturing abortion drugs, selling pornography, using slave labor in their supply chains? Are they donating money to Planned Parenthood? Lobbying to advance the LGBT agenda? I vividly remember the moment that I discovered the troubling truth of what I was invested in and how shocked I was to find that here I was, the president of our local pro-life pregnancy center, and I also owned stock in 3 companies through my mutual funds that were manufacturing abortion drugs. That means that every time a young woman went to Planned Parenthood and had an abortion, I was profiting from that transaction. That realization changed my life forever, as it has for countless other biblically responsible investors around the world today.

So, how do you go about finding out what the moral value of your portfolio is? It is certainly a daunting task to consider, and quite impossible for the average investor to compile the amount of research necessary to dig into the dirty details of every company in their portfolio. After all, it is hard enough just to read your quarterly statement without going cross eyed, let alone pour through thousands of hard to find data points on thousands of publicly traded companies. The good news is that you don’t have to because there are Christian financial institutions that have robust analytic technology where they plug in your investment ticker symbols and out pops easy to understand reports that show you everything you ever wanted to know (and everything you NEVER wanted to know) about the moral issues in your portfolio.

Are you ready to discover the truth about your investments? Ignorance is certainly not bliss, and I encourage you to take that step and see for yourself what is going on behind closed doors in your portfolio. Here are two places you can go for a free biblically responsible investing report on your investments:

  1. Here at Inspire Investing, we are committed to educating and equipping Christian investors to glorify God with their investments, and as such we provide complimentary Inspire Impact Reports that detail the positive and negative impact of your current portfolio. Just go to the Contact Us page, shoot us an email or give us a call and our service team will get your report emailed over to you, no strings attached. You can also download our free “Inspire Storybook” that explores how we do biblically responsible investing at Inspire.
  2. Christian Wealth Management is a nationwide network of Chrisitan financial advisors from multiple investment firms across the nation who are specially trained in biblically responsible investing. Each CWM member volunteers their services to provide free biblically responsible investing “moral audit” reports to anyone who asks. Visit www.christianwealthmanagement.com to be connected to a Christian financial advisor BRI specialist for complimentary reports and information on biblically responsible investing.

Step 2: Explore Biblically Responsible Investing Options

If you are like me, once you discover the moral issues in your current portfolio you will want to make a change as soon as possible. So, how do you build a biblically responsible investing portfolio? Upon learning about biblically responsible investing, some Christian investors have the concern that it will be difficult to find enough quality biblically responsible investment options to construct an outstanding portfolio that meets their financial goals. But praise God that the fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of companies pass even the most stringent biblically responsible investing screening criterion so that there is no shortage of quality companies for biblically responsible investors to allocate capital to. There are also a large and growing number of biblically responsible investing mutual funds, including lower cost ETFs (exchange traded funds) and other professionally managed investment vehicles available for biblically responsible investors and Christian financial advisors to use in their portfolios.

One word of caution: there are many investment funds issued by Christian faith-based organizations that one would assume are managed according to biblically responsible investing guidelines, but in fact do very little (or none) investment screening. Also, not every Christian financial advisor is trained or equipped in biblically responsible investing, so do not just assume because your advisor is a Christian that they are managing your investments according to biblical values. Many Christian advisors, just like Christian investors, still have no idea that there is a major moral dilemma present in the portfolios they manage. As a good steward of God’s investments, be sure to do your homework and check the biblically responsible investing reports on even Christian funds and advisors to make sure you know what you are investing in. You can get these reports for free from Inspire or Christian Wealth Management as mentioned above.

Once you identify your available investment options that meet biblically responsible investing screening criterion, the rest of the investment selection process is exactly the same as building any other portfolio: consider the risks, returns, fees, diversification and other important aspects to build your biblically responsible investing portfolio. If you are a do-it-yourself investor, you can find many helpful resources direct from investment fund providers and third party analysis sites like Morningstar.com. If managing your own investment portfolio is not on your list of favorite things to do, consider working with a Christian financial advisor who is trained in biblically responsible investing, such as members of the Christian Wealth Management network.

Step 3: Start Biblically Responsible Investing And Impact The World For God’s Glory!

After discovering what you own from a biblically responsible investing perspective, and then exploring your biblically responsible investing options, it is time to pull the proverbial trigger and become a biblically responsible investor, joining the growing number of other Christian investors in the biblically responsible investing movement! The BRI movement is an exciting phenomenon that Wall Street is completely unprepared for. I have spoken with thousands of Christian investors and advisors over the past several years and I can attest to the fact that there is an awakening going on where the Holy Spirit is illuminating the importance of investing for God’s glory and placing a passionate conviction in the hearts of His people zealous to honor God in their financial life, just as they do in other areas of life.

God makes it clear in His word, the Holy Bible, that He wants His people to manage His money according to His values for His glory, and our joy. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Christians control trillions of dollars in investment assets, and together we can inspire transformation for God’s glory throughout the world by aligning our investments (God’s investments!) with biblical values, sending a powerful message to Wall Street and corporations everywhere that God’s people care about biblical values enough to “put our money where our faith is”.

There are already biblically responsible investing success stories, such as corporations ending their philanthropic support of Planned Parenthood and hotels removing pornography from their televisions, and by the grace of God we will see even more of these inspiring stories unfolding. But, even if nothing changes and corporations continue to go from bad to worse, it is still the biblically responsible investor’s joy to glorify God by honoring His values with His investment assets. One day we will all stand before our Lord and give an account for what we have done with all He has given us during our time on earth. I want to hear the “well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master” regarding every part of my life, including how I managed God’s investments. What about you?



About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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INFOGRAPHIC: The 5 Most Inspiring Tech Stocks

Technology is great. Except when it isn’t.

Tech companies are great. Except when they aren’t.

Like many things, technology can be used for good or for evil. And like the technology they create and distribute, tech companies can be forces for good or for not-so-good. (There, see? I didn’t call tech companies “evil”.)

Biblically responsible investors are wise to consider the impact that their technology stocks are having on the world at large. In particular, tech companies can shine particularly brightly, or fail miserably, in areas of special concern such as supply chains (remember the FoxCon/Apple suicides?) and the environment (tech manufacturing can be a very dirty business).

So, which tech companies are doing the best job of adding positive impact to the world in line with biblically responsible investing values? See below for our picks of the five tech companies with the highest Inspire Impact Scores. To learn more about how biblically responsible investing based on the Inspire Impact Score can affect portfolio performance, read our post titled “Can Impact Investments Outperform?”.

Can Impact Investments Outperform?

It has long been a debate in the investing world whether impact investments, socially responsible investments (SRI), biblically responsible investments (BRI), and other “screened” investment strategies can perform as well as their non-screened peers.  This debate may finally be reaching it’s end.

New research conducted by Biola University’s Inspire Research Institute for Biblically Responsible Investing has found that applying the Inspire Impact Score methodology of security selection can actually result in better investment returns than investing in a broader, non-screened benchmark.  The full study is due to be released soon (…so make sure you subscribe to this blog above so you don’t miss the big announcement) but in the meantime, we have compiled an initial summary of the findings to provide you a little sneak peek into this groundbreaking research.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE about “Generating Alpha Potential With Inspire Impact Score”.



About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Follow me on Twitter: @robertnetzly

Merits Of Equal Weighting An Index

What is the best way to cook an egg?  Scrambled?  Fried?  Poached, perhaps?  That is, of course, an impossible question because the correct answer is completely dependent on what you want the end result to be.

The same is true with index construction.

What is the best way to build an index?  Market cap weighted?  Sector weighted?  Equally weighted?  Or maybe one of the other myriad smart-beta strategies prevalent in the market today?  The right answer depends completely on what you want the characteristics of your finished product, in this case the index, to be.  Are you after lower volatility?  Higher growth?  Broader diversification?

Amid all of these potential strategies, it is one of the simplest, oldest, and elegant that quite possibly is also one of the most beneficial:  the equally weighted index.

In this paper written by Shane Enete, CFA, with Biola University’s Inspire Research Institute for Biblically Responsible Investing, you will be introduced to the history of indexing, how the “traditional” indexes came to be and why there might be a better way.


Inspired Investing: An Introduction To Biblically Responsible Investing

“Inspired Investing: An Introduction To Biblically Responsible Investing” is a paper from the Inspire-Biola Research Institute for Biblically Responsible Investing written by Shane Enete, CFA.  Read the full paper below:

Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) is a growing movement among Christian investors and investment firms, with significant potential for cultural impact. BRI is an investing approach that seeks to ensure that a Christian is investing in a way that is consistent with the moral standards of the Bible. Is BRI a helpful investment approach? Or just a marketing ploy meant to exploit? As this paper will argue, BRI products, through their excluding, engaging and endorsing activities, help Christian investors maintain their integrity and responsibility to biblical stewardship while actively investing in the stock market. This paper will also address two common questions with BRI: 1) Does BRI deliver lower returns due to a restricted investment universe?; and 2) Are there an adequate number of BRI investment options available to invest prudently with sufficient diversification?