This is the first article I am writing since Hamas perpetrated murderous terrorist activities on innocent Israelis and the subsequent war in Gaza. Normally, when there is any major geopolitical event, I try to be proactive with my clients by emailing them the potential economic and market impact from the event. However, I did not send any such communication this time. It seemed inappropriate to discuss investing when I, like so many of my clients, have family, friends, or business partners in Israel. The concern for their safety was far more pressing than a market update.
As I was pondering what message to share here, the gravity of the current situation made me much more philosophical about money and the role it serves in all our lives. After all, as I say frequently, money is a tool to help us live the life we want. It is not a scorecard where we accumulate as much of it as we can to impress others.
When deciding how to use money to best live our lives, I often develop an “Investment Policy Statement,” or IPS, for clients. This helps families define their life goals and their purpose for investing. After all, it’s impossible to invest prudently without first having a clear purpose or goals. One exercise that I’ve used with clients to help them better define their goals is asking them to write their “Reverse Obituary.” I’ve been thinking about this concept frequently in light of recent events.
A reverse obituary helps separate our “resume virtues” and “obituary virtues.” Resume virtues are short-term material goals. They may seem important today but are meaningless when considering the bigger picture. This may include how much money we make, our net worth, the car we drive, the boards we sit on, the honors we receive, the house we live in, and the type of vacations we go on. On the other hand, obituary virtues are character traits that we want others to remember us for when we are gone. In other words, these are characteristics that are actually important. This may include being supportive to your family and friends, charitably inclined, and contributing positively to society at large. It’s not uncommon for folks to have little to no overlap between resume virtues and obituary virtues. The reverse obituary exercise facilitates a focus on your core values, which helps us align those values with your money and daily routine.
Over the past few weeks, I have been horrified by all the terrorist acts, starting with the gruesome massacre on Simchat Torah. The images of death and torture were hard to stomach. However, I was also inspired by the response to these atrocities by so many people around the world.
I’m inspired by the soldiers and middle-aged reservists who selflessly jumped into action, without hesitation, to protect Am Yisrael.
I’m inspired by the people all over the world, Jews and non-Jews alike, who are donating time, money, supplies, and food, to help defend Israel.
I’m inspired by the Jewish communities around the world who immediately set up Tehillim and Torah learning groups to pray for the safe return of the soldiers and the hostages.
I’m inspired by the local yeshivot in my community, and those around the world, who immediately worked with their students to send cards, care packages, and other items to help boost the morale of those on the front line.
I’m inspired when I watch the news or scroll through social media and see supportive people, who are not political or in the media, advocating for Israel, humanity, and self-defense and firmly condemning terrorism.
I’m inspired when our family’s nanny, who is not Jewish or Israeli, proactively approached us to deduct money from her weekly salary to donate to Israel and our mailman stopped to speak to me for ten minutes inquiring about my family in Israel.
With all the negativity in the world, I was moved by how so many people rose to the occasion with selfless acts of kindness, financial support, tefillot, encouragement, advocacy, and the overall desire to do the right thing. This represents obituary virtues: the type of middot that are important in life and for which we all want to be remembered.
My message to investors during these difficult times is that money is a powerful tool. It can be used for good, evil, or on nurishkite that just doesn’t matter. When deciding how to put your dollars to work, it should be done with intentionality. It should be aligned with your values. It should support what you want written in your own obituary.
May Hashem protect our soldiers, emergency responders, the hostages, and all of Klal Yisrael during these difficult times! Am Yisrael Chai!