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December 02, 1999

Book Review: "The Mindful Money Guide"

A back-to-the-woods stockbroker provides socially responsible investors with a broad range of options for letting their conscience be their financial manager.

SocialFunds.com -- Marshall Glickman was a Wall Street broker for three years before moving to Vermont, where he is an environmental activist, carpenter, and writer. Now the editor of "Green Living," an environmental magazine, Glickman has come out with a book to help anyone balance his or her money management with a more meaningful, less stressful lifestyle.

The title of "The Mindful Money Guide: creating harmony between your values and your finances" presumes that your values are at least tinged with a bit of green. While the financial advice it contains may not be for everyone, it is valuable for anyone that values spending more time with their children, more time in the garden, more time expanding your horizons, and less time fussing over finances.

The bottom line of "The Mindful Money Guide" is that money can't buy you happiness, and in fact fussing over it is at the core of many people's unhappiness. Glickman approaches the subject with the authority of a seasoned financial wiz and environmental guru, as well as with a great deal of humor. For instance, his advice on retirement plans is, "Put aside as much as you can without feeling a tightening in your chest."

Socially responsible investing represents only a small part of Glickman's program, which deals with all aspects of personal finance from earning to consuming. Although he recommends mutual funds like Domini Social Equity Fund and Pax World Fund, he is critical of the passive nature of most socially screened funds and urges investors to become more involved in shareholder advocacy.

Glickman's real strength comes in offering the nuts-and-bolts of financial management in accordance with green values, such as buying food in bulk, working on your own home, and buying a used car. With a deft hand, the author points out how any one of these "investments" can bring you returns rivaling the most robust mutual fund, and reap dividends for the sustainability of the earth.

The foundation of "The Mindful Money Guide" is in establishing a more healthy relationship with money. The first section, Head, Heart, and Money, spells out the negative psychological and emotional attachments exhibited by many Americans, and encourages a more balanced approach emphasizing self-knowledge and voluntary simplicity.

Glickman's suggestions for reaching financial harmony have a certain New Age soft edge to them, such as using visualizations and Buddhist "tonglen" meditation. But the reader is encouraged to read on by the author's own skepticism, such as an image of "prosperity consciousness" as "Marin County stockbrokers rubbing hundred-dollar bills against crystals for clairvoyant market picks."

Once readers have reached financial nirvana, or at least a modicum of balance between their money and their lifestyles, they are ready for Glickman's astute advice for adding investments, earnings, and consumption into the equation. From IRAs to boycotting, from giving to charities to buying a home, "The Mindful Money Guide" contains valuable tips for making monumental financial decisions with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of environmental and social benefits.

"The Mindful Money Guide" would make a valuable addition to the shelf of most social investors, because it expands on the goals of responsible investing to every other facet of financial life. It brings the principles of social and environmental accountability into the homes and daily lives of the reader.

"The Mindful Money Guide: Creating harmony between your values and your finances" by Marshall Glickman. Ballantine Wellspring, 1999.

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