I hate my IRA because (I presume) it hates me.
I have a job that comes with benefits. What is bothering me about that now has to do with my retirement account. I need some help and perspective. I have a retirement plan that I pay into, and I have been very disturbed to see where the social-service providing, non-profit I work for puts my tiny holdings. I want Baker/PRC’s leadership to be sure it isn’t putting its employees’ money into xenophobic companies that actually attack the people we serve, be they queer, poor, mentally disturbed, immigrant, POC or dealing with addictions.
Maybe I should be less disturbed by “BlackRock” than some of the others. It is the largest fund management company in the world however, so I presume it invests in lots of weapons, pharmaceuticals, chemical and resource extraction and whatever. It may not be as bad as some, and it has different “instruments” and funds, so I may be in some benign corner of its enormous and insidious realm.
I have the ability to customize my portfolio, and I have, slightly, once I got through the high security set up I had to navigate with Lincoln Financial. Once I figured out why I was getting over a dozen semi-annual prospecti from various funds in the mail, I finally got off the paper mill, but I was more relieved when I figured out how to move my investments around. I dumped my BlackRock stock right away, though now, doing more research for this Missive, I see some reasonable statements by Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, in which he says things I agree with and criticizes things I don’t like. Maybe I was presumptuous. Still, the position he is in makes him inherently untrustworthy.
Someone in a employer’s human relations department chooses a “QDIA” or “Qualified Default Investment Alternative” for their workers. PRC/Baker Places uses Lincoln Financial Group’s “2025 Moderate Default Investment Portfolio.” Unless you proactively go in and control the mix, you unwittingly are invested in mutual funds with lots of money spread around bonds and stocks: multiple mutual funds comprised of numerous bonds, securities and/or stocks. I have a lot in “Baird Aggregate Bond Instl” and “BlackRock Inflation Protected Bond Instl” and some in collections of stocks like “American Century Mid Cap Value I”, “Vanguard 500 Index Admiral”, “Vanguard Developed Markets Index Admiral” and a couple percents of my tens of dollars in investment collections (PIMCO, Templeton, Neuberger Berman, Eaton Vance, a.o.).
I wouldn’t probably have noticed all of these layers if I hadn’t started out receiving hard copies of semi-annual reports from each of the funds in my QDIA. I knew mutual funds were collections of investments, but I didn’t realize what this has done to the world, not just the financial world. I was inundated by mail, but I didn’t want to sign up for electronic reports; I wanted to get out of the whole thing! Finally, I got off paper, but I’m glad I still have one or two of these reports for reference. If I just saw them online, I think I might not have noticed.
I called both our HR person and Lincoln for information about how our default investments are chosen and by whom. Lincoln told me it was our HR department, but the person there thought it was set by Lincoln. Our HR person is going to meet with the Lincoln people soon for an annual check in and re-upping. This is the time for our financial leaders to ask for our portfolio to be invested how and where. I brought this to her attention. She gave me considerate but blank looks. “Why is this guy wasting my time?” she seemed to be saying as she told me to look into the details and get back to her. I would need to do the leg work to extricate Baker Places from investing in companies that oppress us, but in the past month, it has seemed way too daunting, and frankly, I feel way too small to take this on. I would need someone above her to tell her this is important, but I think she has too many things on her plate to do this justice, and I’m sure reviewing overall performance and risk is more the usual conversation then questioning the myriad companies each portfolio item contains. These are nested portfolios, and I think they are designed to take our money and use it against our best interests. This Missive is about all I can muster without becoming over-absorbed on behalf of my tens of dollars.
I asked someone on the Finance Committee of the War Resisters League. I remember that WRL’s endowment survived pretty well through the 2008 financial meltdown when much private capital was stolen. WRL has a very high bar for social responsibility too. Calvert and Pax World Funds were two recommendations I was given and that I pass on to you for consideration. This info isn’t helpful for me at work. I am not going to parse out each fund and each investment in each fund. The rise of these “mutual” funds has a dark side I hadn’t considered until now: It makes it almost impossible for people to direct much of their wealth away from investments that actually target them. We are being made to fund our own destruction as we supposedly save for our future care, post-retirement.
But that is the issue: It isn’t just my measly principle (invested money). It’s my principles! These accounts must add up to ginormous, guaranteed, hidden income to financial giants. Just like how all the little LED lights in our house that stay on all the time drawing the tiniest trickles of electricity add up to huge amounts of energy when you consider a city or a country or the whole world. It is like how financial transaction fees of $0.0001 (that is, 1/100 of a penny) per transaction add up to billions of dollars a day. I don’t imagine many people review what their retirement accounts are invested in. I would love to hear what people do who have lived more of their lifetimes earning and investing through IRAs. Do you watch what your HR department does on your behalf? Do you worry about their choices for security? fraud? social responsibility?
Special to Pelosi District Voters
Our U.S. House Representative, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that people who support the human rights of Palestinians are “fringe elements in the Democratic party.” We are not fringe elements. While we may not all be Democrats, we are her constituents and we are demanding that rather than sideline us, that she actually represent us, her constituents, and support H.R. 2407 (Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act).
We know that as many as 700 Palestinian children are arrested and prosecuted in Israeli military courts every year and that these children are typically subjected to verbal abuse, threats, and physical and psychological violence that in some cases amounts to torture. Indeed, nearly three out of four of these children experience some form of physical violence after arrest. While this bill applies to all military aid, it calls attention to the situation of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system. H.R. 2407 will ensure that United States financial assistance is not used by the government of Israel to support the ill-treatment of Palestinian children detained by military forces and prosecuted in Israeli military courts without basic fair trial protections.
Palestinian children, like all children, should never experience military detention and torture. Let us say it clearly to Rep. Pelosi: no kids in cages, anywhere. Not in our name, and not with our tax dollars.
To see a 3 ½ minute video about the bill click here
Please click here to urge Rep. Pelosi to support this important legislation.
Be Anti-nuclear before it’s too late. Don’t give up!
It was great being in Kings Bay and Brunswick, Georgia with amazingly inspiring accomplices in the anti-nuclear fight. We converged there in support of the Kings Bay Plowshares Seven (KBP7), friends of mine facing trial for their “symbolic, sacramental disarmament” action on April 4, 2018. August 7 was their first appearance before the actual trial judge. Other proceedings had been before a federal magistrate who recommended that the trial proceed even though he took many months to rule against our side’s motions to dismiss, largely based on the (il)logic of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
I just got word from the KBP7 that the judge did indeed grant some of our side’s logical points, but still feels that the military has a compelling reason to try them on charges that could result in 25 years in prison each. The trial is set to start with jury selection on October 21. I found out from a postcard from Steve Kelly that their motions to reduce their bond and remove their ankle monitors were denied by the judge. I really thought she was going to let Liz and Mark out of jail. Darn it!
And here’s Eamon! (All August, 2019)
Spacing all these images is hard to manage without a bunch of text to navigate. Captions are problematic too. One pic is of us visiting Sr. Megan, and another is of us visiting our friend Paul Magno at Jonah House in Baltimore. Eamon seems super happy in that blue and black striped onesie whether he’s at the table or on his belly.
Eamon is standing now, sort of on his own, but isn’t taking steps. He crawls as far as I’m concerned, meaning he scootches from point A to point B using his hands, knees and toes, but he also uses his belly, so I guess he’s still getting there.
It does look like he is about to figure out how to push the button and extricate himself from the stroller. Not sure if it was just luck or intention. He is pretty brilliant for less than nine months, and that tongue probably helps somehow.
I’ll be back in a couple weeks. May we all smile as purely as Eamon.