The Resilient Investor lays out a dynamic framework that anyone can use to enhance personal, community, and societal resilience. But the book is only a starting place; this blog will keep you current with our latest thinking, and plugged into the exciting, evolving global conversation around facing our uncertain future.
We’ll be digging deeper into several core areas—living resiliently, new opportunities across the Resilient Investing Map, and a range of viewpoints on future scenarios—and we’ll also be engaging with others, sharing the best of what we come across online and adding our two cents to their thoughts. We’re hoping to spur some conversation around these topics, so feel free to chime in, either in comments or by sending us an email. Thanks for joining us!
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As the price of solar panels has fallen in recent years, many new financing models have emerged, each of which aims to lower the financial hurdles for homeowners to go solar. Solar installation companies offer long-term financing at somewhat below your current monthly electric bill; community solar projects buy in bulk and spread the savings to homeowners; and leasing outfits own the solar they put on your roof. But all of these avenues have tended to target those already primed to go renewable, and their financial benefits often take years to pay off.
Take PosiGen, a 4-year-old company based in New Orleans that pairs energy-efficiency upgrades with solar-panel leases—all for no money down and monthly payments of $50 or $60. PosiGen doesn’t target yuppies in Boulder, Colorado. A survey covering one-third of its 6,000-odd customers found that “our average customer is a 56-65-year-old African-American female, who spends at least four hours a week at church,” said Aaron Dirks, the intense 40-year-old West Point grad who founded the company. Three-quarters of its installations have been in census tracts where the area median income is below 120 percent of the national median. Call it blue-collar green.
PosiGen’s goal is to reduce monthly energy bills by at least $50—and that’s not the familiar “save at least as much as you pay us” threshold, but saving $50 after paying them. One customer’s electric bill had been $185-300 (varying with the seasons); after PosiGen’s efficiency and solar upgrades, it was $75-150, including her $60 monthly payment to PosiGen. As is typical with lease arrangements, homeowners get to use all the solar electric generated during the day, and they buy additional energy from the grid as needed; PosiGen retains ownership of the panels and receives the revenue generated by any excess daytime solar energy that’s sold to the local electric utility.
I’m not sure how PosiGen is keeping the costs so low, but kudos to them for targeting populations that can really benefit from significantly reduced electric bills—they often even forego credit checks, having found that their customers value the savings enough to make their modest payments even when times are tough. They’ve installed 5000 systems in Louisiana, and recently expanded to Albany, NY and Bridgeport, CT.
One of the key traits of a Resilient Investor is putting focused attention into being prepared. This time-honored theme is one that I explored on March 11th on the C-Realm podcast in an episode called “Ready for Anything.” In turbulent times it’s impossible to know exactly what situations we might have to face, let alone how to be ready for them. But there is great value in considering a wide range of plausible scenarios, and preparing for those that seem more likely. Last week, that lesson was brought home by the resilient people of Vanuatu, as their preparation for extreme weather paid off with priceless returns.
Eyewitness reports of Cyclone Pam were truly scary: it was one of the strongest tropical storms ever to hit land, with gusts over 200 mph. But remarkably, there were only eleven deaths from the storm. This really made me curious! Was it was just luck? Or, had this island nation pulled off a remarkable feat? Turns out it’s the latter, and from the stories trickling out it’s clear that we could learn much about resilience from their example.
The first thing to note is that Vanuatu has been actively preparing for stronger storms. For several years, the World Bank and international aid agencies have been working with the government of Vanuatu on a program aimed at “increasing resilience to climate change and natural hazards.”
Michael Kramer’s 45 minute television interview with Jay Fidell of Think Tech Hawaii covers the core themes of The Resilient Investor as well as the sustainable, responsible, and impact investment approach used by Natural Investments.
This week’s MetroHNL profiles The Resilient Investor and the March 10 presentation at ProtoHUB Honolulu featuring State Representative Chris Lee, Chenoa Farnsworth of Hawaii Angels and Blue Startups, Jeff Mikulina and David Aquino of WEfficiency, and Hunter Heaivilin of Permablitz and the Asia Pacific Center for Regenerative Design.
Michael Kramer speaks at TEDxKamuela, “Resilience is the New Sustainability.”
Check this out! Michael Kramer recently gave a TEDx talk in Hawaii that outlines the primary thesis of our book, The Resilient Investor. The audio is not perfect and you cannot see most of the slides but the talk (and the humor) is top notch. This is Michael’s second TEDx talk, and we are justifiably proud.
In case you just recently learned about the internet, more about TED can be found here and more about TEDx here.
A core premise behind Resilient Investing is the knowledge that in these complex times, we could be in for a wild ride. We present four widely-divergent, yet plausible future scenarios in Chapter 6, “Be Ready for Anything.” One of the key skills needed to get yourself ready is to take an eyes-wide-open approach to surveying the news, as well as the commentary of pundits who hold various points of view. You don’t want to assign certainty to any particular viewpoint, but it’s crucial to at least survey the landscape.
Speaking of spectacular landscapes… on a recent trip to California, my wife and I stopped in at a visitor center in the middle of the vast Mojave Desert. There were a few people there, learning about the history and incredible biodiversity (we looked for the Desert Tortoise but they were sleeping). I wanted to buy a T-shirt, but the clerk was engrossed in a phone conversation that I could tell was about investing. When he got off the phone we started chatting, and he told me how worried he is about the state of the global economy, believing this to be a most dangerous time for financial investments. I asked where he gets his information, and he mentioned David Stockman, a former congressman who later became the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan administration. Today his website, Contra Corner, is a go-to site for well-argued commentary that is critical of the financial press, government policy, central banks… indeed, there are few feathers he hasn’t ruffled!
So I was interested to hear what he would have to say when Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity interviewed Stockman on Feb. 15th. The title will tell you a lot: “The global economy has entered the crack-up phase.” As Martenson summarizes, Stockman “predicts an increasing number of “financial breaks” that will add to the unpredictability and instability of the environment for investors.”
This was not a big surprise, but what grabbed my attention is when Martenson, who has been a long-time teacher of practical resilience skills, gave his response to the implication of this view for investors:
David Stockman:And so therefore, you know, at the end of the day, we are more exposed to unexpected dislocations to the so-called black swan events than ever before. And when you have a system that has never been this unstable and fragile, in which the environment is rich with opportunities for surprise and dislocation, I think it is a very dangerous time.
Chris Martenson:I couldn’t agree more. And since we can’t predict what’s going to happen, I’m constantly advising people that they should be prepared for almost anything. So true diversification is really important these days.
This is a good summary of our book’s central theme, and “true diversification” is exactly the reason we created the Resilient Investing Map. While Stockman will likely leave you feeling glum, its important to consider this point-of-view as you face the future. But what’s really interesting about resilient investing is that it need not be approached as a survival-tactic, but rather as a way to enrich your life, regardless of what may unfold. It helps you to see that typical, Wall Street investing is merely one strategy among many. There are eight other Zones in our map, so we encourage you to focus some of your attention on investments (of time, money or both!) in ways that are less dependent on the vagaries of the global economy.
anticipating and preparing for disturbance, improving the capacity to withstand shocks, rebuilding as necessary, and adapting and evolving when possible.
Resilience is a powerful remedy for our uncertain times, allowing us to learn to live with the fundamental complexity of modern life. These are our favorite resources for getting up to speed on the ideas behind “resilience” and the ways that they are being implemented in communities around the world.
The Stockholm Resilience Center has produced some of the best educational materials for introducing the concept of resilience, including videos and brochures. Explore their rich site, which also includes research papers and arts projects.
Transition is a global network of local/regional groups working to build resiliency. While Transition began from the framework of preparing for a post-peak-oil world, the evolution of the movement has led to a wide range of local initiatives that foster local economies, social justice, increased renewable energy, and other projects that, like much in the Close to Home strategy, offer powerful contributions to any possible future scenario.
Other great resources
Resilient Communities is a project from the UK that shares some roots with the Transition Network. In the words of founder John Robb, a resilient community produces the food, energy, water, things, and incomes it needs locally.
Resilience Alliance A research organization comprised of scientists and practitioners from many disciplines who collaborate to explore the dynamics of social-ecological systems. Here you’ll find more of the academic soil from which creative community-building solutions are growing.
In early December, The Resilient Investor was featured in the Santa Fe New Mexican. We love that our first press came in the town where we all lived and met each other in earlier chapters of our lives! And thanks to Nate Downey for capturing the essence of what we’re up to in his piece, entitled Bounce Back Better, 2014 and Beyond. Here’s a taste:
The quick and easy read covers the complex subject of “investing” with clarity, structure, wisdom, and humor. It starts with the premise that the world, particularly the financial world, is in a significantly unpredictable state of potential discombobulation. Forget putting all of your eggs in a few baskets and thinking you’re done. “Resilient investors” use nine — count ’em nine — planning “zones” that make up the book’s Resilient Investing Map (RIM).