“Become a Banker, Save the World” – Feburary 20, 2011
Stewart H. Welch III, CFP, AEP
Founder, The Welch Group, LLC
Feburary 20, 2011
How would you like to become a banker and help save the world? It used to be that we thought of bank CEO’s as pretty smart people. But after the financial debacle of 2008 it became clear they were very smart about stock options and hitting bonus targets…but not so smart about the derivatives where they invested the bank’s money. The result was that the world was brought to the brink of financial implosion.
Well, today you can try your hand at banking for as little as $20 and help save the world one loan at a time. How? By investing through one of the many microfinance organizations all across the globe. Let’s begin by putting things in perspective. Here in America, many of us start our day with a $2 latte. However, there are billions of families whose daily income is not more than $2! The economic crisis that swept through America where millions of workers got laid off from their jobs also swept through virtually every other country. Literally billions of people are out of work with few prospects for rehiring. Many of these people are hard-working folks who want nothing more than to provide the basics for their family. Many are would-be entrepreneurs but with no access to traditional sources of lending. As a result, organizations have formed to fill the void by offering ‘micro’ loans…loans of $50 to several thousands of dollars. In all cases, the borrower’s are expected to repay the loans, typically with interest. Some organizations return your money without interest while others offer modest interest. I made a loan through MicroPlace, a micro bank owned by eBay. The interest rates paid to the investor on these types of loans are a modest 1%-3%. For me, it gives me the feeling of ‘seeing’ my money at work. While the default history for these loans are very favorable, you could lose part or all of your money.
I love the idea of helping someone launch or expand an entrepreneur enterprise where they can take control of their own destiny. If you’ve ever been an entrepreneur, you know the desire to succeed is very strong and instills a determined work ethic. Take 32-year-old single mom, Christina Guantero from the Philippines. She owns and operates a small grocery store and is seeking a $475 loan to allow her to expand into produce. These are the type of people who don’t mind hard work and who are driven by the desire to raise themselves out of poverty.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American donates to charity only $195. I believe this paltry figure is not because American’s have no heart for giving, but rather that they too are struggling to pay bills and save for retirement. Many would welcome an opportunity to ‘invest’ in the eradication of poverty around the world.