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Hi all! After starting my first job and setting up my 401K, I'm feeling concerned about where that money is being invested and whether it might be having a harmful impact. I'm not sure I have a lot of transparency on where it's being directed to (it's currently in a kind of "blended fund" and I haven't had/taken the time yet to dig into this more). So, I'm wondering: has anyone thought much about this?

One initial consideration that comes to mind: The money gained from investing in this way could hopefully offer me more money to effectively donate later in life or additional career flexibility. This career flexibility could lead me to spend more time on impactful work. However, this would be later in life, possibly past the point when I'd be most likely to do my highest impact work. Also, the possibility of value drift reduces the expected value of both possibilities (though I'm not sure by how much).




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No, investing is not generally considered harmful; instead the effects of investing are probably slightly positive-sum (by slightly increasing long-run economic growth of the whole world). Positive or negative, though, the impact per dollar invested is extremely small compared to the impact per dollar of EA donations. So the logic of investing now to give later (or "patient philanthropy" as it is sometimes called) is sound, and depends much more on "should I give less now or more later" than any worries about the morality of investment.

This 80K article does a good job illustrating the huge extent to which the impact of EA donations dwarf even cartoonishly worst-case assumptions about potential evils of the financial system: https://80000hours.org/2013/07/show-me-the-harm/

Lots of other info can be found on the forum under tags for "socially responsible investing", "patient philanthropy", and others.

Socially responsible investing (e.g., divesting from certain companies for the purpose of social impact) is somewhat better than regular investing, but not by much: see Founders Pledge’s “Impact investing is only a good idea in specific circumstances”. So I wouldn’t worry about doing regular investing instead of socially responsible investing, if you plan on donating your earnings.

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