Worth the Risk?
Written by Jason Boehm
Director at Larger | Fortify Foundation
You’ve done it, right? All of us have at one time or another rolled the dice. Taken a chance. Swung for the fences. Whether it was a speculative investment, a seemingly can’t miss stock, or that baseball card or Beanie Baby, we have all taken a risk on something that was bound to pay off big. Did it pay off for you? If the odds were long, probably not; and I’m guessing that if you lost some money, it still stings. I know it does for me.
Back in the mid-2000’s, when the real estate market was as hot as it is today, I borrowed some money and bought some vacant lots in a golf course community in a remote area of North Carolina. Borrowing on a non-income producing piece of land that few people could afford to build a house on as golf was beginning to wane in popularity just before a financial crisis was the recipe for “what could go wrong here?” Needless to say, I lost some money on that “investment”, and it still stings.
If you are like me and have lost a sizeable sum after taking a risk, you are probably a little gun-shy to invest again. It took me years to disassociate investment with the likelihood of loss. Fast forward about 10 years. I was contemplating starting my own business but had a hard time mustering the courage. In fact, I began equating risk-taking as kin to greed and foolishness (like cleanliness is next to godliness). But then, providentially, my pastor preached from Ecclesiastes 11:1, which says, “Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.” Just as in the parable of the talents, God doesn’t intend for us to bury what he has given us, but rather to cast it on the waters and see what it produces. Remember who gives the increase?
But what about that speculative investment that lost money? If I’m being transparent, when I made that failed investment, I had not taken the time nor made the effort to understand the risk, my intent was to make a quick profit, and I doubled my foolishness by borrowing money to do it. My investment was a gamble. I didn’t cast my bread on the water; I threw a Hail Mary.
So how can a Christian glorify God by making wise investments?
1. Understand the risks and associated returns. Jesus, when compelling men to consider giving up earthly possessions to follow him, said, “Which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it” (Luke 14:28). The principle is the same for investing. Do you have the means to invest? Do you understand that in which you are investing, and have you calculated the return expectations? Do those returns match the risk involved?
2. Be patient. In the parable of the talents, the master returned “after a long time” (Matthew 25:19). Sometimes investments take years to produce gains. An investment advisor reminded me recently that the stock market has recovered from 100% of its worst declines.
3. Diversify your investments. In Ecclesiastes 11:2, immediately following the bread casting verse, Solomon recommends that you “divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.” Diversification spreads risk.
4. Seek professional help. Proverbs 11:14b states it clearly: “in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.” I imagine I might have avoided a bad investment if I had sought advice on my speculative land play.
5. Ask God for wisdom. As believers, we have the ultimate advisor. The One who knows all things, the end from the beginning, already knows to the third decimal what every ROI will be for every investment that you or I will ever make. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
6. Don’t give in to fear. Remember Ecclesiastes 11:1 and cast your bread on the water. God may return a gain, or He may return a loss, but you miss every shot you don’t take. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear…” (II Timothy 1:7a).
When considering whether it makes sense for you, your business, or your organization to establish or contribute to an endowment to help Christian schools fulfill their mission, keep in mind that Fortify Foundation:
1. Uses predetermined investment criteria to guide their investment decisions. The risks and returns associated with all investments have been categorized, rated, evaluated, and chosen based on industry standards and historical performance.
2. Has the long view in mind. Endowments are being established now with the intent of being around when Jesus returns, whether that is next year or ten thousand years from now.
3. Rebalances investments periodically to ensure diversification.
4. Uses independent, certified, trained, experienced investment professionals to guide the portfolio’s investments.
5. Prayerfully considers all decisions with the understanding that we are all just stewards of what God has given us, and that our goal in everything is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
6. Humbly, but confidently, seeks to actively support Christian education without fear.
Jason Boehm is a trusted board member of Fortify Foundation as well as CEO and Founder of Aileron Management. Jason has over 12 years of experience in the hospitality industry and is a seasoned veteran in hotel operations and real estate. Jason’s other hospitality industry roles included periods as Corporate Controller and VP Finance, where he oversaw accounting, finance, investor and lender relations, financial analysis, reporting, and risk management for the company. Jason is a licensed Certified Public Accountant (South Carolina) and serves on various committees and boards.