How A Degree In Finance Changed My Views

When I went into finance I had a rough idea of what it was about, what I maybe wanted to do at the end, and how my life was going to progress. Unfortunately the more and more I learned within finance the less and less I liked it. I realised pretty on when I was learning about the ethics and morality of what was and wasn’t legal that perhaps, just maybe, a career in finance, and definitely a career in certain aspects of finance, was going to clash with my own personal morals.

See, I’ve always wanted to help other people, to help out those that were less fortunate than myself. I’ve never stood for unfairness, for bullying, for people being left out. Maybe I’m just a little bit soft, given that I did once get kicked out of class when I was about 7 for crying too much when the cat in Stuart Little told him that his family didn’t love him and didn’t care about him, then I think that may be the case.

However, the more and more I learnt about finance the more it seemed like it was making money by helping rich people get even richer, whilst giving little regard to those that don’t have much to start with. One of my stand out memories was when we were talking about tax. The thing is with tax is that there are ways to avoid paying as much tax which are perfectly legal, little loopholes you can use to make your bills smaller, but whether or not you agree with that comes down to your own personal morals.

However, if you work in tax and you’re being paid to help people out if they want you to legally reduce their bills can you refuse even if you don’t agree with it? I wasn’t too sure I wanted a career where compromising my own morals was part of what I wanted to spend my days doing. I mean there’s a reason we all pay tax right? Is it really fair that those with enough money can pay someone to make sure they have to pay less tax? I guess your opinion on that will all depend on how much money you make really, won’t it?

My favourite part of my whole four years was learning about social and environmental reporting, that is reporting on what a company is doing to help the environment, the people it employs all the way down the supply chain, and how they invest their money. In fact one of my dissertations looked into if socially responsible companies gave the same level of returns as those that weren’t as socially responsible.

One thing I learnt that I found fascinating, and slightly horrifying, was just how banks make the money that they use to make the interest rates they pay you. See banks make money by investing the money in projects around the world, and a lot of those investments aren’t always things that I personally agree with. Things like the arms trade, the tobacco industry, and some very non-environmentally friendly business, i.e. fracking or tar sands.

Some people may not care where their money comes from, or how the money they spend gets used, but I do. The worst part of it all is that at the moment anything that’s ethical has a much higher price tag. If you want to be able to be ethical ideally you need more money, but quite often those with money care less about ethics than they do about staying rich.

So now? Now I care less about earning money no matter the cost. Now I’m trying to go build a career in a field that’s primary focus is the environment, and if I can help other people out too? Well that’s just a bonus.

Sophie

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