Holberg Financial Blog

Defining Financial Justice. What is it?

Posted by holbergfinancial on February 8, 2018

What is "Financial Justice"?

It's certainly a new term, yes, but it is more than that - it's a way of conceptualizing and bringing together the various ideas surrounding justice, empowerment, information, and equality that are desperately missing from the financial world.

Right now, hundreds of millions of Americans are not only living paycheck-to-paycheck, but a full 85% are financially stressed, worried, and anxious about their finances.

We have to come up with a way to talk about this in a more comprehensive way as a country and as such, I have written a short book, of which a short exerpt defining Financial Justice is shared below. 

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The book is called "A Brief Discourse on the Definition and Tenets of Financial Justice" and it's my hope that we can sieze the multi-trillion dollar opportunity to create a more financially just country by starting to explore the various opportunities that I've identified.

By the way...100% of the proceeds from book sales on Amazon will be donated to charity in the month of February - woohoo!

 

Enjoy, 

Joe Holberg


The Following is an excerpt from the short book "A Brief Discourse on the Definition and Tenets of Financial Justice" which can also be found on Amazon.

Financial Justice (n): the equal and fair ability for all individuals in society to pursue a financially independent, secure, and healthy life.

In analyzing each part of the definition, we first turn to the clause “equal and fair ability” insofar as the level of equality needs to be extended ubiquitously across multiple dimensions, including, but not limited to geography, socioeconomic status, gender, race, age, creed, and any other variable that is known to be protected under common law and to those that are reasonable extensions that are not yet codified. The fairness mentioned simply means that we cannot adhere to systems or practices that unfairly exploit, take advantage of, or knowingly or unknowingly capitalize on different individuals or groups of people. Currently, there is a deep-seated level of unfairness and inequality built into our financial constructs where legitimate, barely legitimate, and illegitimate actors alike utilize unfairness and an unequal application of their practices to continue to gain.

 

Turning to the next clause, “for all individuals in society to pursue,” I will clarify that this is not an economic argument for any system such as collectivism, shared wealth nor is it for the promotion of anything akin to socialism or communism - these ideas have vast flaws and are contrary to the capitalism that drives America forward. It is not an argument for redistribution of wealth, nor is it for a Robinhood approach to taxation, necessarily (although a greater degree of taxation on the wealthiest in society would certainly tend, at this point, to represent more equality and fairness in our system). The centrality lies in the verb “to pursue” in that each person should have the reasonable expectation that they can pursue with as much fervor, hope, and ambition as anyone else - just as we notably pursue happiness, as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Primarily, individuals should not be hampered nor promoted because of certain traits or circumstances that are beyond their control. Only those that are in direct proportion to aspects they in fact do control should determine the outcome. Essentially, in pursuing, one should be able to attain, if in fact we have created a more meritocratic system.

 

Finally, in looking at “financially independent, secure, and healthy life,” it is to say that each of these should be the outcomes for one who pursues fervently and arduously. It does not promise riches, it does not guarantee wealth, nor does it insure against the pitfalls of life, but rather it promises that the pathway is both equal and fair to all those that pursue these outcomes. In being independent, I mean to imply that one has a great degree of choice in their financial circumstances insofar as the choices made are those made independently of financial pressures or limitations. This warrants an example. An independent individual will be able to choose whether or not they want a mortgage. Now, they may not be able to purchase a home with cash, per se, but having the choice to continue to rent versus obtain a mortgage represents a level of financial independence and therefore choice, that is allowing them to pursue life. Of note, independence should not be conflated with the idea of being debt-free. A great amount of independence and choice can and will be had while simultaneously holding debt and to think otherwise is ignorant. However, extending the example, if said individual faces an extortionary rent environment while being offered a disadvantageous, costly mortgage, then this person is not only subjected to unfairness and inequality, but has had their financial independence impugned. What about all of those renters who wish to own a home? Are they not less independent because they cannot buy a home? Not necessarily, if they cannot afford it now, then they can save for the future. If they are unable to save because they haven’t learned how to save well, the onus for improvement is on them and they still have a level of financial independence in the absence of home ownership, for example. However, if they are systematically unable to save because they have not the income or the mandatory expenses are too high, then they have not an appropriate level of financial independence as they do not have the choice to save. Admittedly, this is tenuous ground as parsing out mandatory expenses and determining how much savings is possible given income, does not have a clear cut answer and is subject to debate and to individual circumstances.

 

In turning to security, every individual should have a level of surety in their lives that allows them to handle to vicissitudes and mercurial nature in life. Security allows an individual to whether a financial rainstorm. Security manifests itself in a variety of ways, but can generally be encapsulated by one’s ability to rise and meet the unexpected financial events in life. Most commonly, this is referred to as an Emergency Fund or Rainy Day Fund and it has time-tested merit as being able to cover unexpected events is one of the hallmarks of financial security that millions of Americans have not yet achieved. Abstaining from a detailed analysis of what in fact financial security entails, it will suffice to say that financial security is that which allows one to be prepared for and handle both the expected and unexpected events (financial and otherwise) that crop up across time.

 

Finally, in looking at health, we are tasked with creating a fair and equal ability for individuals to become financially robust and healthy. We cannot accept a level of financial anemia or frailness among those in society just as a doctor would not accept a course of non-treatment to those patients who had curable ailments. The health sought is one of improvement and betterment insofar as the individual is able to meet his or her financial goals over time should they prove reasonable and realistic. To deny people their goals because of an unfair and unequal system is appalling and should be rectified as quickly as possible. Health is also a multifaceted, holistic assessment insofar as it is not measured solely based on income, savings, or housing, per se, but it seeks to assess financial health along as many dimensions as is relevant to an individual and may include the above as well as many others. These dimensions, while many will be standard across time, are not fixed and there should be a fluidity of inclusion to make sure that health is measured as accurately as possible.

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