A rich greenie shares his secrets

Personal wealth and planetary health are not mutually exclusive, says Stuart Barry.


When you think of international finance, what sorts of people come to mind? I’m guessing captains of capital, currency speculators, hedge fund managers, computer nerds; maybe Lamborghini salesmen, fraudsters and money-launderers.

I bet you never thought of greenies, and nor would I until a few days ago. But a book to be launched this week proves the existence of at least one such person, living the dream here in Tasmania.

Stuart Barry says that there is a way to improve your finances while also helping the effort to stop climate change. The cheerful message of his new book, The Rich Greenie, is that the health of your personal finances and that of the whole planet are not mutually exclusive.

We shouldn’t accept such claims without question. Despite efforts to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions, the current wisdom is that a high level of growth is basically incompatible with mitigating our damaging impact on Earth’s climate.

It follows that in developed countries, a low-carbon economy will mean a somewhat more frugal existence than we enjoy today. That may not have much impact on me – I’m now in my later years – but it may be of concern to younger readers of The Rich Greenie.

But a more constrained economy is a good fit with what Barry is saying about personal finances. In the world he envisages, becoming secure financially is just part of a journey to improve the well-being of your family, your community, your country and your world.

His five-part formula for a better life is to understand how we can work shorter hours for a better financial return, avoid spending decisions that hurt us and our planet, spend to be rich in every way, use our money to change the world, and live a green and fulfilling retirement.

Barry’s own life is a good guide to what he advocates for the rest of us. When he left his home city of Melbourne in 1988 he set out to make his fortune, at first in Brisbane and Sydney, and then as a funds manager in the big-money centres of Hong Kong and Seoul.

He was well on his way to a stellar career in international finance when he took a break in 2003. He might have relaxed on a river cruise or sunbathed on a Mediterranean shore, but instead explored the back-roads of Europe – 10,000 km of them – on a bike.

Barry was taking the Himalayan air in Nepal when he met the girl of his dreams. She happened to be from Hobart, and persuaded him that this glorious backwater was the place to live. He married her and teamed up with local ethical investment adviser Bill Sharp before starting his own practice.

This hard-nosed international financier has made the most of the backwater. It gave him the breathing space to develop and apply his belief that achieving real financial security depends, like everything else, on a healthy biosphere.

The success of Scott Pape’s Barefoot Investor revealed the hunger of ordinary people for honest, down-to-earth advice on living modestly but well. The Rich Greenie expands on that idea. With step-by-step guidance on our changing financial choices as we pass through life, Barry makes a very convincing case that personal wealth and planetary health can happily co-exist.

The book will be launched at Fullers Bookshop, Hobart, at 5.30pm on Thursday, when Barry will be interviewed by GetUp founder Simon Sheikh.

Destiny day

SATURDAY will reveal who will govern Tasmania for the next four years – if it’s a majority government. Otherwise it will take a few weeks longer.

Since 2014, when we abolished the one national measure that actually curbed fossil fuel pollution – the carbon pricing scheme – federal climate policy has been utterly rudderless. South Australia and the ACT aside, no lower jurisdiction has made any real effort to plug that gap.

With its large hydro resource, Tasmania was well-placed to show other states how a vigorous abatement policy might work at a state level, but in government Will Hodgman signally failed to seize that moment. All he now promises is more of the same.

While Labor’s Rebecca White has more on offer, neither leader appears to grasp the primacy and urgency of strong climate policy. At no point in the campaign has there been any effective debate about climate, and a majority government will do nothing to sharpen that focus.

We already have a platform for good policies in the previous government’s 2013 strategic plan, Climate Smart Tasmania. Now, the best we can hope for is that one party or the other is pushed, post-election, into giving climate its rightful priority. That’s why I hope we get a hung parliament.

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