Green Money: Put Your Money Where Your Values Are

Check out great advice on making investments that align with your eco-friendly values and find a socially responsible IRA in which to invest.

| March/April 2005

The Good, the Bad, & The Green

Q: When my father passed away last year, I inherited more money than I’ve ever had to deal with. I felt totally unprepared to handle the responsibilities that go along with managing investments, so I just left the account with his stockbroker. Now that I’ve started looking at my statements, however, I see that I’m invested in a slew of companies that are damaging the earth. I asked my ­broker if I could move out of those companies, but he said there isn’t really any way to sort out good companies from the bad, so I might as well keep my investments where they are. Is he right?

St. Paul, Minnesota

A: Your broker probably has your best interests in mind, but he’s woefully uninformed about the choices available to you. There’s now a vast array of financially sound, values-based investments that will earn competitive returns and align much more closely with your environmental and social views. In fact, according to the Social Investment Forum, more than $2 trillion in the United States is invested using social criteria.

This is not merely a niche started by aging hippies and tree huggers. Way back in the 1920s, religious investors launched the Pioneer Fund. These conservative investors avoided alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and firearms in their personal lives, so they decided these industries didn’t belong in their investment portfolios either. The fund now has a seven-decade track record of strong, consistent performance.

Today, the trail blazed by religious investors has grown into a vast global network that has expanded well beyond these original “sins.” The environment and corporate responsibility are among the current hot topics. This movement goes by various names. Socially responsible investing, or SRI, is the most common handle in the United States. We like to call it “natural investing” because it’s natural for people to want their money to be on the same ethical track as their lives. It doesn’t make much sense to work for a healthy environment while your money supports companies that are tearing up the planet!

If your broker isn’t willing to do the work for you, take the first steps toward natural investing on your own. Start learning about the many ways that people use their heads and their hearts to invest wisely for their future. Here are some resources to get you started:

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