You don't need to be Bill Gates or some other big-bucks investor to put your money where your convictions lie and make a difference in the world. "Socially responsible investing" can be as simple as choosing to do your day-to-day banking with a progressive bank (one that supports sustainable development, for instance) or using a credit union that offers green loans. Some offer lower-than-usual interest rates for new cars that average at least 25 miles per gallon.
Socially responsible investing is broadly defined as an investment strategy that takes into account social and environmental standards. It means investing in companies whose values you share. This can entail picking a financial adviser, money management firm or stock fund that includes environmentally minded businesses to manage your 401(k), or investing on your own in mutual funds, stocks and bonds that have a green mission. For example, you can invest in companies specializing in solar energy or wind power. But the concept of socially responsible investing goes beyond that, as well. You can donate appreciated stock to the charity of your choice and take the market value as a tax deduction, or name your favorite green organization as a benefactor in your will.
The point is this: You buy organic foods, avoid pesticides in the home, enjoy vacationing in the mountains and take countless actions to help improve the world, so why choose a retirement fund that invests in companies whose values run totally counter to yours? Chances are, your current retirement fund does (check its prospectus). Perhaps it invests in companies that mine mountains, manufacture pesticides or use greenhouse-gas-producing coal, among other issues.
The key is to be aware of your dollar power. Put it to work investing in businesses and causes that you approve of. Shun those you don't. Remember as a shareholder, even if you only own one share of stock, you can actively influence a company's policy by attending annual meetings, asking questions and voting on issues.
For more info:
* Find a credit union near you by going here: creditunion.coop/cu_locator/quickfind
* Can Socially Responsible Investing Make a Great Green Leap Forward? Find out at: emagazine.com/view/?1398
* See The Motley Fool's take on the socially responsible investing: tinyurl.com
* Check ratings of stocks and mutual funds at Morningstar.com
* Cautionary tale? The Gates Foundation's investments contravened its good works, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times: tinyurl.com/ymcnh9
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