1. Examine your finances and make a financial plan.
Weigh your "income" against your "outgo" to determine how much you can save and invest every month. By setting long-and short-term goals you can more easily reach your financial objectives.
2. Review your retirement plan.
First, do you have a retirement plan? If not, there are many options for tax-free savings and you can begin immediately by checking with your employer or a financial advisor. If you already have a retirement plan, are you contributing the maximum possible amount? Finally, check with your financial advisor or your company's financial advisor about where your retirement funds are invested. If your company doesn't offer a social investment option, ask that one be included
3. If you already have investments, review them.
Read the prospectus from your mutual fund(s) and see if any socially or environmentally problematic companies or industries are mentioned in the prospectus. Consider changing mutual funds if you're not satisfied--or ask your mutual funds to include SRI criteria. As always, before making a new investment, read the prospectus carefully and check with your financial advisor if you have one. Make sure you understand any tax consequences of selling stocks or mutual funds.
4. Find socially responsible banking and credit card services.
Investigate your banks--what are they doing with your money? There are socially responsible banks that offer federally insured savings and checking accounts--with the added benefit of investing in their community. If you use a credit card, get one issued be a socially responsible bank. For more information, see the Social Investment Forum Directory at www.socialinvest.org.
5. Consult a financial advisor.
A financial advisor can help you make and achieve your financial plan. For help finding one in your area, check out the listings at www.greenpages.org.
6. Do your own investigating.
When you watch the news or read the paper, take note of companies that are violating your SRI criteria--or are the kinds of exemplary companies in which you may want to invest.
Excerpted from Co-op America's Financial Planning Handbook (1999 edition). The handbook is free with a Co-op America individual membership ($20/year) or business membership ($60/year). See the Resource List for how to join.
Part of January/February 2000 special advertising section.