Doing well by doing good...
Green Century Funds
Pax World Fund
Self Help Credit Union
Once you know that you are committed to investing with a conscience, how do you choose which investments are right for you? The key to a good financial plan is to know why you are investing (retirement, buying a home, taking an eco-tour next summer) and for how long. It is also important to know your risk tolerance--what kind of market ups and downs can you feel comfortable with. There are over 155 socially screened mutual funds you can turn to in order to meet your financial and social goals. And you can turn to a SRI financial professional for help in creating a financial plan that addresses your risk preferences, financial goals and social concerns. (Find one in your area on www.greenpages.org.)
What if you do not have a financial plan? What if you find that you are 55, nearing retirement, and cannot stomach the ups and downs of a fluctuating market? What if your aggressive approach has devalued your investments by 40%? Then it would seem fitting to seek out a financial professional for a kick in your assets. A guiding rule would be to "keep your investments balanced by distributing your money amongst many different types of assets" says Richard Torgenson, a registered principal with Progressive Asset Management in Randallstown, MD. "My regular mantra is diversification for long term or short term investments. Money has to go somewhere. If it's not going to the stock market, it's going to bonds, real estate, or foreign markets. Every one of these has been in trouble this year, but by diversifying, your account can grow as a whole, just as the overall economy has grown this year."
In order to help ensure the growth of your SRI portfolio, it becomes essential to take a look at your personal needs. A majority of women investors, for example, may need strategies that differ from those used by men. Most women are realizing that their investments must comprise a large portion of their retirement planning picture. Consider that only nine percent of women over age 40 receive (or expect to receive) an employer-provided retirement benefit, and the few who do receive a pension or other retirement benefits usually end up getting less than one third of the amount paid to their male colleagues.
According to Calvert Group pension consultant Joann Altmark, women planning for retirement can investigate IRA's as a way to save. What's more, IRA's can also be effective retirement vehicles for self-employed women.
Banking can also be part of your SRI strategy. You can choose community development banks and credit unions for your ordinary banking services. That way you know your checking and savings accounts are supporting affordable housing and small business development in economically distressed areas. (For examples, see the chart on socially responsible banks and credit unions.)
You can also find out if your current bank fits your criteria for responsible investing. Simply questioning the banks in your community is a powerful activist tool. In assessing your bank, take a look at where the branches are located. Are any in economically distressed areas? What are its policies for lending in economically distressed neighborhoods locally and in developing countries abroad? Ask to see your bank's Community Reinvestment Act Performance Evaluation. If you are not satisfied with the answers, seek out a community development bank or credit union.
For most socially concerned investors, SRI means earning the same rates as everyone else with many fewer moral or ethical compromises. Can you really do well in the marketplace and "do good" at the same time? From all available evidence, the answer seems to be that the socially concerned investor can, at the very least, do as well as anyone else.
Two SRI indexes, the Domini Social Index and the Citizens Index, comparable to the S&P's 500 index, show thatthese portfolios of socially screened companies perform as well as--or better than--the group of companies in the S&P 500. At the end of the second quarter of 1998, two of the best-known financial analytical services--Morningstar and Lipper--gave the highest possible marks to more than half of the socially responsible funds that were at least two years old and tracked by the Social Investment Forum.
With SRI, saving and investments can be even more than a nest egg that ensures your financial security. SRI can also help create a cleaner, more equitable and peaceful world.
Retiring Rich In a Better World:
Here's how much money to put away each month if you want to retire at 65 with $1 million nest egg. These calculations assume that you invest in a mutual fund that maintains the long term historic average of the stock market--10.95 percent--and that you don't take any money out of the fund until you reach 65.
If your age is:
Save this amount
In a Better World...
Choose socially responsible banks, money markets and mutual funds if you want to build personal security and help steer society toward a better future. The good news is that more than 80 percent of the social investment mutual funds tracked by the Social Investment Forum achieve the historic stock market average--or better. •
Green consumer • True Tales of Green Living
"Several years back, a good friend convinced me that I needed to start an automatic savings plan. But as a single mom, putting my son through private school on a public interest salary, I was pinching every penny four times. I couldn't figure out how to save even $10 more. Then I got a raise and saw a way. I asked our bookkeeper, who is also our benefits manager, to tell me what my take home pay would be after my raise. I immediately set up an automatic paycheck deduction to put the difference between my new paycheck and my old paycheck into my savings. I figured I could continue living at my old paycheck level, and save the rest. Now each paycheck, my savings automatically goes into an account at my bank. From there, once a quarter it automatically goes into a socially responsible mutual fund. It is truly automatic--I don't pay much attention to it at all and I don't miss the money since it never goes into my pocket in the first place. Just recently, I looked at the account totals. It knocked my socks off--I couldn't believe how much it had grown. So I pass this tip along: Put your next raise into your automatic savings plan, then stand back and watch it grow." -Denise Hamler, Washington D.C.