Sustainable living is more than just a buzzword these days; it has impacted our lives from the products we consume to the food we eat, helping us find balance in our lives, both physically and mentally.

So why not apply this concept to the way we invest our money as well? Enter—socially responsible investing.

Every dollar we spend gives us the ability to make a change in the world and as investors, we are at the forefront of creating a lasting impact. This can be done through Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) which gives us the ability to grow our money while investing in causes we care about.

Investing in clean energy The Star

What is Socially Responsible Investing?

Socially Responsible Investing is when investors consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors when choosing where to put their money. This means choosing businesses that are ethically sound and align with the core values of the investor. SRI also means avoiding industries that have a negative impact on the environment, such as alcohol, tobacco, fast food or fossil fuel production.

The most important ESG factors vary by investor. Some may care most about the size of a company's carbon footprint while others might prioritize fair treatment of employees and ethical practices in the workplace. SRI has become incredibly popular in recent years and The Bank of America estimates that there will be a $20 million flow in this type of investing over the next two decades.

Different ways to invest in SRIs

Socially responsible investing is entirely dependent on what the investor wants to support through his/her investment strategy—be it climate change or workplace equality. Hence, there is no one size fits all approach to this type of investing. Here are a few ways to invest more intentionally:

Mutual Funds

Mutual funds are known to be safe bets for many investors, and they are popular among socially responsible investors as well. There are more than 200 socially responsible mutual funds on the US SIF website for investors to choose from. You can find data on the financial performance of a stock along with information on how the company in question contributes towards a greater social impact.

SRI mutual funds focus on three main areas:

1. Environmental, Social and Governance funds—or ESG for short—are funds invested in industries that have adopted ethical practices. The company's material impact is taken into consideration along with its financial performance.

2. Impact funds—While ESG funds place equal importance on both impact and financial performance of a stock, Impact funds aim to put social impact first. These funds invest in companies that create societal change but may not offer the best financial return. They're good choices for investors who prioritize their social intentions over financial gain.

3. Faith funds—These funds invest in stocks of companies whose values are based on the Christian, Catholic or Islamic faith. Companies that don't fall under this category are excluded.

Alternative Investments

Socially Responsible Investing isn't just limited to mutual funds; other investment assets are getting into the SRI game as well. Alternative investment options for ethical investors include property funds and hedge funds which are said to be a $588 billion industry today. Investors who opt for this type of security have over 780 alternative investment funds to choose from.

What is socially responsible investing? Capital.com

Advantages of SRI funds

People who take the socially responsible investment approach usually tend to go all in. This means that their portfolios only include stocks of companies that are socially and ethically responsible. Here are the benefits of adopting such a strategy:

1. Stick to your values

All our actions and reactions are based on a core set of values that we follow. Socially responsible investing lets us apply this principle to our investment strategy as well. Investing intentionally through SRIs allows you to do more than just discuss social issues; you have the ability to use your money to take action for what you believe in.

2. Invest and let go

Most financial assets we invest in require micromanagement—either by us or a financial advisor. SRI funds, however, are designed to be low risk, allowing you (the investor) to adopt a hands-off approach. You can use your time to focus on riskier assets in your portfolio.

Disadvantages of SRI funds

While SRI funds may seem like a great addition to your portfolio, they do have drawbacks as well. These include:

1. Financial performance takes a backseat

Socially responsible investing allows you to invest in causes that you care about, but very often a strong focus on a company's ethical practices means that financial performance can take a backseat. Studies done on SRIs at different time periods showed that they underperformed in comparison to other stocks. Hence, when picking SRI stocks, it is important that you don't deviate from your financial goals.

2. A marketing gimmick

Although climate change and the carbon footprint are growing concerns, it is also important to remember that we live in a society where profits trump social ethics. Companies that claim to be ethical or socially responsible may be using corporate partnerships to improve their position in the market. In many cases, the illusion of social responsibility is simply a marketing gimmick to earn greater profits. The sad reality is that businesses who promote eco-friendly practices may be the perpetrators of an environmental scandal. A great example of this is when Volkswagen deliberately claimed they would design a system to reduce carbon emissions in order to gain an edge over their competitors; meanwhile, the company's production plant was actually poisoning the planet.

Is SRI the right fit for you?

Millennials and Gen Z are at the forefront of using socially responsible investing to create a lasting impact with their finances. This in no way means that SRIs are a fad that will eventually pass—in fact, they are here to stay. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of investments in SRIs grew by 38 percent. In the world of investing where making money has become the main goal, socially responsible investing allows you to earn an income while promoting change.

At the same time, this investment strategy may not be for everyone. In certain situations, investors should be willing to forgo extra income in favor of supporting a social cause. This trade-off is something that needs to be considered before investing with this approach. However, if you put in the time and effort, it is possible to find stocks that meet both your social and financial goals. Striking that perfect balance can help you feel secure, knowing that your finances are put towards a worthy cause!

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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