What is Social Investing?

Over the past few years, the concept of socially responsible investing has taken the financial world by storm. To put it simply, social investing is simply the combination of ones investing strategy with their social values in the attempt to create a portfolio that both provides sufficient returns while also backing companies the investor deems socially responsible.

It’s not just individual investors jumping on the bandwagon either, as several major endowments have joined the movement to do well and do good at the same time. It varies from investor to investor, but if this investment strategy interests you, there are a few important questions that you and your advisor will need to answer before setting your socially responsible investing goals.

First, you’ll have to decide what a socially responsible company looks like to you, a task far easier said than done. No two individuals will have the same definition of “good”, ranging from just avoiding stocks in weapons companies or big tobacco to targeting specific social issues and investing only in company’s contributing to that cause. Many firms also have multiple facets of their business, with one aspect appealing to the cause of one investor while another aspect completely turns off an investor. Every decision is morally gray, albeit some more than others, and it’s important to set your goals and beliefs on the table beforehand in order to make the best of your new strategy.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, while your causes and missions are an important part of this portfolio, returns are still a very important aspect as well. It’s important to not be too idealistic about socially responsible investing, tempering your expectations and goals to fit the socially responsible model that you and your advisor have discussed. The narrower your social focus, the harder it will be to diversify your portfolio and the more risk you run of not meeting your goals in the long term. It is possible to do good and do well, so if you are interested in socially responsible investing, sit down with your advisor and begin a dialogue about your goals to contribute to making a difference, both for the causes you support and for your personal financial success. 

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