Archive for the ‘SRI’ Tag

Passing On the Best Gift I Ever Received   1 comment

What do I consider to be the best gift I’ve ever been given? The gift of college, fully paid by my parents (well I did have a small scholarship). Especially in today’s world I am incredibly grateful to have been able to go to the university of my choice, focus on my classes without needing to work during the school year, and get a college degree without having a loan to pay off afterwards. This is a gift that I really, really, really want to be able to pass on to my children as well. My parents did this using savings in bank accounts and CDs. We’re going to add another investment option to our arsenal: a 529 plan. Years ago when I first heard about 529 plans I didn’t think they were that great because I thought it meant you were picking the state where your kids would have to go to school. Having been given the choice to go anywhere in the country, except for schools located in-state or near home, I couldn’t imagine setting that kind of limitation for my kids. But when I realized that the invested money can be used for qualifying education expenses anywhere, I changed my tune.

To be honest, we’re not fully taking advantage of all the potential benefits of a 529 plan. Really the only benefits we’re taking advantage of are the tax-exempt nature of the distributions and the hopefully higher rate of return than a simple savings account or CD. Depending on the state there are other benefits available (I think typically only to residents) like tax deductions. This will seem kind of random, however, but we’re not enrolling in the California 529 plan, or the New Mexico 529 plan. We’ve enrolled in the DC 529 plan. It’s because SRI (socially responsible investing) is very important to me, and the DC plan is the only one (as far as I know) that is managed by an investment firm dedicated to SRI, Calvert. My Roth IRA is through Calvert and I really like the work that they do. TIAA-CREF, the plan manager for California ScholarShare, has some SRI funds but I don’t know that those funds would be part of the 529 plan. I don’t know if Oppenheimer, the plan manager for The Education Plan (NM) has SRI funds. By investing through the plan managed by Calvert I can rest assured that all of the funds in the plan are SRI funds. And I know that I am comfortable with the positive and negative screens that the company uses, and with the shareholder activism in which they engage.

Now we just have to manage to put enough money into savings in the next 18 years to be able to pay for whatever college will cost in 2030.

Posted October 17, 2012 by mayakey in conscious living, money, pregnancy

Tagged with ,

Marketing In Social Media/Blogosphere   Leave a comment

This is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately for some reason. Generally speaking, I ignore advertisements. In fact, I’m a perverse person who is more likely to avoid a product that I have seen advertised on TV than go out and buy it. This started early, with my subscription to Consumer Reports for Kids back when I was a kid. One of the major foci of the magazine was teaching kids to be critical observers of ads, and not snookered by every slick saying. I took the lesson to heart. Plus I seem to remember my parents discouraging logo t-shirts as just free advertising for a company. So something has to be really important to me before I’m willing to tout a shirt/bag/whatever with a logo. Looking in my closet and drawers I see logos for my alma mater, the University of Michigan, and that’s it. (Although some of them have small sponsorship logos on them). As of last week, however, there’s a new one. Calvert has started a new campaign called the “Too Big To Fail” campaign, and I was immediately captivated. So I was willing to take a photo, have it uploaded to Facebook with me tagged, and liked Calvert on Facebook for the t-shirt saying “Too Big To Fail” under a giant graphic of the earth.

This makes Calvert only the second company to make it into my “interests” on Facebook. Now I’m not sure what I want to do about it. I do like Calvert, which is a good thing since my IRA is with them and we plan to open a Washington DC 529 plan since that’s the one they manage. Social investing is really important to me. But am I willing to be free advertising for them? Not sure. On my website I have a short list of online retailers that I like. I put it there because I used to get asked a lot where I go to buy organic clothing, etc. I had forgotten about the list but now I think I’m going to take it down because, again, I’m not sure I’m willing to be free advertising for them.

On the other hand, is it really a compromise of my values to promote companies that align with my values? I can walk around in jeans all day every day without anyone realizing that they are organic cotton and entirely made-in-America, so just buying the jeans doesn’t help expand the LOHAS market base much. But, adding a third hand here, promoting a company doesn’t necessarily improve awareness of an issue, which in the  case of the jeans would be intense pesticide use on cotton and sweatshop labor. That’s theoretically what this blog is for (among the hundreds of similar blogs out there).

All this just to decide if I should “like” the companies that I purchase from on Facebook. I think I think too much! What do you think? 🙂

Posted November 18, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, money, musings, shopping

Tagged with , ,

SRI Is Not All Negative   Leave a comment

I recently read a magazine article that mentioned and dismissed SRI on the grounds that negative screens aren’t a good tool for finding good investments (in all senses of the word). I am so sick of seeing and hearing SRI dismissed as useless because people only think it involves negative screening! Or I’ll have someone tell me that SRI funds invest in Wal-Mart (or whatever), proving that they’re no different from any other fund. Yes, they do invest in Wal-Mart (or whatever), so that they can engage in shareholder activism.

For those not familiar with the terms, SRI means socially responsible investing or sustainable & responsible investing.  It is essentially based on the theory that companies that do good (or don’t do bad), do well financially in the long term. It is also based on the theory that as part-owners, investors have a responsibility to push companies in a positive direction. This usually revolves around social, environmental, and corporate governance issues. There are three basic strategies to SRI: negative screens, positive screens, and shareholder advocacy.

Negative screening means excluding companies that do not meet a specific criteria. For example, there are funds that exclude companies involved in tobacco or weapons manufacture. Or divestment strategies like the one used to help bring about the end of apartheid in South Africa, where investors stopped investing in companies that supported the apartheid.

Positive screening means including only companies that meet specific criteria. For example, investing only in companies that have effective pollution prevention programs or that have good health and safety track records. Some funds invest only in companies involved in renewable energy, or companies demonstrating gender equality around the world.

Shareholder advocacy means using the power of part-ownership to push for change. Shareholders can introduce and vote on shareholder resolutions. I’m not well versed in the rules for such things, but apparently if a shareholder resolution wins as little as 10-20% of the vote that is usually enough to cause the company’s management to address the issue. Shareholder resolutions can be about things like preparing a greenhouse gas inventory, limiting executive compensation, or promoting diversity.

Personally, I just invest in a couple of funds that use SRI strategies since I’m not comfortable getting into individual stock investments with my limited knowledge (and time). There are lots of options, and you don’t have to sacrifice financial returns. The green fund in my retirement plan at work is recovering from the recession more strongly than the other funds in the plan. It really is possible to have your cake and eat it too. Check out the Social Investment Forum for more info.

Posted November 24, 2010 by mayakey in advocacy, conscious living, money

Tagged with