Financial Planning Goes Green

While the art of acquiring money can be reduced to hard work and good luck, handling it once you have it is infinitely more complex. How much to spend? How much to invest? Should you buy stocks? Bonds? CDs? Mutual funds? Issues of personal finance are complicated enough on their own, but for the environmentalist seeking not only to guarantee security, but to avoid funding natural catastrophes, they’re even trickier.

Fortunately, these difficult issues have already been tackled by conscientious investors, entrepreneurs and economic experts. Now available is a library of books, magazines and websites that demonstrate how money can be managed effectively—while simultaneously steering corporations away from destructive practices and onto ecologically and socially benign paths.

A Single Step

Marshall Glickman’s The Mindful Money Guide: Creating Harmony Between Your Values and Your Finances (Ballantine Wellspring, $13) is a great place to begin a holistic journey to responsible money management. Glickman warms up with lively philosophical discussion about finance and an individual’s environmental and social responsibility. He then shares practical lessons on spending, earning, investing, saving and donating money in ways that will make a positive impact.

For those testing the waters of socially responsible investing (SRI), Co-op America offers a great primer that’s neatly organized and easily referenced. Its Financial Planning Handbook (free with $15 Co-op membership) includes 10 easy steps to start investing responsibly, a directory of SRI services, financial planning worksheets, and other easy-to-use tools.

If you want a more in-depth look, Investing With Your Values: Making Money and Making a Difference, by Hal Brill, Jack Brill and Cliff Feigenbaum, is a must-read (Bloomberg Press, $23.95). Tracey Rembert of Co-op America’s Shareholder Action Program says the book “very clearly articulates different components of socially responsible investing, explores challenges and concerns people have, and presents a really entertaining, interesting read.”

Timely advice on saving, purchasing and investing, including profiles of hot stocks and recent mutual fund performance charts updated quarterly, can be found in Co-op’s Real Money newsletter. Each issue features tips on investing in the stock market, buying mutual funds and developing a retirement portfolio. The journal also goes beyond investing to include financial topics from choosing a credit card to ideas for inexpensive dates.

Another resource for responsible consumers and investors is The GreenMoney Journal ($35/year). In each quarterly issue, the Journal profiles companies and institutions seeking creative environmental solutions. It also offers current news in the SRI industry, gives a calendar of events and reviews the performance of socially responsible mutual funds.

For a more active role in tracking investments, websites offer the advantage of daily updates. One helpful site, the Social Investment Forum at www.socialinvest.org, gives a solid introduction to SRI, while keeping tabs on recent trends in the field with periodic news releases, research reports and links to other sites.

For thorough, up-to-the minute coverage of the industry, however, www.socialfunds.com is unmatched. The site features a rolling stock ticker listing the closing prices of SRI funds each day. Socialfunds.com has daily news about SRI as well as community banking and shareholder activism updates. The site also offers advice on finding investment professionals and getting involved in microcredit.

In the corporate world, entrepreneurs stay competitive by responding to the concerns of the public. In The E Factor: The Bottom Line Approach to Environmentally Responsible Business (Times Books, $23), Joel Makower explores the relationship between business and the environment and shows how improved profits can coincide with environmental responsibility.

The bimonthly Business Ethics ($49/year) will keep entrepreneurs, employees and investors abreast of evolving social issues in the rapidly changing business world. Recent issues include reports on the best corporate citizens, MBA programs for environmental and social responsibility and social investing awards.

For people already with very significant net worth, the quarterly journal More Than Money ($35/year) delves into the personal, political and spiritual impact of wealth. More Than Money is targeted at topics like choosing a financial manager and making charitable contributions.

If aligning your personal finances to your environmental values seems insurmountable, don’t despair: good guides exist to lead you through the investment jungle.