Sept. 8, 2021

3. Investing in line with my personal values


Today’s letter is about Socially responsible investing...here’s the letter:

I'd like to invest more in line with my values. How can I do this?

I want to set expectations up top. It is difficult to find publicly traded corporations who are not harmful to our society. So, more often than not, this conversation of socially responsible investing is actually about eliminating a few companies that investors find to be the most egregious, according to a very narrow set of criteria. 

This is probably the easiest way to dip your toe into investing according to your values.  Popular companies to exclude are fossil fuel companies, for example. And in fact, when you look at the ESG funds, they have all the usual companies you’d see in traditional mutual funds. You’ll find Amazon and Google and Microsoft. The slight difference you’ll find in an ESG fund is that they are probably not including gun manufacturers and retailers for example.

The other thing you can do is to actively look for investments that do line up with your values. So now we’re talking about adding in certain companies.  If you’ve never really sat down to identify what your values are, when it comes to the kinds of companies you might want to choose or avoid, there’s a one page pdf tool you can request by emailing the show at spenddonateinvest@gmail.com

If you're busy and don't mind a completely untailored approach, consider investing in funds that have already been put together. 

If you have a little more time, skip the ready-made funds and compare ESG risk scores at sites like Sustainalytics, Yahoo! Finance, and MSCI to pick individual stocks yourself. 

By now, you're probably starting to see the limitations of ESG ratings. Asking some dude on Wall Street to pick a bunch of socially responsible stocks is like asking a stranger to make you something delicious. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to be on the same page about what constitutes a socially responsible company. Looking at some of the bundles of socially responsible mutual funds and ETFs, I saw lots of companies that do not have good track records in terms of how they have treated working class people, immigrants, women, Black people, and other oppressed groups.

That's why the most tailored approach is to read the annual reports of the companies you're interested in to find out how they operate. It's still not a perfect method, because businesses lie, or their harms may be created indirectly through outsourcing partners, etc, but this is still a step above relying on the ESG ratings or investing in funds that someone else put together based on their sense of what "socially responsible" means.

And there’s one thing to keep in mind that critics of ESG funds often bring up. The fees are higher than other types of funds. The more actively managed a fund is, the higher the fee.

Links:

Nerd Wallet article about the best ESG funds https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/investing/best-esg-funds

Two Cents video about ESG funds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwNAS8b4QQk&list=PLEXiy5qiBZFvMordIzn1pANU048CLBfO9&index=2&t=1s 

The Plain Bagel on ESG funds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0jdjisttys&list=PLEXiy5qiBZFvMordIzn1pANU048CLBfO9&index=3&t=5s 

To submit your letter to the show, email spenddonateinvest@gmail.com

To support the show visit buymeacoffee.com/spenddonate

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/spenddonate)
Transcript

Today’s letter is about Socially responsible investing...here’s the letter:

I'd like to invest more in line with my values. How can I do this?

I want to set expectations up top. It is difficult to find publicly traded corporations who are not harmful to our society. So, more often than not, this conversation of socially responsible investing is actually about eliminating a few companies that investors find to be the most egregious, according to a very narrow set of criteria. 

This is probably the easiest way to dip your toe into investing according to your values.  Popular companies to exclude are fossil fuel companies, for example. And in fact, when you look at the ESG funds, they have all the usual companies you’d see in traditional mutual funds. You’ll find Amazon and Google and Microsoft. The slight difference you’ll find in an ESG fund is that they are probably not including gun manufacturers and retailers for example.

The other thing you can do is to actively look for investments that do line up with your values. So now we’re talking about adding in certain companies.  If you’ve never really sat down to identify what your values are, when it comes to the kinds of companies you might want to choose or avoid, there’s a one page pdf tool you can request by emailing the show at spenddonateinvest@gmail.com

If you're busy and don't mind a completely untailored approach, consider investing in funds that have already been put together. 

If you have a little more time, skip the ready-made funds and compare ESG risk scores at sites like Sustainalytics, Yahoo! Finance, and MSCI to pick individual stocks yourself. 

By now, you're probably starting to see the limitations of ESG ratings. Asking some dude on Wall Street to pick a bunch of socially responsible stocks is like asking a stranger to make you something delicious. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to be on the same page about what constitutes a socially responsible company. Looking at some of the bundles of socially responsible mutual funds and ETFs, I saw lots of companies that do not have good track records in terms of how they have treated working class people, immigrants, women, Black people, and other oppressed groups.

That's why the most tailored approach is to read the annual reports of the companies you're interested in to find out how they operate. It's still not a perfect method, because businesses lie, or their harms may be created indirectly through outsourcing partners, etc, but this is still a step above relying on the ESG ratings or investing in funds that someone else put together based on their sense of what "socially responsible" means.

And there’s one thing to keep in mind that critics of ESG funds often bring up. The fees are higher than other types of funds. The more actively managed a fund is, the higher the fee.

Links:
Nerd Wallet article about the best ESG funds https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/investing/best-esg-funds

Two Cents video about ESG funds:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwNAS8b4QQk&list=PLEXiy5qiBZFvMordIzn1pANU048CLBfO9&index=2&t=1s 

The Plain Bagel on ESG funds:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0jdjisttys&list=PLEXiy5qiBZFvMordIzn1pANU048CLBfO9&index=3&t=5s 

To submit your letter to the show, email spenddonateinvest@gmail.com
To support the show visit buymeacoffee.com/spenddonate