Have you ever stopped to think about how your financial decisions reflect your values and priorities? Aligning your money with your values can bring more purpose and fulfillment to your financial journey.
Many people work hard at mission-based companies, but then use a large bank and invest in companies in their workplace retirement plan that are actively working against what they spend their whole day working towards.
However, you can make conscious choices of where to invest your money in a way that supports the world you want to see. In fact, you can make smart money moves that not only put you ahead financially but also support your community.
So, where does your money sleep at night? A good first step is to assess what you own. Many people don’t self-identify as “investors,” but if you have money in a bank or a retirement account, that money is going to fund businesses that have an impact - whether it is one you agree with or not.
According to this report, from 2016 through 2020 the four largest banks alone have funded fossil fuel companies with $976 billion for projects including tar sands, oil fracking, arctic and offshore drilling. If that is not something you support, consider if your money is supporting it.
A great tool to look up your current bank, as well as other ones that might be more in line with your values, is Mighty Deposits. You can enter where you bank, and it will show how much of the bank's portfolio has been invested in low-income communities, small business lending, public works, housing, and more. You can even browse for banks that are women or POC-owed, or eco-friendly banks.
Another great tool to know what you own is Invest Your Values by As You Sow. This tool collects information on the 3000 top funds that are found in 401(k) and other US-based retirement accounts. You simply type in the name or ticker of the fund, and it will show you how that fund ranks against the issue areas that you care about like gender equality or fossil fuel, gun, weapons, tobacco, or prison exposure. For each fund, they calculate a fund score on that issue. Then, they rank funds against others with a similar investment profile, and apply a letter grade based on those group rankings. You can even look for options that align with your values by sorting and comparing to find funds that fit your investing needs.
In addition to what your money is invested in, there is the issue of who is investing the money. Finance is a male-dominated industry. Firms owned by women and minorities manage a mere 1.3% of the investment industry’s $69 trillion in assets. Luckily, you can support women and POC-run funds that are investing in diversity, sustainability, and social justice and make money while doing it.
One example is the Adasina Social Justice All Cap Global (ticker symbol JSTC), an ETF that allows investors to align their portfolios with social justice values. Adasina is a Black-owned company that, as they say, use “community-sourced impact data to set the standards for how publicly traded companies participate in gender, racial, economic, and climate justice.”
Another example is Nia Global Solutions (ticker symbol NIAGX), which is a women-led mutual fund that invests in companies that contribute towards advancements in the areas of diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and social justice.
Maybe you want to align your money with your values, but learning about investments is just not something you are passionate about. Some people don’t want to do it themselves and choose to outsource by hiring a financial advisor. ValuesAdvisor (full disclosure, my organization) and US SIF have good directories for finding an advisor that specializes in sustainable and impact investing.
Depending on your needs, financial advisors have different fee structures. You can pay someone a percent of your assets, pay someone a flat fee to create a financial plan, or hire someone by the hour. If you are just beginning to invest and only need help selecting your investments, a robo-advisor can be a good option.
It’s possible to invest your money, get a good return, and support causes that are important to you, like gender and racial equity, community building, and supporting the environment. Start by reflecting on your values: take some time to think about what matters most to you and how you want to use your money to support those things. Then, set some specific goals and a plan to get there. Maybe you want to change banks, speak to your workplace HR about adding a sustainable mutual fund to your 401k, or hire a financial advisor to help you invest for social and/or environmental impact. It is important to keep track of your progress, but also to be flexible. Remember that aligning your money with your values is a process, and it's okay to make adjustments along the way.
By following these tips, you can finally align your money with your values and start using your financial resources to support the things that matter most to you. Finance has purposely been made confusing to make the everyday person feel like they can’t understand it, but your money is a powerful tool that you do have control over. Aligning your financial choices with your personal values is an impactful way to make change.