Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More Than A Vote

2012 is an election year and as such we will be hearing a lot about the importance of voting. It is both a great privilege and a responsibility. It may seem like a burden at times, the waiting in lines or listening to all the ads, but most of us wade through these inconveniences and make the effort to support  our candidates of choice.
However, I think we have another powerful tool, perhaps  even more powerful, that we need to research.
Namely, how we invest our money. Now it is commonly discussed that we do well to buy certain products and support certain businesses for various reasons. Such as, one might say--I buy from the local hardware
store rather than Lowes, because even though it costs a bit more I want to support my towns independent hardware store than a huge mega-corporation.  The same could be said for a small hamburger stand as opposed to McDonalds. This is of course important and effective, as is voting in elections. But there is another avenue a little less obvious.  Many of us, (hopefully most of us)  have some sort of retirement plan.
Many people own stocks, bonds  or have money invested in Mutual Funds.  How many of us research those
companies to see exactly what we are financially supporting? We should be doing this!  At least as much, if not more so, than we scrutinize our political candidates! For example--Are the companies I invest in environmentally friendly?  Organic foods, biodegradable chemicals/pesticides, hormone-free meats and milk,
Do my investments favor renewable energy or "green" companies? Solar panel, hybrid cars, recyclables.
What about the size of the company? I want my money to be in local and regional industries where the major portion of labor and production is in the USA.  We need to be "loaning" our funds to manufactures  that are compliant with pollution and safety regulations domestically and abroad.  Furthermore, we each have our perspective of what we feel is ethical or moral, and our stock portfolio should reflect this. Are you against abortion? Then don't invest in medical companies that produce those drugs. Do you believe in Gay rights?
Then consider supporting companies that offer health-care benefits to gay partners. Yes, there really are some!  My personal pet-peeve is Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc.  They manufacture Suboxone which I think is one of the biggest abominations the medical community has foisted on the public in decades. I do not want my Mutual Fund to include it!  It is ok, very ok, to ask these kinds of questions to the representatives your employer provides to help you set up your retirement plan. Or if you are affluent enough to have your own investment rep they will be more than happy to accommodate your wishes. After all, its your money. Money speaks loud and it has a lot to say!