How To Invest Your Money Responsibly, Sustainably, Or For Impact (They’re Not The Same)

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If you want to put your money to work and to doing good, here’s everything you need to look for.

“In the past, people said if I invest in a socially responsible way, I’m going to give up returns. But I don’t think you have to give up returns to be socially responsible.”

Your Aunt Cynthia has died unexpectedly. Our condolences. In her will, she’s left you $25,000. Now you want to invest it wisely, as in–not just leave it in a checking account that pays next to no interest. Ideally, you want to make a decent return, but you also want to be responsible about it. Cynthia was a good person who cared about animals, the environment, and everyday people. She didn’t like violence, or pollution, or dictators. She distrusted Wall Street, and you’re not crazy about it either. You want to invest the money sustainably, but maybe not in the traditional ways. What are your options?

The good news is there’s a widening array of sustainable and “impact” alternatives these days and they’re not all for accredited investors–that is, people earning more than $200,000 a year, or with a net worth of more than $1 million. Through screened mutual funds, “robo-advisers,” various forms of crowd investing, community investing, and even direct investing, you can hope to make money and make a difference at the same time. Exactly what risk and level of returns you can handle will depend on your stomach, your other income, and how you define “responsible,” “sustainable,” and “impact” (the terms are notoriously slippery, so watch out). But the options below, gathered from half a dozen experts, should give you the ability to diversify and accumulate, if, again, you’re lucky enough–RIP, Cynthia–to have extra cash to invest.

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