Prudent fossil-fuel free investing need not carrying a performance cost! Identify the investment management approach that works best for you and “do the math” on fees to make sure your expectations are met. An increasing number of retirement plans are adding the option of socially responsible funds, however, you may want to investigate further to see if these funds are fossil-free or moving in that direction. The approach you use should matched your experience with investing, the amount of money you plan to invest, your risk tolerance, and the level of financial service assistance you want and can afford.

Experienced do-it-yourself investors should have no trouble identifying fossil-free investment options that meet their needs. Those already utilizing an investment advisor may want to determine if the advisor is able to eliminate or reduce exposure to fossil fuel investments.

If you are looking for someone who can provide assistance, the following three resources are frequently cited to find advisors who adhere to a fiduciary standard (i.e. will put in writing that they are obligated to put your interest above theirs and disclose all fees): www.cfp.net,www.napfa.org, and www.garrettplanningnetwork.com. More specific to socially responsible investment managers, check out charts.ussif.org/sam and www.firstaffirmative.com.

To meet your expectations regarding overall investment fees and services obtained, it’s helpful to know that there are three main ways that financial service providers get paid (1):

 

  • By a commission (a sales charge, often a “front-end load” based on a percentage of the amount of money initially invested with them, or a “back-end load” charged when you sell the investment).
  • By a percentage of assets under management (the typical range is between 0.25% and 2.0% of money being managed).
  • An hourly rate (typically between $100 and $400 per hour, usually independent of the amount of assets under management).

 

Numerous books and articles point to the importance of fees in long-term investment performance. Again, the service model that you use should take into consideration the amount you have to invest, the type of service you are interested in, and what you are comfortable paying. Each of the models can represent the best value to you, depending upon your particular circumstances and requirements.

What if you are invested in a low fee passive index fund and would like to switch to a fossil fuel free mutual fund but are uncomfortable with the higher fee? The active (higher fee) vs. passive (lower fee) fund question is one that should take performance into account. For example, Vanguard’s highly rated Balanced Index Fund does have low embedded fees of 0.24 percent. Nonetheless, the Green Century Balanced Fund (with fees up to 1.48) has outperformed the Vanguard Balanced Index Fund over the past year, three years, five years and ten years, including fees. The bottom line is that investors who had chosen Green Century Balanced Fund instead of Vanguard Balanced a decade ago have had superior performance after fees. The long-term ability of a fund manager to outperform its peers to recoup any fee differential is a relevant consideration when evaluating investments.

(1) Descriptions cited from the book, Low Fee Socially Responsible Investing, Investing in your worldview on your terms, by Tom Nowak and used with permission.