I can see my friends rolling their eyes at this one because I'm really far from a finance person. And I’m not one to offer specific financial advice (I’m a writer for a living, for god’s sake), but I do want to share a general guideline I use in my life.
I’m lucky enough to have a 401k, and if you do too, that means you’ve probably got investment choices that boggle the mind—so many mutual funds to choose from--More than 7,000! But here’s the deal: Mutual funds are made up of tons of individual companies, and if you don’t pay attention, you end up investing in fossil fuel companies, private prisons, or companies that don't pay their workers enough to live on, or to afford healthcare (Invest in Costco, not Wal-Mart—whose employees all of us taxpayers subsidize because they don’t pay them enough, despite their massive profits), which is why we’re even having an ACA argument.
Today I called my 401k and shifted a significant portion (you don’t have to go all or none—just go some!) of my retirement contributions to two funds: one for alternative energy (Ticker: FSLEX), and one with a guideline of social responsibility (VFTSX). Virtually none of them are perfect, but they do a better job than most when they state the fund’s goal in its title. Make the effort and do the research—it’s all online and pretty easy. Look at the fund's portfolio>holdings. Otherwise, you’re probably profiting off some bad stuff you don't agree with.
So the general guideline is something you’ve heard before: Invest your money like you live your life, in the principles you believe in. In the U.S., mutual funds had a net asset value of 15 trillion in 2013. Even shifting 10% of your retirement contributions will make a difference. And if millions of us do it, it will send a message the BIG MONEY can’t ignore.
Get started: Kiplinger has 7 Great Socially Responsible Mutual Funds.