Investing is another example of one of those areas in life where the connection to veganism isn’t immediately obvious. But, if you think about it for a second, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to take extra care to avoid animal cruelty in everyday life just to turn-around and dump money into the pockets of companies who base their profits on it.
Thankfully, as the concept of cruelty-free investing becomes more mainstream, aligning your investments with your values doesn’t mean sacrificing financial success. As is often the case with veganism, it just takes a little extra effort and some creative thinking!
For those of us who are not financial wizards, the first step in any investment strategy is usually to consult a financial planner. It is in their best interest to provide sound advice that will lead you to success, so it’s been my experience that most financial planners are happy to go the extra mile to find a strategy that suits the vegan belief structure. However, that’s not always the case. Should you encounter someone who seems less than enthused by the challenge or immediately tries to talk you out of it, take your business elsewhere. There’s plenty ‘o fish in the sea, my friend (well, for now at least)!
As you’re likely to discover, a cruelty-free investment strategy usually means building your own stock portfolio from the ground up. Since mutual funds are comprised of a variety of investments across several sectors of the economy, it’s highly unusual to find one that doesn’t feature at least one inappropriate holding. In fact, I’ve yet to find a mutual fund that works for me (most “socially responsible” funds aren’t yet structured to include a concern for the welfare of animals).
For non-finance peeps, like myself, building a stock portfolio from scratch can seem a bit daunting – but this is where a good financial planner comes in handy. If you work with an expert who isn’t afraid to think outside the box, creating a long-term financial plan that doesn’t violate your ethical beliefs is totally do-able. Granted, your nest-egg will probably take a little longer to grow and you may be a little less diversified than is typical (healthcare, consumer staples and energy are common problem areas), but those are both concessions I’m willing to make if it means feeling good about how I make my dough.
For what it’s worth, many vegans take the “do the best you can” route here, and certainly, that’s understandable. For me personally, this is an area in which I have a really difficult time compromising. A one-off purchase of a product from someone like Johnson & Johnson or filling a prescription from pretty much any pharmaceutical company is one thing, but investing directly in those same companies seems like the ultimate endorsement. It makes me complicit in a way that being a consumer (even an unwilling one) doesn’t. Just my two cents.
Even if you’re not vegan, having a clear idea of where your money is and what it’s being used for is a sure sign of a smart investor. It might be worth reviewing your portfolio or learning more about some of the holdings in your mutual funds to see if there are any areas you could make a more compassionate choice. To learn more about cruelty-free investing and/or pick up a few tips and tricks of the trade, check out this article from PETA. It’s benign, I promise!