Mary C. Rinehart, a certified financial planner, founder and president of Rinehart & Associates in Charlotte, N.C., describes herself as a "tree hugger from way back."
heads a financial planning and asset management firm that puts that same "tree hugging" philosophy into practice for her
clients through socially conscious investing, which she
calls, "Investing with your values."
description of herself might be a bit cliched, it fits a growing number of financial planners who have turned their personal beliefs into a business philosophy for their clients, as they navigate the rewards and risks of investing with a goal of advancing social causes as well as making money.
The phenomenon of investing for a purpose, as well as for profits, has grown from a fledgling industry dismissed by serious financial planners to become a significant share of the investing community that planners and corporations can no longer ignore.A growing number of financial planners are dealing predominantly with socially conscious investing, while some are developing an expertise in it because of personal beliefs.Others are just beginning to get their feet wet through clients who inquire about putting their money to work for their values.
"I started thinking about socially responsible investing a long time ago," says Rinehart
, "when I had to take care of my family's financial affairs.That is how I eventually ended up here," as a CFP who advertises services for socially conscience clients and whose SRI clientele is growing.Along the way, Rinehart has served as president of the local chapter of the Institute of Certified Financial Planners and received a Business Achievement Award from The Business Journal of Charlotte.
"Before I was a financial planner, I helped establish a tree commission and helped divert a road to save trees, so I have always worked for the environment.Now, as a planner, I feel if someone has a passion for values, I have to help them put their money where their mouths are.But this is a new way of thinking about investing money, and it is not a decision to be made quickly.I have to get to know someone first and determine what they want," says Rinehart
. Those who dismiss socially conscious financial planners as being a fringe element of the financial community, or those who think an investor has to sacrifice returns in order to promote his or her values, are wrong, Rinehart and other SRI planners say.