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Socially Responsible Mutual Funds

Socially responsible mutual funds are the easiest way to begin socially responsible investing. Individuals investing in these funds rely on financial advisors to pick stocks that have both a strong financial outlook and operate in a socially acceptable manner. The funds vary widely to suit individual preferences for financial objectives and social values.

The first widely held socially responsible mutual fund was Pax World Fund, which was started by two Methodist ministers in 1971. Now investors can choose from more than 70 funds with broad based social investing criteria. These 70 options cover a wide range of asset classes and allow social investors to diversify their holdings. For example there are index funds, large cap funds, mid cap funds, small cap funds, utility funds, balanced funds, income funds, money market funds, international funds, Europe funds, and International small company funds.

As evidence of the growing acceptance of socially responsible mutual funds, companies, such as Oracle and GM, now offer employees a social option in their 401K retirement plan. In addition, Vanguard and TIAA-CREF are joining Smith Barney as major mutual fund providers that have a social offering.

Some funds, like Portfolio 21, have a very specific mission, which in this case is to invest in sustainable technology companies. Another similar example of a specific mission is the Myers Pride Value Fund, which invests in companies that have a specific anti-discrimination policy covering sexual orientation. However, most socially responsible mutual funds are focused on broad social missions that reflect an effort for a general improvement in the quality of life.

While mutual funds are the easiest way for investors to begin investing responsibly, some of the funds have very good performance histories that have out performed the S&P 500 for the last 10 years.

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