Older investors opening up to socially conscious investing

View that such investments are throwaways is changing as returns come in

May 14, 2015 @ 12:01 am

By Srividya Kalyanaraman

Younger investors have long been interested in socially conscious investing, but a new report from Spectrem Group indicates that older investors — loath to “throw away” money — are starting to turn to funds that espouse a cause, as long as they get a return.

“We have done the same research in the past and the surprising thing this time is that the older folks are intrigued by impact investing,” said Cathy McBreen, managing director of Spectrem.

The main reason for the change, according to Ms. McBreen, is that people now recognize that socially conscious companies are well-structured and competently run.

“The old-fashioned belief that you don't get good returns on these investments is changing,” Ms. McBreen said.

The study showed that 25% of young investors, defined as those under 35, have 25% to 74% of their portfolios in socially responsible investments. By contrast, 5% to 10% of investors aged 55 to 64 have a similar proportion of their portfolios in such investments.

Financial advisers should educate themselves and bring up impact investing with older clients, many of whom are interested but know little about the category. “The older clients are more open to investing in socially responsible firms but don't know how to go about it,” Ms. McBreen said.

(More: Advisers slow to embrace socially responsible investments sought by clients)

The study also found that female investors are more likely to invest heavily in socially responsible firms, compared to men. Data showed that 21% percent of female investors invest a quarter of their wealth in impact investing compared with 16% of male investors. In addition, more women than men invest in companies that encourage and promote a diverse workforce.

What motivates investors to support sustainable businesses is the hope to create a better world for the future generations and they typically favor investing in areas of water conservation, promotion of good health and solar energy, according to Spectrem.

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