Whether you think it’s a fad or not, the greening of our lives is inevitable. The earth is literally getting sick from over consumption by human beings. There are limited natural resources in the earth and most are not renewable.
If you’re still managing your finances the old-fashioned way, you could be missing an opportunity to invest in the future of the planet. Following are some easy strategies for nurturing a cleaner, healthier environment.
INVESTING IN A GREEN FUTURE
Most people tend to do things the same way and are slow to change, but consider the environmental impact of continuing business as usual. The amount of wasted paper generated by bills and bank statements alone is staggering. A recent Javelin Strategy and Research report described the financial paper chain from U.S. households as being long enough to stretch around the globe more than 200 times.
Consider the potential benefit of all those households opting for electronic bill paying and banking. According to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research, “2007 Online Banking and Bill Payment,” all-green financial transactions could:
- Reduce greenhouse gases as much as the removal of 355,000 cars from the road.
- Save enough energy to supply electricity to all residences in San Francisco for one year.
- Eliminate enough solid waste to fill 56,000 garbage trucks.
BEING GREEN IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK
We have an urgent need to reduce waste. Switching to paperless transactions is a pretty simple way to do a lot of good. In most cases, green financial practices provide practical benefits, too. Online financial management not only minimizes clutter but also provides access to tools that promote efficient, organized money management.
- Online banking — Using electronic statements and debit cards can conserve tons of paper, and they can save you lots of time and trouble. You can track your balances in real time on your bank’s web site and transfer funds from your desktop. If a debit card is not your style, order checks made from recycled paper (www.checkgallery.com). Direct deposit saves paper and cuts down on trips to the bank, and direct deposit paychecks generally clear faster.
- Electronic bill payment — You can arrange online payments with most banks today. Bills from public utilities, mortgage and credit card companies often note the availability of this option. (Central Hudson Gas and Electric will plant a tree for each customer who switches to electronic billing.) With bank bill pay, you enter the amounts you owe each month on your bank’s web site. The bank then transfers funds from your account to your designated payees. Many service providers allow you to make payments from their websites, or offer automated bill payment, which saves time and helps to ensure against late fees and damaged credit ratings.
- Playing it safe — Tales of phishing scams and internet security breaches make us all concerned about the safety of online banking and bill payment. But according to the Javelin Strategy & Research report, most people overestimate the risk of online fraud. Approximately 90 percent of cases of identity theft begin offline — with acquaintances or family members who steal victims’ bank statements or a copy of their password. The public’s perception of increased risk has inspired most banks and financial institutions to install the highest level of data protection allowed by law.
- Read your statements and online financial communications carefully. And, monitor account activity and report any unexpected changes immediately. Never respond to e-mails requesting your credit card numbers, computer password, or other sensitive information.
SMART GREEN INVESTMENTS MIGHT ALSO BENEFIT
YOUR FINANCIAL HEALTH
The potential of environmentally responsible policies to build shareholder confidence, reduce energy and liability costs, and capitalize on new markets continues to fuel a greener corporate world. The number of options for supporting green business practices has grown steadily.
Before modifying your investment strategy, make sure you’ve done your homework. Meet with your financial adviser and explain your primary environmental concerns as well as your financial goals. If your adviser steers you away from the conversation or suggests that sustainable investments under perform — it may be time to consider a new adviser who is willing to customize an investment strategy specifically for you. We will discuss integrating your life and your money next month.
EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS
A little foresight and awareness can go a long way in saving the planet. The following list highlights some additional ways to make your financial life a little bit greener:
- Go digital. Send electronic invoices, customer service inquiries, and other financial communications whenever possible. Saving financial information to PDF files to help eliminate hard copies is another great way to prevent waste.
- Think before you print. If printing a hard copy is absolutely necessary, save it and use the other side for another document.
- Keep it clean and safe. Avoid toxic waste and encourage paper mills to develop more eco-friendly practices by buying chlorine-free paper. Changing from petroleum-based inks to products with a soybean or linseed base decreases pollution.
- Stop the rising tide of pre-approved credit offers and junk mail. Opt out of credit offers online at www.optoutprescreen.com or call 888.5.OPTOUT (567.8688). Say no to junk mail at www.dmachoice.org.
Going green is a process that deserves thoughtful consideration in light of your own personal objectives, and not all of the options outlined here will work for everyone. Be sure to consult your financial adviser — and your own conscience — to decide what makes the most sense for you. If you don’t have an adviser, get one!
Beth Jones, RLP® is a Registered Life Planner and Financial Consultant with Third Eye Associates, Ltd, a Registered Investment Adviser located at 38 Spring Lake Road in Red Hook, NY. She can be reached at 845 – 752-2216 or www.thirdeyeassociates.com.