Can Your Investment Portfolio Reflect Your Values?

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The protests roiling college campuses are filled with all sorts of demands, but many of them have one thing in common: money.

Many pro-Palestinian protesters want their school’s endowments to pull money from investments in companies that have financial ties to Israel. Most institutions have declined to do so.

This form of financial protest is not new. We all want to live our values and have our colleges, employers and communities do so, too. We saw similar protests in the 1970s and ’80s with South Africa and in the continuing debate over climate change. Students, especially, can learn a lot about investing, governance and complexity through trying to influence their schools.

But many individual investors also have the ability to press the eject button on stocks that they disfavor, all on their own. This week — after years of being disgusted by the way that a small number of companies have treated their American customers, employees and the public trust writ large — I finally did it myself. This is personal, so I will not name the companies here. But, to be clear, it had nothing to do with Israel and Gaza, and everything to do with how investing in bad corporate actors made me feel.

I’m not saying you should do this, too. But if you want to, it is becoming easier with each passing year.

At first glance, the process may seem simple. If you don’t want certain stocks in your portfolio, you don’t have to buy them or you can sell them if you already have them — and send an impassioned note to the company’s executive team for good measure.

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