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Start Impact Investing For As Little As $50 (And Get Another $50 For Free)

Start investing for your future today

No matter where you are on your financial journey, it’s crucial to set up good money habits now. This includes investing in your future. Even if you have debt, consider paying yourself too (even if it’s a small amount to start). In a few months, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve been able to accumulate.

The trick is to start with small steps. While you are paying down your consumer debt, set aside a little bit for your own future, too. Doing this small yet crucial step will create a positive mental shift. It will also set you up to win the money game in the long run. The added bonus: now you can invest while also having?positive impact on our communities and the environment. All of this is doable. Here’s now.

A $50 Gift to Get You Started

Our partners at Swell Investing are giving all WellWallet readers $50 to start impact investing. Open your account and invest a minimum of $50, and Swell will match another $50. That means $100 to invest in your future with impact. Use the code WELLWALLET?when you set up your account.

First, let’s take a look at impact investing and the options available.

A Bit of History:? Impact investing was limited to the wealthy

We’ve heard it before. In order to create a prosperous future, we must invest. And the sooner we start, the better (hooray for compound interest!)?But for most of us, money has been a hurdle. How can we afford to invest when there?s hardly anything left at the end of the month??On top of it all, investing in companies that are actually doing good in the world?has not been easy to do. This type of investing is called impact investing.

The result? The very people who should be investing aren?t able to.?It used to be that if you wanted to impact invest in socially responsible companies, you only had two choices: ?

  1. buy individual stocks from companies that do good, or
  2. buy into a socially responsible mutual fund?

…and it took a lot of work

The first option, buying individual stocks, requires you to open an account with a broker. That means you are subject to trading and other fees charged by the broker.

It also requires you to do a ton of research on lots of companies. Researching both a company?s impact and financial outlook is no easy task. Also, if you don?t balance your risk among various companies, you are putting all of your eggs in one basket. That?s risky.

Mutual funds will balance risk for you, so you don?t have to do as much research. But there are hundreds of impact funds and socially responsible funds. Plus, they come with a variety of fees (and some of these fees are hidden). Finally, because many factors affect a mutual fund?s fees, it can be difficult to determine whether you’re getting an investment that will grow over time, or whether you’re just running in place. Expenses are no joke and they impact lower budget investors most of all.

Not to mention those fees…

  • There are 337 socially responsible mutual funds (including impact funds), according to Morningstar. The expense ratio for socially responsible mutual funds ranges from 0.45% to 3.38%. That means that for every $1,000 you invest in these funds, it will cost you between $4.50 and $33.80.
  • On top of that, you?ll pay a trading commission fee every time you buy or sell into most of these funds. Not fun. These fees take a big chunk out of your assets over time.
  • To add insult to injury, the minimum investment amount for these mutual funds is $2,500. Some minimums are $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 or even higher. No wonder people find it difficult to invest in socially responsible funds.

So, for everyday people who don?t have a ton of time to research and don’t have a bunch of cash laying around, socially responsible and impact investing has been out of reach.

But things are changing.

Impact investing is now available to everyone

Lower cost options, such as socially responsible ETFs (exchange-traded funds) are now available.?And although ETFs also have expense ratio fees, they are generally lower than those of mutual funds.?

In addition, the introduction of robo advisors has made investing accessible to everyone. Robo advisors use computer algorithms (a set of specified rules) to manage a portfolio of companies or funds.?Robo advisors allow you to set up customized, diverse portfolios. They can also give you access to wealth management services previously only accessible to the wealthy, like rebalancing.?

When you combine robo advisors with impact investing platforms, you get the best of both worlds: ?a chance to invest for your own prosperity, and a chance to create prosperity in the world.

There are a handful of robo advisor platforms out there, including Wealthfront, Betterment, and Wealthsimple. And some have recently introduced social responsibility portfolios. But not all socially responsible robo advisors are the same. Products, fees, and trading policies can differ greatly. That?s one of the reasons why we think Swell Investing is looking pretty good.

Why we like?Swell Investing

Care about creating a greener world? Now invest in it.

Swell Investing is one of the most successful sustainable investing platforms around today. Anyone can join for $50. And they will give you another $50 for joining.

You own the companies in the portfolio

Swell uses SMAs (Separately Managed Accounts) for investors to create a customized portfolio of companies, across a variety of socially responsible themes, based on Swell?s rigorous criteria for performance and impact.

Swell investors legally own the companies listed in their portfolio. By comparison, investments in mutual funds and ETFs are actually investments in an organization which, in turn, owns the securities in the fund.

No expense ratio or trading fees

Because you own the stocks in the SMA, there are no expense ratio fees like you find with ETFs and mutual funds.

Swell offers thematic, active management that fully integrates ESG and impact concepts. That means you don?t have to do the research needed for buying individual stocks AND they are less expensive than the typical mutual fund.

You don’t have to have a separate brokerage account to trade, either. Trading is all included on their impact platform.

Rigorous selection criteria

To be part of Swell?s impact investing portfolios, companies have to pass two strict tests:

  1. They have to get through strict criteria selected to prove environmental and social performance.
  2. They have to score high on financial potential.

Investors can choose from 6 different themes today (one-year performance as of August 10, 2018): ?

  • Green Technology (+10.63%) – Think electric cars and LED lights.
  • Renewable Energy (+8.06%) – Think wind turbines and solar panels.
  • Zero Waste (+14.56) – Think recycling and repurposing.
  • Clean Water (+15.29%) – Think water filters and pipe repairs.
  • Disease Eradication (+16.70) – Think immunizations and research.
  • Healthy Living (+31.39%) – Think nutritious foods and health centers.

Swell also lets you allocate across themes. For example, if you are interested in Green Tech and Renewable Energy, you can allocate whatever percentage you choose to each. And you can change your percentage ?mix? ?anytime you want, at no cost.

Broad diversification

Swell Investing has now also launched their Swell Impact 400 portfolio. Now you can diversify across 400 companies. Every one of these companies follows the 17 UN SDGs. Every company also includes at least one woman or minority on the board or in the C-suite. Every market sector (except for telecom) is represented, giving you broad market coverage with a single click.

Very easy to set up

Setting up an account with Swell Investing is much like downloading a favorite app. It is super easy to set up, fund and start investing. This consumer-friendly technology is making impact investing accessible to everyone. We tried it out and even took screenshots of their set-up process. Check it out.

Performance

All seven portfolios have shown solid growth?since inception. As of August 8, 2018, four of their seven portfolios have?outperformed the S&P 500 index. The rest have also seen impressive returns (see above).

In addition, Swell reinvests dividends over $1 and applies smart tax lot allocations, so your investment grows over time. You can also set up an automatic investing plan that moves as little as $20 per month directly from your bank account, so you can?let your money grow for profit and for good.

Chart of SP500 v MSCI KLD Social Index over 25 years

Your investments are insured

Although Swell may seem like a newcomer to the investment scene, they are backed by Pacific Life, which has been around since 1868. Swell?s brokerage services are provided by Folio Investments, a well known and regarded broker-dealer.

Both Folio and Swell are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Folio is also a member of FINRA, (Financial Industry Regulation Authority,) and SIPC, (Securities Investor Protection Corporation) – the major insurer of U.S. brokerage accounts.

Thus, each brokerage account at Swell Investing is protected up to $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash.

How Swell compares to other impact investing options

Swell?s fee at 0.75% is a little higher than ETFs, but it compares favorably with most mutual funds in the SRI space. And Swell does not charge an expense ratio that you?d typically find with ETFs and mutual funds.

Therefore… no surprises. This is how Swell’s fees compare to other impact investing options.

Betterment Motif Wealthfront?? ?Wealthsimple?? SRI Mutual Funds

Swell

Minimum

Investment

Requirement

$0 $300 $5,000 $0 $2,500 – $25,000 $50
Average

Expense

Ratio

0.14%-0.22% for ETFs $0
(not applicable)
0.12%
For ETFs
0.20%
For ETFs
0.45% – 3.38% $0
(not applicable)
Management

Fees

0.25%-0.40%  

$9.95

Per month

0.25% 0.50% Varies 0.75%
Trade

Commissions

$0  

$4.95-$19.95

Per trade

$0 $0 Depends on broker
$4.95 – $14.99
$0
Products ETFs ?Stocks
(in SMAs)
ETFs ETFs Mutual Funds Stocks
(in SMAs)

In addition, there are no extra fees for trading.

They recently lowered their minimum investment requirement to $50, plus they’ll give you another $50 to get started.?So you can take them for a trial run for less than a decent dinner out. Plus, they’ll give WellWallet readers another $50 for signing up. Just enter the code WELLWALLET when you open your account.

Motif, a values-driven robo advisor backed by Goldman Sachs, requires a minimum investment of $300.??Motif also offers SMAs, but they will cost you if you are an average investor.?For example, if you only had $500 to invest, and you made no changes to your investment portfolio, at $9.95 x 12, your fees for the year at Motif would be $119.40?(more if you made any trades). ?

At Swell, you would pay $3.75 whether you made changes to your portfolio or not. Their straightforward fee is in line with their policy on transparency. There are no surprises, and you can view the impact a company is having as well as its financial performance, any time you like.

It’s your turn to become an impact investor

Swell investors get the sort of professional investment oversight that was traditionally only available to wealthy people. In addition, they do the deep analysis to find the best financial performers that are doing right by People and Planet?and handle the management and maintenance required to stay on task in the long game.

Check out our interview with Swell Investing CEO Dave Fanger and CMO Teresa Orsolini.?Our partner Pedram Shojai from Well.org had a great conversation with the Swell team about investing for growth and impact.

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$20 Off Your Power Bill By Switching To CLEAN Energy (without solar panels)

Have you always wanted to support clean energy but couldn’t because of rent or pricey solar panels?

Now you can direct your power bill to use clean energy. This is a free service. It takes 5 minutes to set up, and it gives you $20 off your next power bill.

Solar panels aren?t a viable option for everyone. Some people live in buildings that don’t allow solar panels. The price of the solar panels may also be a deterrent. Now you can change your power bill to a clean energy bill, without solar panels.

If you?re paying an electric bill, Arcadia Power can switch your bill to clean energy.

Here?s how they do it.

How Arcadia switches your power bill to use clean energy

Arcadia Power buys Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from national wind farms and pays the utility companies on your behalf for your energy usage. The process is very easy to set up and only takes 5 minutes.

  1. Set up an account with Arcadia Power.
  2. Direct Arcadia Power to take over payment of your energy bill by linking your utility account.
  3. You pay Arcadia and Arcadia pays the utility bill and matches your usage with Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).
  4. All of this is managed on the platform.
  5. What it costs: Free plan: switch 50% of your energy bill to clean energy. Meaning: you just continue to pay what you would have paid for your power usage. Alternatively, there?s the Premium plan: switch 100% of your power bill to renewable energy for $0.015 per kilowatt hour (that comes out to $5 – $20/month more depending on your energy usage).
  6. Arcadia gives you a nice dashboard showing your energy consumption and how much came from traditional v. renewable energy. We liked this dashboard because it helped us become more conscious of our energy usage (e.g. turning off the lights when you walk out of a room).
  7. Once you?ve set up your account, you get $20 off your next energy bill.
  8. That?s it. 5 minutes to do some good in the world and save yourself 20 bucks.

Why is this so easy?

The availability of RECs, Arcadia?s network of wind farm partners, and Arcadia?s ability to pay your utility company on your behalf makes this whole thing possible.

Here?s how RECs work. Renewable energy has two components: the physical electrons and the corresponding Renewable Energy Certificates that track clean energy production. Think of RECs as the currency of the renewable energy market.

When electricity from a wind farm is produced, it is fed into the grid. Once it?s in the grid, there is no way to distinguish clean energy electrons from any other type of energy (nuclear, fossil fuel, etc.). That?s where RECs come in. RECs track how much energy was sent by the wind farm to the grid. Once a REC is used for payment, it cannot be re-used.

When you direct Arcadia to pay your power bill on your behalf, and by matching your usage with RECs, you are helping drive up demand for renewable energy. This is helping our world, and it only takes 5 minutes.

We tried it!

We switched our energy to Arcadia Power. Here?s the actual process.

Step 1: ?enter your email and land on their dashboard

?Pretty straight forward. After you enter your email, you’ll be taken to their dashboard. After you go through the process, this dashboard will show your traditional energy usage v. renewable (aka clean) energy usage.

 

Step2: Link your utility account.

Select your state and your utility company. Easy. Once you link your account on Arcadia’s secure system, they’ll monitor your current and historical energy usage.

 

 

Step 3: Select a membership.

There are two options.

FREE PLAN: Arcadia pays 50% of your power usage with renewable energy credits (this costs you nothing extra ? just pay your power bill as you normally would). You also get a few other freebies like Price Alerts and the Dashboard.

PREMIUM PLAN: Switch your entire energy bill to renewable energy. This is $0.15 per kilowatt hour more. That?s about $5 – $20 more per month added to your power bill, depending on how much power you use. Start or stop anytime. There are no contracts.

Step 4: DONE!

Congrats. They get your account set up with the utility and send you a confirmation email. That’s it.

 

 

 

Now it?s your turn to use your power as a consumer. Take a few minutes to make this important change and save yourself $20 on your next power bill.

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We Found An Amazing Account

Spotlight on Aspiration

Before getting into all of the benefits this online banking alternative has to offer, let?s cut right to the chase and address any doubts you might have about online banking services so you can fully appreciate what this financial institution is about.

  • FDIC Deposits are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000 per depositor. For more information about FDIC insurance coverage, please visit the FDIC website.
  • B-Corp Aspiration is B-Corp certified. B-Corps must have a beneficial impact on society, employees, the community, the environment and profit as legally defined goals. Wells Fargo couldn?t get through this hoop.
  • Security?Industry level encryption. Multi-Factor Authentication and 256-bit encryption.

Ok, now the cool stuff.

Why We Like Aspiration

1. Pay What Is Fair – even if it?s zero

Aspiration?s ?Pay What is Fair? fee means you pick your fee, even if it?s zero. And you can change it anytime you want. This applies to their high-interest accounts, sustainable investments, no-fee IRAs and other products that were once only available to the wealthy.

2. Free ATMs – worldwide

Seriously. Free access to every ATM in the world. They reimburse you within two business days.

3. High-Interest account

They pay at least 100x more interest paid than big banks.

  • Up to 2.00% APY interest on the entirety of balances?

4. $10 minimum balance to open an account

Yes, you can open an Aspiration high-interest account right now for 10 bucks.

5. No overdraft fees

The transaction is simply declined.

6. They show you how your purchases impact the world

Your Aspiration mobile app tells you if you are in fact voting with your values. Aspiration offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android with a special feature: ?Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM).

AIM provides you with a Sustainability Score based on where you?re shopping and spending, and lets you know if your spending habits are aligned with your values. When you use your Aspiration debit card at AIM scored businesses, you get to see their People and Planet scores ?

  • People scores – employee pay, workforce diversity, access to healthcare and more.
  • Planet scores – greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, renewable energy use.

Investors benefit from data on businesses? social and environmental practices to make better investment decisions. Now you can, too.

That is what your money is doing for you in an Aspiration account.??What is your money doing for the people and the planet?

7. Aspiration commits to donating 10% of its earnings

Aspiration commits to donating 10 cents for every dollar of its earnings. Aspiration’s ?Dimes Worth of Difference? donates one dime for every dollar its customers agree to pay to charitable activities that enhance economic opportunity.

Aspiration partners with networks like Accion which provide micro-loans to empower low-to-moderate income business owners through access to capital and financial education. That means you can?Make Money and Make a Difference.

These guys are competitive (and they’re green)

When comparing an Aspiration account to a high interest account of a traditional bank, it becomes a no-brainer.

  • Traditional banks require you keep a certain amount of money in your account before they pay you any interest. (Usually 0.01%) Aspiration will pay you much more than that with no minimum requirement.
  • Traditional banks have monthly fees of $10 and upwards. Aspiration does not.
  • Traditional banks charge around $2.50 every time you use a non-brand ATM. Aspiration charges you nothing to access your money via ATM anywhere in the world.
  • Traditional banks will overdraw your account if you make even the simplest of errors, and charge you 20-30 bucks for it. Aspiration will not overdraw your account.?No surprises.
  • Traditional banks generally have horrible track records funding destructive environmental and social enterprises. Aspiration are divested from oil and gas and use their revenue for good.

So, ever seen an account like this?

We haven?t either. The Aspiration Account is a Well Wallet smart move for sure. And you can open yours for $10 in minutes.

(Once you?ve opened an account at Aspiration, you can also become an impact investor for as little as $100.)


The Annual Percentage Yield ?(?APY?) associated with the Aspiration Summit Account is variable and accurate as of [January 2019]. Rates may be changed from time to time without notice.?

Based on a comparison of Aspiration’s up to 2.00% APY interest rate to the following checking account interest rates reported by Bankrate for January, 2019: Wells Fargo (0.01% APY), Chase Bank (0.01% APY) and Bank of America (0.01% APY).

All ATM withdrawal fees will be waived for your Aspiration Summit Account. In addition, your account will automatically be reimbursed for all ATM fees charged by other institutions while using an Aspiration Debit Card linked to your account at any ATM displaying the Mastercard?, Interlink?, Cirrus?, or Maestro? logos. The reimbursement will be credited to the account the same day the ATM fee is debited from the account. Please note, there is a foreign transaction fee of one percent that is not waived, which will be included in the amount charged to your account.

Aspiration Partners, Inc. and its affiliates are committed ?to “All Extra Services Provided at Cost,” meaning that we’ll only charge you what it costs us to provide the extra service (such as a wire transfer), and not a penny more. Besides these at-cost service charges, the only account fee you pay is the fee you choose, even if it?s $0, which is why we call it Pay What Is Fair.

The Aspiration Summit Account provides customers with the ability to see Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) People and Planet scores on a range of merchants where they shop using the Aspiration Debit Card. These scores are determined using a proprietary algorithm that incorporates several measures of sustainability performance. For more information, please click here.

Deposits are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000 per depositor. For more information about FDIC insurance coverage, please visit the FDIC website.

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