Businessmen discuss responsible investing

<p>Robert Goellner, financial planner at the company Common Interests, visited the Canterbury House at Rutgers yesterday to familiarize students with the concept of Socially Responsible Investing.</p>

Robert Goellner, financial planner at the company Common Interests, visited the Canterbury House at Rutgers yesterday to familiarize students with the concept of Socially Responsible Investing.

Robert Goellner and Max Mintz believe Socially Reponsible Investing is the investing strategy of the future.

Goellner and Mintz, employees for the SRI-based company Common Interests, discussed their views yesterday at the Canterbury House on Mine Street.

The Rutgers chapter of Giving What We Can, a philanthropic club, invited the two to speak based on Mintz’s experience with the organization during his time as a student.

Goellner, an experienced financial planner and owner of the company, first engaged with SRI in the early 1980s, but was dissatisfied with its results at the time because of money that many lost with that strategy, he said.

After the 2008 financial crisis, Goellner had grown sick of experts and businessmen such as Bernie Madoff, who played a role in the economic downturn with one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S history. At that time, the idea of constructing a business around SRI began to look more attractive, he said.

Goellner believes the world today was shaped by the investment decisions made in past generations. In the midst of the financial crisis, he felt like a victim to decisions made prior to his career.

“We don’t have to be victims,” he said.

Mintz, the company’s paraplanner, joined Goellner in Common Interests about a year and a half ago after years of being a client.

“I was looking for someone who shares my values and work ethic to help with the technology and support aspects of the business, and he was a perfect fit,” Goellner said.

Mintz, a Rutgers class of 2012 alumnus, uses his degree in philosophy and knowledge of ethics to an advantage in his business deals.

Mintz’s background in ethics makes him conscious of affairs that surround ethical investing, Goellner said. Common Interests builds off of social responsibility.

Mintz said they are holistic financial planners.

Goellner and Mintz treat their clients in a manner that mirrors how they themselves would like to be treated in financial situations, Goellner said. In working with a mindset that behavior should be determined by duty, clients become more expressive in their situations. In turn, “good things start to happen.”

SRI could be split up into three categories: social responsibility aspect, the investing aspect and the behavioral change aspect, Goellner said.

While social responsibility essentially means treating others with kindness and respect, the investing aspect applies the golden rule to investing.

Common Interests screens their investments on environmental, social and governance issues, or ESG.

By investing in companies screened by ESG, Common Interests essentially casts a vote, and in doing so, they take responsibility for the actions and outcomes of that vote, Goellner said.

ESG is another aspect of risk management to one’s investments. The changing of behavior, part of social responsibility, means helping the bad guys “do good” in terms of individuals or organizations, he said.

Although college students may not have gotten started on investing, Goellner believes students should begin acquainting themselves with SRI.

“The mere act of making a plan early can magnify the impact of saving over the long term,” Goellner said.

Yetzenia Leiva, a Rutgers class of 2013 alumna, said thinking about the financial future is important. With student loans at the forefront of her mind, being financially responsible in an ethical manner is crucial.

“I want to hear the information to make better, more ethical, choices,” said Leiva, a member of Giving What We Can.

For Common Interests, the most favorable part of their line of work is allowing their clients to become more financially capable.

“Helping people get their money right and get right with their money is exhilarating,” Goellner said.

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