Eliminating gun stocks from your portfolio

As corporations from Walmart to Delta Airlines are choosing to take a stand against gun violence, investors may be wondering if they can do the same.

Investors who never directly purchased shares of gun makers or sellers may unknowingly hold them in their 401(k) accounts, pension funds or other investments. That's because commonly used index funds and mutual funds hold a wide array of stocks.

Here are some tips on how to identify and eliminate gun stocks from your portfolio:

1. SET YOUR GOAL

Identify what you are looking for - do you want to eliminate holdings in companies that make guns? Or those that sell them? Both?

Financial advisers will tell you to act cautiously with your investments, but making minor adjustments to your portfolio doesn't have to mean sacrificing security.

"Investments should not be treated as a separate part of our lives, free from our moral beliefs and ethical concerns," said Dan Nielsen, who heads up responsible investing initiatives at Great Lakes Advisors in Chicago.

1. DO SOME DIGGING

If you work with a financial adviser, they should be your first stop. They can do the leg work for you.

You can also consult with your bank or other financial institution, which may be able to help. Vanguard, which does invest in firearm stocks in some of its funds, has a tool on its website to help investors screen its funds for specific holdings.

Doing the research on your own can be a bit challenging, says Chris Costello, a certified financial planner and co-founder of a robo-advisor firm called blooom.

Index funds own everything in the index they track, so that may not be easy to change. And both index funds and mutual funds can add and drop stocks over time.

Mutual funds publish the top holdings in their fund, which can give you a sense of what's in there. You can also read through the prospectus of any fund you hold if you want a more comprehensive look at its holdings.

1. MAKE CHANGE

If you aren't happy with what you find or simply want to make your desires known, reach out to the people that manage your investments. That can be a financial advisor, investment firm or even a pension fund manager.

The easiest way to ensure you aren't holding stocks you oppose is to select a socially responsible fund that identifies an opposition to gun makers. The number of socially responsible funds has grown in recent years making them easy to find. You can also try something like OpenInvest, a robo-advisor that ditches the fund format and lets investors choose from various investment themes, including divesting from weapons makers.

"Your assets are one of the most powerful (tools) you have to shape the world," said OpenInvest co-founder Josh Levin.


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