The Boston Globe

Socially and environmentally responsible mutual funds
are "green" in more ways than one, with total assets
in such funds crossing the $100 billion mark for the
first time this year, according to a new report
looking at 30 years of data.

At the same time, since 1971, the assets under
management in such funds have grown about five times
faster than those in all other mutual funds, according
to the report using data from fund tracking firm
Wiesenberger, a division of Thomson Financial.

The analysis was commissioned by Pax World Funds to
mark last week's 30th anniversary of the Pax World
Balanced fund, which the firm calls the first US
mutual fund to screen companies using broad- based
social and financial criteria.

All these data may suggest it's easy being green. But
the total dollars invested in socially responsible
funds remain a drop in the bucket compared with all
mutual funds.

While assets in socially responsible funds grew from
$150 million in 1971 to $103 billion by mid-2001,
assets in all other mutual funds went from $50.1
billion to $6.9 trillion, according to the
Wiesenberger data.

Nonetheless, the Pax report sees everything coming up
green for socially responsible funds in the years to
come. It even includes predictions from "futurists"
about such trends as recycling and sustainability.

Not creditworthy?

For some reason, Bostonians seem to have a harder time
balancing their checkbooks and keeping track of their
credit card balances than the average American,
according to a new national survey.

For that and other personal finance shortcomings,
Boston gets an overall grade of C, while the nation as
a whole fares only slightly better, with a B-,
according to Champion Mortgage, which commissioned the
survey as part of its campaign to get people to
improve their personal finances. (See accompanying
chart for full survey results.)

Advice to digest

If The Reader's Digest is issuing press releases
giving personal finance advice, the topic must be on
the popular mind.

Under the headline "Your Money: Staying Ahead in Tough
Times," Reader's Digest contributor Max Alexander
gives "the following useful tips for reigning in your
finances in volatile economic times":

- Reduce expensive credit card debt.

- Don't double your mortgage payments to pay down
principal aggressively; use the money for a retirement
fund instead.

- Maximize contributions to your 401(k) plan if you
have one.

- Keep investing for the long term.

While Reader's Digest is offering only these tips
right now, may there be an unabridged version coming
out somewhere soon?

SIDEBAR: Money knowledge
A national survey finds Boston lagging in some
personal finance basics.
Boston - National
Not overdrawing checking account in past year
73% - 84%
Balancing checkbook every month
70% - 81%
Never late paying bills in past year
46% - 62%
Having retirement account
72% - 78%
Knowing credit card balance or total debt
73% - 76%
Knowing amount of monthly household expenses 74%- 77%
Usually paying more than minimum on credit cards
77% - 76%
Reviewing credit report in past year 46% - 41%
SOURCE: Champion Mortgage Globe staff chart