Q: I participate in a deferred compensation investment program at work, but I don't want to buy funds that invest in things like pornography. How can I find out that kind of information about mutual funds?
R.W., via e-mail
A: Mutual funds that make investments based on moral or philosophical guidelines are often referred to as "socially responsible" funds. The first challenge for anyone wanting to buy one of these funds is to define the scope of "socially responsible," says Michael Hatlee, who runs the retirement services group at Chemung Canal Trust Co. in Elmira, N.Y.
Mr. Hatlee suggests that you visit websites such as www.socialfunds.com to locate funds that may meet your own definition.
Once you have identified some likely funds, expand your research by requesting a prospectus and the latest annual report for each fund, he says. These documents will provide important information on the filters that each fund uses to screen out companies they deem to be undesirable - such as pornographers. They'll also give you the nuts and bolts on the fund's expenses, performance, and investment risk.