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Socially responsible

Q: Where can I learn about which companies are being socially responsible, treating employees well and being good to the environment?

A: One useful reference is Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s annual list, The 100 Best Corporate Citizens. Its rankings take into consideration a company’s performance on climate change, employee relations, human rights, corporate governance, financial performance and philanthropy. The top 10 companies for 2017 are Hasbro, Intel, Microsoft, Altria, Campbell Soup, Cisco Systems, Accenture, Hormel Foods, Lockheed Martin and Ecolab. (You’ll find the entire list at thecro.com.)

Learn more about socially responsible companies at sites such as socialfunds.com, csrwire.com and ussif.org.

 

Q: How much might health care cost me when I’m retired?

A: It will probably cost a lot. You have Medicare, but it’s not free, and even with it, you’ll still have out-of-pocket expenses.

According to Fidelity Investments, an average 65-year-old couple retiring this year will spend about $260,000 on health care in retirement — not counting the cost of long-term care.

That’s just an average, though. You might end up spending significantly more — or less — than that. Still, it’s a useful reminder that health care-costs can be substantial and should be factored into your retirement planning.

Timeshare Troubles

Dear Fool: My dumbest investment has been in a time-share property. Don’t believe the hype you’ll hear from the sales team: They are selling high-price maintenance fees that never end, while telling you you’re getting a bargain on vacations.

The Fool responds: Time sharing have been extremely regrettable investments for many people. Still, they might suit some folks, in certain circumstances. For example, they can be good for large families, as some feature several bedrooms and a kitchen, helping you avoid renting multiple rooms and eating out all the time when on vacation. (Of course, you might simply rent a house or apartment for a vacation, too.)

On the other hand, beware of the downsides: There are often maintenance fees (which tend to increase over time) that are due regardless of whether you use the unit, and contracts sometimes last forever, becoming burdens to heirs. If you’re thinking that you’ll simply sell the time share before you die, that can be hard, too. Many are very difficult to unload, with some “exit” companies having been created just to help you get out of your contract.

It’s smart to think twice before buying a time share. Some purchasers will be happy, but anyone considering one should do a lot of due diligence into what the total costs will be — and think of it as a vacation purchase, not an investment.

Documented Profits

Iron Mountain’s (NYSE: IRM) core business is providing storage, primarily of records, and information-management services to companies and government organizations. It’s also been expanding into related operations, such as data centers. The Boston-based company leads its industry, with a portfolio of more than 1,400 facilities spanning 47 countries. It has more than 220,000 customers, including about 94 percent of the Fortune 1000 companies.

In 2014, the company reorganized into a real estate investment trust (REIT). REITS are required to pay out at least 90 percent of their income as dividends, and Iron Mountain recently yielded a fat 6.4 percent.

What’s wonderful about the storage business is that customers are willing to sign multiyear agreements. Those agreements keep revenue flowing into Iron Mountain’s bank account, even during economic slowdowns.

Management plans to increase revenue and profits between now and 2020, in part via $100 million in annual spending on acquisitions and expanding its capabilities in art storage and data-center management.

Documentation management and storage is boring, but boring businesses that crank out predictable profits can be great investments. Iron Mountain shares aren’t a screaming bargain right now, but they’ll likely reward long-term investors.