Shareholders have incredible power, but most don’t know it. You don’t need to be a millionaire to have an impact. Every share matters. If you own a share, you have a voice.

Shareholders can file and vote on company proposals, but almost 30% of shares go unvoted at company board meetings every year. In the last 10 years, thousands of resolutions filed with companies have increased the cost of doing business and decreased returns for retirees and everyone.

How to Vote Your Proxy

As a shareholder in a corporation, your vote counts.  Management and the Board of Directors often respond to resolutions that gain support even though they may not reach a majority.

1) Vote your shares directly.

If you own shares directly, you likely receive your ballot from the company or fund manager in the mail a few weeks before annual shareholder meetings. It is important to read each resolution and decide for yourself how to vote. Companies may offer “Opposition Statements” or biased summaries of resolutions they disfavor.

Once you decide how to vote, just follow the instructions on the ballot. There are usually options to vote by mail, over the phone, or on the internet.

2) Tell your financial manager how to vote your shares.

If you have a financial manager who buys and sells shares for you, let them know you want a say in how your votes are cast. Send an email or letter asking your financial manager to vote based on your perspective.

If your financial manager won’t follow your instructions on how to vote your shares, perhaps it’s time to take your business elsewhere.

3) Tell your mutual fund manager how to vote shares, and why.

What if your shares in a company are held in a mutual fund? Technically you don’t own shares in the corporation, but you do own shares in the mutual fund that does. Mutual fund managers often don’t vote at all, or they vote with the management of the corporation. Knowing your perspective helps fund managers understand the will of their owners.

If you want to influence how mutual fund managers vote on corporate resolutions, write to them directly or reach out to the investor relations department.