As I read his post, I remembered how I felt when I was in one of Marco Vangelisti’s workshops. The feeling of desperation to have my money be working for a more livable future.
So, I’m writing this post here to give myself the push to divest from the stock market and reinvest as much as I reasonably can before the end of September (giving me enough time to talk with my partner and others about it… :).
I’ve been thinking about and wanting to take my money out of the stock market for a few years (mostly for ethical reasons).
I started to get more serious when my smartest wealth management friend Jack told me he exited the stock market because he felt it was “frothy”. He instead decided to start buying down and paying off his mortgage.
I’ve taken about 1/2 of what I had in index funds out… (like Vanguard’s S&P 500 index fund — which is what my smartest friends told me I should do 3, 5, 10 15 years ago when I first started thinking about this when an employer made me put away retirement money…)
but now, I’m considering going all the way and taking a bunch more out of the S&P 500 and the stock market.
I’m probably not going to go to all cash like this guy suggests — but rather split the rest between a few places I really believe in:
Kachuwa Impact Fund — founded by Blake Jones — one of the top co-op entrepreneurs of our time. He started Namaste Solar — a worker-owned co-op that has done phenomenally well. Amicus Solar — a purchasing co-op. A Clean Energy Credit Union — and now he leads (on a volunteer basis) Kachuwa Impact fund — which is invested about half in real estate and the other half in cooperatives or perpetual trusts — or social impact focused ventures — https://www.kachuwaimpactfund.com/about (Side note, they just agreed to a $15,000 investment in CPA Co-op which pays 5% interest for 10 years). Because I’ve been talking to Blake, I know he’s raising money right now — let me know if you’re interested.
CNote — https://mycnote.com/ — 2.5% – this invests in community development and women-led & women-owned enterprises.
top influential US cooperative movement leaders (i.e. Doug O’Brien, Paul Hazen, Nathan Schneider)
investors that are re-shaping the way we think about risk & return as well as impact, legacy & a livable future (i.e. Marco Vangelisti, Essential Knowledge 4 Transition)
cutting edge community development & community ownership leaders (i.e. Jennifer Bryant, Alison Powers, )
We’re also drawing in:
young entrepreneurs taking the tools of private equity and applying it tackling the racial wealth gap through employee ownership (i.e. Phil & Todd from Apis & Heritage Capital Partners)
movement leaders from Zebras Unite, who are countering existing startup and venture capital culture by creating alternatives.
wise leaders from spiritual & religious traditions who are thinking on time horizons and scale of impact — that most of us are just starting to dream of (Myra Jackson, Sr. Corinne Floreck; Ryan Strode, Fr. Seamus Finn, Elizabeth Garlow)
The workshop brings together frameworks from movement organizing, cooperative economics, finance, leadership science & change-making & what’s at stake in this moment.
The Workshop Format
The format for this Shared Ownership workshop creates space to advance your own project and get feedback from generous peers reflecting back to you what they see.
We introduce frameworks for leadership & movements for change; but flip the traditional format. The vast majority of your time is interacting with peers and/or doing your most important work.
If you’re hungry to know how shared ownership companies work, legal structures, investment vehicles…. We will have prompts and reading lists that will point you towards those resources. However, the focus will be on creating an environment where you can interact with peers — who are some of the top leaders in their respective fields. In other words, the workshop isn’t about what technical knowledge you’ll obtain, but a deeper self-awareness of how the culture changes and what you need to learn next. It’s about how ideas spread and how change happens. We focus on how you can develop what you have to offer for even more transformative impact — because of the relationships & community we’re bringing together in this cohort.
Applications are due, tomorrow, July 21 by midnight.
Friends, as we face pandemics and economic crises, we also face an opportunity to do the work that could shape this decade and this century.
I believe you are the kind of leader we need at the center of this work.
Do you believe in yourself enough to take the leap and commit to your most important work?
We’re here for you when you’re ready.
List of Confirmed Workshop Participants
Doug O’Brien, CEO, National Cooperative Business Association
Paul Hazen, Executive Director, US Overseas Cooperative Development Council, former CEO, NCBA CLUSA
Sarah Clark McBroom, Equity Officer at Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation
Sr. Corinne Floreck, former Portfolio Director, Religious Sisters Impact Fund
Myra Jackson, United Nations Representative, Biosphere consultant
Ryan Strode, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, formerly Arabella Advisors
Marco Vangelisti, Impact Investor, Slow Money, EK4T
Molly Hemstreet, Co-Executive Director, Opportunity Threads, Carolina Textile District
Kevin Jones, Co-founder SOCAP, Co-founder, Faith+Finance
Eli Andrews, Accelerate Change
Fr. Seamus Finn, President, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
Elias Crim, Solidary Hall, & US Economy of Francesco
Kyle Johnson, Business Services Collective
Alison Power, Capital Impact Partners
Sara Chester, Co-Executive Director, The Industrial Commons
Dr. Tina Facca-Miess, Inspired Foresight
Jennifer Bryant, Washington Area Community Investment Fund
Elizabeth Garlow, Deputy Director, New America’s New Practice Lab
Phil Reeves, Partner, A&H Capital Partners, Board Member, DC Black Chamber of Commerce
Todd Leverette, Democracy At Work Institute, Partner, A&H Capital Partners
“As a result of the authenticity and skill of the facilitation, I and every group member were surprised by how quickly we were able to drop into high-trust sharing and collaboration. The amount that we got “figured out” in a short amount of time was remarkable, life changing for many of us, and potentially world transforming.”
~ Sam Hummel, former CEO, Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (Participant in April 2020 Workshop)
When I think about what’s happening in our world, I see wealth consolidation, growing inequality, I see more homeless folks.
Do my investments in corporate America and all the publicly traded companies that are part of the S&P 500 have anything to do with that?
1. I feel trapped.
I’m stuck in the mainstream retirement investing paradigm.
And I want out.
I did all the things I was told. I made smart choices and took advantage of employer’s matching contribution. I put extra money into Vanguard S&P 500 Index Funds. I even put money into the best Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds I could find: Calvert, Pax, Domini, TIAA-CREFF.
Every time I review my investments though, I get frustrated with how entangled I am in the same exploitative economic system I believe is at the root of so many of our problems.
I feel the intense dissonance from what I say I believe in and where my money actually is. It’s a similar dissonance to those times when I eat a burger, even though I know if I skipped it, I would save enough energy to charge my iPhone for 4.5 years.
It’s cognitive dissonance.
The challenge with investing is: where are all the good “happy” meat options?
2. Angry at “Those” People
“Today will be the last day for Stow, Melanie… [and a list of names were read]”
“Please clean out your offices by 5pm.”
I was 22 and it was my first Friday of my first full-time job. I was thrilled because I had basically landed a dream job as an energy researcher at one of the top firms in the world. As the meeting came to an end, I realized that dozens of colleagues were being laid off. Stow was the renewable energy expert I was most excited to work with. He had co-authored the definitive paper on emerging energy technologies. Melanie, a single mother with a son in Iraq, who worked with me on getting settled in on the job, selecting benefits, and everything else.
As I searched for answers, I found many colleagues distraught, but they calmly explained that while we had been a private company, we were recently acquired by a larger publicly traded firm, and the lay-offs were likely an effort to please investors by positioning for company for better quarterly returns.
This was a key moment in my awakening. The 401(k) options my employer offered got me started on this path. It was a path I wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of, but everybody in my life told me it was the right, smart thing to do.
I think this is how most of us start.
The injustice of how Stow and my other colleagues were treated jolted me to realize the world was really run by those shareholders – those big banks and folks on Wall Street.
As I’ve continued to reflect on, ask questions, and learn about investing, I realize my ownership of mutual funds and index funds means I’m also one of “those” people.
3. Entangled. We are all Those People
Merely by following the advice of the smartest people around us (as I did, when I was counseled by people I trust and that share my values), we go with the mutual and index fund options we’re offered.
I bet you’re just as entangled as I am. The reality is everyone who owns a mutual fund – even the socially responsible investment (SRI) funds — we own shares of these publicly traded companies that are beholden to our desire to grow shareholder value and deliver a return – ideally on par with the rest of the market.
Because that’s what you and I want when we review our investments, right?
We want the hard earned $250 that we eek out of our monthly budget to turn into $750,000.
With the power of compound interest, we know that if we start when we’re 30 and retire at age 70 and earn an 8% annual return along the way, we’ll get to $750,000.
If we earn an average of 9% return, we’d have more than $1,000,000.
If the average annual return is 5%, then it’s only $362,000.
That’s the power of compound interest (all with the same $250/month for 40 years). It’s also why there’s a whole industry around retirement planning, savings, and so much information about investing.
4. Disconnected. What do we want from our investments?
Well, clearly we want to retire. That’s something that in the past was part of the deal we got when we signed up with an employer — a pension. Today, it’s something we have to build on our own and that’s why 401k and 403b and Roth IRAs and financial advice and investing has become so much more focused on the mass market. We’re getting messages all the time about what we should and shouldn’t do. My hope is that you might take a step away from all of that and join me in asking some bigger questions.
What do we want to be part of?
I still have yet to receive a Google Ad or sponsored social media content that actually takes me to an investment option that really aligns with my values and conscience.
When I think about what’s happening in our world and our country, I see wealth consolidation, growing inequality, I see more homeless folks.
Do my investments in corporate America and all the publicly traded companies that are part of the S&P 500 have anything to do with that?
As a student of economics, a person of faith, and a co-op entrepreneur, I wish I was encouraged to wrestle with these questions more seriously in light of my faith. In the absence of hearing it from the pulpit, I invite you to think with me about these questions as a matter of conscience.
5. Hopeful. Alternatives are Becoming More Accessible
Though I’ve been wrestling with these questions for nearly 10 years — about our mainstream investment paradigm, socially responsible investing (SRI), and alternatives that make sense for me – I’m feeling more hopeful than ever about the options that are emerging.
One of the most inspiring recent things I’ve seen is the movement towards “Community Capital” spurred by recent changes in securities law (JOBS Act), allowing more people to participate in crowd-funding platforms that allow you to make equity investments in small businesses.
Resources that I’ve recently come across include:
Locavesting, a website (and book) pointing to many local, alternative and community capital options
Investibule, a platform for small firms looking to raise money
NC3 – a network & collaborative bringing together champions of community capital to more local, social entrepreneurs
I admit, some of this takes work. I also believe it’s a tremendous opportunity.
I see it as an opportunity for:
new relationships, (i.e. slow money networking)
to re-weave the fabric of our local communities,
building more equitable, prosperous, and just future for our kids and grandchildren,
economic democracy, cooperatives, ESOPs, and other employee-owned firms,
you and I to have a much more meaningful and authentic impact with our investments.
What possibilities could you imagine if half the people you knew took half of their investments and channeled them in ways that really resonated with their values and vision? What would that world look like?
What path are you looking for?
Drop me a line and let’s discuss. My hope in writing this is that it starts a discussion and leads to new things.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Will you join me?
I’m eager to build and contribute to communities of people that want to ask, wrestle with, and live into these tensions with more integrity.