How to Retire to the Co-op Commonwealth

We’ve dedicated our lives to cooperatives, but our retirement funds to Wall Street. That has to change, and I recently decided to figure out how it might be done. While not simple, it’s possible, and suggests a way that the community of co-op supporters might mobilize substantial capital for the growth of our movement.

Like many of my peers who began our careers in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, my only real savings to speak of is a small pot of money in a tax-exempt retirement account into which the employers of my early-to-mid-twenties made occasional three-figure contributions. Given its meager sum and the hefty penalties on early withdrawals, for many years I’d given little consideration to the money.

However, that apathy changed last fall when I began work at the Vermont Employee Ownership Center, a small non-profit that supports the formation of, transition to, and education about worker co-ops and ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans). Upon joining the organization, I began assisting with the conversion of a for-profit business into a worker co-op that was then in the financing stage. As the deal unfolded, I was both fascinated and frustrated with the way in which many traditional financial institutions shied away after unsuccessfully attempting to treat the co-op as if it were a model with which they were more familiar (such as a partnership or a non-profit). As a result, substantial creativity was required to make the financing work, which was ultimately cobbled together from a diversity of sources that were, for personal and/or mission-driven reasons, more risk-tolerant.

Read the full article at Co-op Water Cooler


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