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What can I do with my retirement savings? Not what I want!

by Tom Webb, almost 2 years ago

I am in my early 70s and have a modest RRIF that I would like to use to help finance green industry, co-operatives and social enterprise.  For example I would like to invest in Solar Share Co-operative or CED Co-operative where I can get a set, limited return of 5-7%.  

What I do not want is to invest in is the casino economy of tobacco, fossil fuels, mining companies and other investments where my savings will be used to diminish the future of my children and grandchildren.  I am not looking for windfall profits but simply investments designed to meet human need and to build a better world. 

Alas, that is not an option.  My government makes it impossible.  Even if I put my RIFF savings into a co-operative owned financial institution like the Co-operators or the credit union ethical funds or other ethical funds, when I dig down I find investments in banks, oil sands, mining and polluting companies.  When I want to invest in co-operatives I am forced to invest in their competition.  When I ask why, I am told that regulators want to protect me from high risk funds by ensuring there are 'blue chip' companies.  But co-operatives failure rates are lower.  But Lehmans and other blue chip banks were AAA rated.  But Sears was blue chip.  2008 was a product of banks not credit unions.  So what is the real reason behind the regulators 'protection?  I have to say I have no confidence that the government cares about protecting me or my grandchildren.  The focus of government is on protecting the wealth and profits of the very wealthy and big corporations.  We are forced to turn our savings over to them.

There is no other way to explain why BP (remember the Gulf disaster) gets tax subsidies to drill on the Scotian Shelf, (a super high risk site) so they might find hydro carbons that if we burn them we already have been told by 15,000 scientists we will achieve run away climate change.  

At present many attempts to start co-operatives are slowed or prevented by a lack of capital.  Co-operatives needing funds for capital intensive industries or investments find few alternatives.  The capital available has objectives, behaviour and characteristics that do not fit comfortably into a co-operative business.  Co-operatives whose members are nearing retirement and who need to be able to take out their personal savings to retire must sell their co-operative.  With a shortage of capital whose behaviour and characteristics does fit co-operative business I am unable to invest in co-operatives by regulation that is simply inappropriate.  (see Co-operative Capital:What it is and Why Our World Needs It, Trento University, Euricse, 2010)

There is an alternative.  Promote the creation of co-operative and social enterprise funds.  Allow people like me to invest in them.  You could even provide a modest tax credit for investing these funds that would benefit the community.  You can expand the portion of the economy owned democratically.  You can expand social housing.  You can stimulate workplace creation of stable jobs owned by the workers who will not shut down their companies for marginal gains in profits.  You can provide room for pension funds to invest in co-operative friendly capital.  If 12 million co-operative members in Canada were encouraged to put only $10,000 each in co-operative capital funds it would provide a co-operative capital pool of $120 billion. 

Consultation has concluded