Creating economic opportunity for all.
Ownership Works and our partners recognize the power of shared ownership to help generate benefits for employees, companies, and society at large:
- Wealth Creation & Economic Resilience. By increasing workers' access to and participation in wealth creation, employee ownership can help families develop greater financial resilience and help address the lack of stock ownership among low- and moderate-income households.
- Racial Equity. By extending ownership opportunities beyond senior management – which historically lacks diversity – to all employees of a company, shared ownership can increase racial equity.
- Financial Inclusion. When paired with financial education and coaching, shared ownership programs can help employees improve their financial know-how, offering one avenue to enhance financial capability across America.
- Employee Engagement. By reinvigorating corporate cultures, shared ownership can help improve employee engagement and voice, which can benefit both employee retention and company performance.
Wealth Creation & Economic Resilience
The bottom 25% of households have a median net worth of only $300, nearly 40% of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency expense, and 26% of workers have no money saved for retirement. For employees in the bottom half of the country economically, there’s just not enough in wages to weather a crisis or get ahead.
Employee ownership provides workers with access to one of the most significant pathways to wealth creation: stock ownership. Since 1989, directly held stocks and mutual funds have grown exponentially from $2.06 trillion to $40.4 trillion in 2021. The bottom half of all households owns just $300 billion (0.6%) of this wealth. By more broadly distributing access to wealth creation opportunities, employee ownership can help more families build savings to weather financial setbacks and invest in their futures.
U.S. Wealth Distribution Today
Bottom 50% has limited financial security and an uncertain path to retirement.
Change in distribution of directly held stocks and mutual funds
The bottom 50% missed out on the vast majority of wealth created by directly held stocks and mutual funds since 1989.
Due to generations of exclusion from equal economic opportunity, people of color have not accumulated wealth at the same rate as White families. With respect to stock ownership, Black and Latino households combined own just $700 billion (1.6%) in directly held stocks and mutual funds. Expanding ownership beyond senior management, which has historically lacked diversity, to all workers, provides more people of color with access to this important pathway to financial opportunity and wealth creation.
Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity
According to the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, White families have the highest median and mean net worth, valued at more than that of all other races and ethnicities combined.
Source: Federal Reserve Board, Distributional Financial Accounts
Diversity Among Executives and in the Labor Force
Black and Hispanic or Latino employees are underrepresented among executive senior leadership, which is often where employee ownership is concentrated.
Far too many Americans are lacking in knowledge when it comes to the basics of personal finance. According to the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, a full 66% are unable to correctly answer more than three of five questions covering aspects of economics and finance encountered in everyday life, such as compound interest, inflation, and principles relating to risk and diversification.
A lack of financial knowledge has far-reaching implications for households, impacting everything from credit card debt to retirement savings. To address this issue, Ownership Works is advancing shared ownership models that include personal financial education and coaching for employees. By pairing forms of company ownership with free, high-quality education and coaching, we hope to empower employees with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions that support financial wellness and wealth building.
Invigorated Corporate Culture
According to Gallup, for the first year in more than a decade, the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. declined, decreasing from just 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021.
Through employee ownership, companies can replace a culture of apathy with an invigorated culture of ownership. Pairing stock grants with greater communication, transparency, and voice can create the ultimate alignment of interests and engage an entire workforce around a common purpose and strategy. It can also help increase a sense of fairness and equitable treatment, which is a core driver of retention. Employees know their companies best, and when given the opportunity to both contribute to and participate in the success they help create, they can take a company from good to great.
A Resilient Economy
Extending wealth building opportunities to more workers can benefit not only individuals and companies, but also the national economy and society at large.
As indicated in the chart below, wealth inequality has steadily increased over the last three decades. For the millions of employees who live paycheck to paycheck, wages are insufficient to save for hard times let alone invest in assets. In 2020, the median household income was $67,521, a decrease of 2.9% from the 2019 median of $69,560 and the first statistically significant decline in median household income since 2011.
The distribution of earnings and wealth matters – not just a matter of fairness, but also as a matter of economic stability. A broader distribution of earnings and wealth can support economic growth and resilience by increasing families’ spending power and their ability to weather personal financial setbacks and market downturns. Escalating wealth inequality weakens an economy when millions of households live one paycheck away from poverty and large amounts of earnings sit in deposits rather than circulating in the economy through wages and consumer spending.
U.S. Wealth Inequality Is Rising Steadily
The ratio of household wealth held by the top 10th percentile to the remaining (bottom) 90th percentile has been increasing over time and is higher today than when the Federal Reserve began collecting this data in 1989.
Business, like life, is a team sport
No one succeeds on their own. When a company can include all employees in the opportunity to participate in the upside they help generate, we believe the company should.