Local Dollars, Local Sense by Michael Shuman (Chelsea Green, 2012)
The goal of this book is to describe how we can invest our money locally instead of in multi-national companies. If you’re like me, your first question is “What money?” A lot of Shuman’s advice is addressed to people who have actual money to invest (and who understand finance). The rest of us are so far from having any money to invest that we had no idea that only accredited investors (those with income over $200,000) can legally invest in companies. However, he points out that most Americans who are employed full time put money in retirement plans, which are invested in the stock market for us. This money could potentially be invested elsewhere, for example in local enterprises. After explaining how U.S. securities laws make it tough for anyone to invest locally, Shuman illustrates some of the ways we can get around them. His favorites seem to be cooperatives and local banks and credit unions. Shuman does not claim that investing locally will make us rich. He focuses on the good we will do for our local economies, and says that it is likely we won’t be any worse off financially than if we invested in far away enterprises. Investing locally does require that our state of residence offers the types of local opportunities he’s talking about though, since the law is apparently very stringent about restricting investments to state residents. Since my state is the home of so many national and international financial companies, I expect we’ll be one of the last ones to develop homegrown alternatives.