My Best Investments Are Down The Street

Social activist and local living economies advocate shares her investment secrets
Judy Wicks talks with customers—she lives above the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia, a restaurant she founded that also serves as a hub for social activism. Photo by Tom Gralish for YES! Magazine

I have always felt uneasy about the stock market. As a longtime organizer and a local restaurant founder and owner, I put nearly all of my money, time, and energy into my local community, rather than into global corporate investments.

When I inherited a few shares of stock from my parents, I moved them into socially responsible investment funds. That way I knew I was not supporting companies that produced weapons or cigarettes, or did testing on animals. But when I looked at my portfolio and saw Wal-Mart among my holdings, I knew the stock market was not for me.

Ten years ago, I sold my stocks and put my entire savings into The Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia community investment group that loans money to support affordable housing, local businesses, community centers, and other community needs. I soon discovered that the wind turbines producing renewable energy for our region, including my own home and business, were financed by The Reinvestment Fund. From my local investment, I receive not only a modest financial return (which has now outperformed the stock market), but also a “living return”—the benefit of living in a more sustainable community.

When we invest our savings in a local reinvestment fund, credit union, or locally owned bank, we provide the capital needed to build local, living economies in our regions and receive the benefit of a living return.

Judy Wicks wrote this article as part of The New Economy, the Summer 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Judy is co-founder and board chair of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (), and founder of the White Dog Cafe ().

Interested? Read about Judy Wicks and the White Dog Cafe.

Photo of Judy Wicks
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