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Mini-cast 246: Please Don't Call Them Retirement Plans

The EsOp Mini-cast with Bret Keisling: Please Don't Call Them Retirement Plans

Bret Keisling notes that ESOPs and employee ownership are going through a rebranding phase right now. Technically, at its core, ESOPs are a qualified retirement plan. Why? Because Congress defined it that way when they established them back in the 1970s. But we know that ESOPs are so much more. They are a great tool for wealth building and data shows that, among other things, ESOPs provide financial advantages today, including higher wages and job benefits, better company governance, and improved job security.

So, please. Don't call them retirement plans.

You can hear the full roundtable discussion in The EsOp Podcast Episode 261: Growing EO in New Hampshire.

... or watch the video below.


Mini-cast 246 Transcript

[00:00:00] Bret Keisling: ​Welcome to the EsOp Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling and, as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. ESOPs and employee ownership are going through a little bit of a rebranding phase right now. Technically, at its core, ESOPs are a qualified retirement plan. Why? Because Congress defined it that way when they establish them back in the 1970s. But what we've learned is that ESOPs are much more than that. So, please, don't call them retirement plans.

[00:00:43] ESOPs are a great tool for wealth building. And although it's true that a lot of the focus is on wealth building as distributed at the end of one's career, as you'll hear in this exchange, the data is very clear that ESOPs build wealth long before retirement age.

[00:00:59] Here's a brief exchange that we ran on an episode earlier this week of both the Owner to Owner podcast and The EsOp Podcast called Growing EO in New Hampshire. Towards the end of the episode, Owner to Owner host and program moderator, Jesse Tyler, posed a question submitted by Steve Storkan, the executive director of [the Employee Ownership Expansion Network] EOX. Several participating employee owners answered, which you'll hear in the full episode, and then Jesse called on Loren Rodgers, the executive director of the [National Center for Employee Ownership] NCEO, which we'll bring you right now.


[00:01:32] Jesse Tyler: So, I have an interesting question in the meeting chat from Steve Storkan from EOX.

[00:01:37] We always hear about the financial gain at ESOPs as long term. Do any of the panel members feel that employee ownership means anything financial for today? Do you feel wages are better at your company than others? Is there a bonus or profit-sharing component that's built-in that you feel is superior to other companies?

[00:01:52] We've heard about profit sharing. We've talked about shares today in different conversations. Steve's asking, talk about the financial now for employee ownership.

[00:02:00] Loren, what are your thoughts?

[00:02:01] Loren Rodgers: All right. Thank you, Jesse. And hey, Steve, thank you for that question. That's a really good one. I've got a bad habit of talking too fast and there are way too many things to say here, but I just want to make two points.

[00:02:11] One is the, there's actually a really clear, no feelings involved answer to Steve's question. There's really good data. If you go to, I think that's the very best study there is on this stuff. And the fact is that employee owners do have more net household wealth, 92 percent more net household wealth, than non-employee-owners. They've got 53 percent greater wages than non-employee-owners. And there's a bunch of non-financial stuff in there too, like tuition reimbursement and flex time.

[00:02:42] So, that's clear. I mean, we know the answer to Steve's question.

[00:02:45] But I think the other interesting bit that's harder to measure in dollar terms is it's also, it's not just greater dollars and benefits. It's a lot more secure. And it always kind of makes me laugh when people say an ESOP is concentrated, so it's more risky. I think ESOP companies are safer because they have to have good process.

[00:03:05] Every one of you does a five-year projection and most companies your size don't. Every one of you has got some pressure to do really good governance. And not all companies have that.

[00:03:16] ESOP companies just by virtual virtue of being covered by ERISA, by the nuts-and-bolts requirements of being an ESOP, you are better governed, better managed, than the average company. And I think that's huge. I think that makes for a much more stable set of benefits for people.

[00:03:34] Jesse Tyler: That's great. Thank you. So, to borrow from communications director at NCEO, Tim Garbinsky is a fantastic facilitator, he does webinars or some of them now. To borrow from him from, I think, his presentation in Seattle: What is the median retirement account value for a working American in the U. S.?

[00:03:52] [Roundtable members]: So, I think like, 70,000 or something. Seven? 70,000?

[00:03:55] Jesse Tyler: Vote for 70,000 in the front. Any others?

[00:03:59] Zero! Because less than half have a single dollar saved for retirement. But I pulled up the, I pulled up the NCEO site, other resources during the onboarding program. The last time I saw, what is the national account average for employee owners? This doesn't break down tenure, size of company, or anything like that. What's the account value? Zero is in the country, what is the employee owner?

[00:04:22] [Roundtable members]: Is it 90k?

[00:04:23] Jesse Tyler: Too low.

[00:04:24] [Roundtable members]: 110?

[00:04:26] Jesse Tyler: Too low!

[00:04:27] [Roundtable members]: 150.

[00:04:27] Jesse Tyler: Loren, if you had my back on the latest number, the last time I pulled it up was $139,000.

[00:04:32] [Roundtable member]: Thumbs up.

[00:04:33] Jesse Tyler: Sweet.


[00:04:33] Bret Keisling: There is so much to talk about in the power of ESOPs, but please don't call them retirement plans. That doesn't do them justice at all. With that, we'll wrap up this episode of the Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well.

[00:04:50] Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you! You can find us on Facebook at EO Podcast Network and on Twitter [X] @EsOpPodcast. This podcast has been produced by Bret Keisling for the EO Podcast Network. Original music composed by Max Keisling. Branding and marketing by BitsyPlus Design. And I'm Bitsy McCann.

Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.

A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Descript, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The EsOp Podcast, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.


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