Time Horizon Problem

The time horizon problem in worker cooperatives creates a tendency to under invest in situations where there is an ageing demographic approaching retirement or members for other reasons expect to leave the coop shortly. Worker coops are democratic organizations with individual member interests. These interests are reflected in financial decisions which may differ depending on individual preferences. Younger members will want a high level of reinvestment, as it will increase job security for the remainder of their career. Older members, approaching retirement will favor higher profit payouts and lower investment from which they will see little benefit.

Coop demographics can influence everything from the sales of assets, to investment in new ones. A member nearing retirement might oppose a large capital investment or the expansion into a new line of business that would tie up capital and place the the coop in an illiquid position where they might not be able to pay out the members internal capital account. This class of time horizon problem (lack of liquidity) is a result of the buy out of members internal capital accounts when they depart.

Similarly a member who was planning to leave the coop soon might oppose the purchase of a large capital asset (like real estate) that would create the added expense of interest payments and depreciation during their last years as a member and reduce near term earnings. This second class of time horizon problem (reduced earning) is similar to the problem founding members face in a startup worker cooperative.