How Millennials Can Save the World While Saving for Retirement


If you are a millennial investor—or just think like one—you are likely to have some very different attitudes about investing than previous generations. We conducted a survey and this one stands out for me: 67% of millennials say they want investments to reflect their social and environmental values. (For women, it’s 76%.)

Impact investing is more than just a feel good gesture—it drives real business. Today, clean energy is responsible for more jobs than the fossil fuel industry (source: Impact Alpha). What that means is your choice to invest for a better world can have a real, tangible impact.

And you can start with your 401(k). Our latest survey found that 72% of millennials feel on track with their retirement savings. It’s a good figure, but we want a great one. Maybe you’ll find extra inspiration by including a sustainable investing strategy that invests based on social or environmental criteria in your workplace retirement account.

Make an impact on your future now

This approach is not new; endowments and pension funds have used similar strategies for decades. What is new is that sustainable strategies are becoming much less expensive and more widely available than ever before.

There are many variations. Some screen out industries that conflict with social or environmental objectives. Others may evaluate potential investments based on their Environmental Social Governance (or ESG) profiles, creating a scoring system to guide the investment manager to the most values-positive companies. Others target positive social and environmental outcomes through pure impact investing strategies.

And that creates an exciting opportunity. By investing in a sustainable strategy through your retirement plan, you can do some good right now that will hopefully pay off later. If you are 30 years old today, that means your retirement dollars can be put to use for decades to build the kind of world you want to live in. That alone should get you energized about saving for retirement, no matter how far away it seems.

A little something extra

Ideally, sustainable investing should be your inspiration to make an additional retirement contribution above and beyond the money you are already saving in an appropriately diversified investment. Doing good should inspire you to do more for yourself.

The catch is that your workplace retirement plan might not have a sustainable option. But, that may be changing. Annual growth in these strategies has been approximately 33% in recent years (source: Global Sustainable Investment Alliance). That rate of growth may increase following last year’s Department of Labor guidance on impact investing, which should encourage more 401(k) plans to offer such options. Ask your employer about adding an impact option.

For those of you who are already engaged in retirement planning and savings, the sense of purpose from making a sustainable investment can be transformative. Combining your passion for social and environmental causes with the need to build for your future could give new energy to your retirement planning—and that applies whether you’re a millennial, a gen X-er, a boomer or any age.

Anne Ackerley is the Head of BlackRock’s U.S. & Canada Defined Contribution (USDC) Group and a regular contributor to The Blog.


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