How millennials can save the world while saving for retirement

As impact strategies gain in popularity, Anne Ackerley explains what they are all about and why investors should take them into account when they plan 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%.) Putting your money where your beliefs are is a great idea.

What’s not a great idea is ignoring your retirement, and that is, unfortunately, a common millennial attitude as well. It’s hard to focus on retirement when you are starting out. According to our survey, only 36% of millennials monitor their retirement savings and only 38% increase savings when they can. There’s something ironic in worrying about the planet’s future while ignoring your own.

The good news is you don’t have to choose. If you have a sustainable investing strategy option in your retirement account that invests based on social or environmental criteria, you can help do some good for the world while also potentially doing some good for your retirement.

Make an impact on your future now

The sustainable investing 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 in your retirement plan, you can do some good right now, even as you do yourself some good 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 be your inspiration to do more for yourself.

The catch is that your workplace retirement plan may not have a sustainable option. That may be changing. Annual growth in these strategies has been approximately 33% per year in recent years. That rate of growth may increase following recent Department of Labor guidance on impact investing, which should encourage more 401(k) plans to offer such options. Ask your plan sponsor 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.

This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed are as of June 2016 and may change as subsequent conditions vary. The information and opinions contained in this post are derived from proprietary and nonproprietary sources deemed by BlackRock to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. As such, no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence) is accepted by BlackRock, its officers, employees or agents. This post may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this post is at the sole discretion of the reader.

Investing involves risks, including possible loss of principal.

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