Young people blame climate change for their small 401(k) balances

from Market Watch

By Kari Paul

Published: May 23, 2019 9:46 a.m. ET

Many young people today think civilization may not exist when they’re of retirement age. Here are ways to get them to invest for the future.

Illustration/Sam Island

Lori Rodriguez, a 27-year-old communications professional in New York City, is not saving for retirement, and it isn’t necessarily because she can’t afford to — it’s because she doesn’t expect it to matter.

Like many people her age, Rodriguez believes climate change will have catastrophic effects on our planet. Some 88% of millennials — a higher percentage than any other age group — accept that climate change is happening, and 69% say it will impact them in their lifetimes. Engulfed in a constant barrage of depressing news stories, many young people are skeptical about saving for an uncertain future.

“I want to hope for the best and plan for a future that is stable and secure, but, when I look at current events and at the world we are predicting, I do not see how things could not be chaotic in 50 years,” Rodriguez says. “The weather systems are already off, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to be a little apocalyptic.”

Mental-health issues affecting young adults and adolescents in the U.S. have increased significantly in the past decade, a study published in March in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found. The number of individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 reporting symptoms of major depression increased 52% from 2005 to 2017, while older adults did not experience any increase in psychological stress at this time, and some age groups even saw decreases. Study author Jean Twenge says this may be attributed to the increased use of digital media, which has changed modes of interaction enough to impact social lives and communication. Millennials are also said to suffer from “eco-anxiety,” according to a 2018 report from the American Psychological Association, with 72% saying their emotional well-being is affected by the inevitability of climate change, compared with just 57% of people over the age of 45.

“The weather systems are already off, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to be a little apocalyptic.” — Lori Rodriguez, a 27-year-old communications professional in New York City

Meanwhile, two-thirds of millennials — defined by Pew as the generation born between 1981 and 1996 — have nothing saved for retirement, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security. The millennials who are saving had an average balance of $25,500 and were contributing 7.3% of their paychecks as of the second quarter of 2018, figures from Fidelity showed. While most millennials say they are not saving because they simply can’t afford to, for others it’s about the feeling that they may not have a future to save for, says Matt Fellowes, chief executive officer of United Income, an online retirement investment platform based in Washington, D.C.

“There is a certain fatalism in this population relative to more recent generations,” Fellowes says. “Psychologically, this population has had more shocks to expectations about their futures than past generations. From a perception point of view, I hear a lot of cynicism about the ability to build retirement savings or whether they will be able to retire at all.”

Climate change may also have direct, and devastating, effects on the finances of young people, an August 2016 study from environmental advocacy organization NextGen Climate found. The median 21-year-old college graduate in the class of 2015 will lose over $126,000 in income over her lifetime to climate-change-induced costs and $187,000 in wealth if that income were to have been saved and invested, the study, titled “The Price Tag of Being Young,” found.

A perennial problem

From the chaos of World War II to the draft for the Vietnam War and the looming threat of nuclear conflict during the Cold War, every generation has its own source of doubt about the future, but millennials are uniquely poised to distrust systems propping up the concept of retirement, says Brad Klontz, 48, associate professor of practice at the Financial Psychology Institute. The current generation of young people witnessed the dot-com bubble burst after the turn of the millennium, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the wars that followed, and the stock-market crash in 2008 and the associated housing crisis.

“What happened in 2008 was an incredible financial flashpoint for millennials,” he says. “After watching their parents lose a job or a home, millennials are contending with a deep distrust for financial institutions and the stock market. That brings out catastrophic thinking, because they’ve already seen a catastrophe.”

Read the full story here

HT/Dr. Roy Spencer

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Lynn Dollar
May 24, 2019 6:06 am

Good gawd, I can’t believe this whining ………… when I was in my 20’s , we had an economic triple double, double digit inflation, double digit unemployment, and double digit interest rates. Try to buy a house with 15% mortgage rates , and see what you can buy.

Surely, most of these kids don’t think like they’re portrayed.

William Powers
Reply to  Lynn Dollar
May 24, 2019 7:07 am

Unfortunately most do because they have been indoctrinated throughout their education to be afraid of the boogeyman under the bed. Gen X and Millennial.

These officious bureaucrats, who have been preying upon their delicate sensibilities for the past 4 decades, should be prosecuted for mental abuse.

Reply to  William Powers
May 26, 2019 9:15 am

But the bureaucrats will have index-linked pensions, paid for by these same millennials.


Reply to  Lynn Dollar
May 24, 2019 7:30 am

Oh yea, the ‘good old days’ of the Carter administration.

Reply to  Lynn Dollar
May 24, 2019 8:26 am

And the company I worked for told us on Jan 2, 1984 they are going out of business, put your belongings in a box and be out before noon, goodby. Population of the city was under 30,000, and I was lucky I sold my house for the amount due on the mortgage. Lost over $50,000 from the purchase price. Got a job, moved and took full advantage of company matched investment programs. Retired at 60 and have not regretted it. Doing very well, thank you.

Bryan A
Reply to  Usurbrain
May 24, 2019 10:16 am

And the millenials are wondering why, after graduating College (4 years ago??) 1993-2015 and have been in the workforce for 4 years, they only have $25000 in their 401K’s???
What math do they teach in College??
$25,000/4-=$6,250 per year. $85,000 x 7.3% = $6,205.
So 4 years out of college and they are making more than $85,000 yearly. Sounds like their 401K’s are right on track.
Silver spoons have to be earned, they arent just handed out.

Lee L
Reply to  Bryan A
May 24, 2019 12:11 pm

There is also that ‘Greatest transfer of intergenerational wealth’ meme which is probably true.
Not for everyone of course, but for those children of the so called wealthy boomers….

“There is a certain fatalism in this population relative to more recent generations,”
Yea well that kind of thing didn’t get MY parents through the 1930s but then they weren’t brought up to feel entitled. Resigned fatalism is but one of the faces of ENTITLEMENT. And that, as one of their parents ,my friends, is probably our fault.

Bryan A
Reply to  Lee L
May 24, 2019 2:19 pm

I read someplace that what is suggested as far as earnings and retirement savings go, If you are of the belief that we should help the less fortunate, then set aside 10% (thinking Tithe though not necessarily Church) and use it to assist the needy (donations etc). Then take 1/2 of what remains (or 45 % of your original earnings) and place in into savings (401K IRA Stocks Investments etc..) for when you wish to retire. The remainder is what you live off of. If you are only saving 7%, it is no wonder your 401K’s are so small.
Kids should do similar and take 1/2 of what they get (earn, allowance, grandparent christmas gift$$$) and place it into untouched savings, investments.

Reply to  Bryan A
May 25, 2019 7:16 am

It is not climate change eliminating your savings but the Federal Reserve and their goal of a yearly 2% inflation.
So why safe now when those savings won’t buy anything in 40 years. You safe in something that doesn’t lose value over the years and government can’t steal.

Reply to  Lynn Dollar
May 24, 2019 9:37 am

We also had a 3 day week and threats of imminent extinction from a belligerent Russia.

Reply to  Lynn Dollar
May 24, 2019 2:00 pm

This is the generation that baby boomers, defined as being born between 1946 and 1964, raised.

May 24, 2019 7:10 am

Great. So not only are they screaming to destroy world economies because climate change, they’ll be on welfare because they haven’t saved for retirement. But the gov’t won’t have any money because of all the screaming these idiots did to destroy it.

Their vision is non-existent.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
May 24, 2019 8:15 am

Apparently they are voting for Trump, though!

Plus a number of other links.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 24, 2019 2:11 pm

Working class vs. NONworking millennials. Millennials who’ve spent, on a Bachelors degree, more like 5 and a half or 6 years in college plus who knows what degrees afterwards likely didn’t want to work the jobs that they could get and jobs that they would still get. I bet that AOC loved being a barista more than anything else after college. She sure ran for Congress quick. Do you know what her salary and work description is now?

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
May 24, 2019 9:00 am

Liberalism in a nutshell.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
May 24, 2019 9:22 am

Global control is more important than making financial sense–see Cuba and Venezuela if there are any questions.

John the Econ
May 24, 2019 7:13 am

Climate change. What can’t it do?

Reply to  John the Econ
May 24, 2019 9:00 am

Change the climate?

kate michaels
Reply to  MarkW
May 24, 2019 2:22 pm

Brilliant. I think you deserve a (EU Sanctioned Non-Tracking©) cookie for that

Boulder Skeptic
Reply to  John the Econ
May 24, 2019 7:47 pm

“…69% say it will impact them in their lifetimes.”
Yes, it appears that they are letting the biggest hoax in my lifetime to impact them.

“The weather systems are already off, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to be a little apocalyptic.”
Proof they are probably the most brainwashed generation in US history.

I’ve got two millennials who were pounded with propaganda during their entire primary and secondary educations here in the People’s Republic of Boulder (12 square miles surrounded by reality). It was all I could do to keep them from internalizing the constant stream of lies in their Earth Sciences, History, Social Sciences and Government classes. At least two millennials will be prepared to take care of themselves in their retirement. But it wasn’t easy.

May 24, 2019 7:17 am

“The weather systems are already off, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to be a little apocalyptic.” — Lori Rodriguez

What is already off is Lori’s brain, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic.

James Beaver
Reply to  Petit_Barde
May 24, 2019 9:04 am

She’s a “communications professional in New York City”.

Which means she’s never studied anything in the real world. Her brain is full of virtual and literal nonsense.

Reply to  Petit_Barde
May 24, 2019 9:40 am

It would be very interesting to get lori to write an article setting out her fears and their sources and to debate it here in a friendly and non confrontational manner

John F. Hultquist
May 24, 2019 7:24 am

many young people are skeptical about saving for an uncertain future.

Too bad the skepticism doesn’t work as it should.

millennials say they are not saving because they simply can’t afford to,

Life is going to be very hard for them when they pass 70 with no money.
Having past 70, we see friends and neighbors with this problem.
They can’t afford not to save.
Good grief!

Joel Snider
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
May 24, 2019 8:49 am

Well, it’s like the last batch of idiots that sold off or gave away everything they owned in preparation for the arrival of the flying saucer, or the last Biblical doomsday.

What do you do in the morning?

May 24, 2019 7:39 am

The median 21-year-old college graduate in the class of 2015 will lose over $126,000 in income over her lifetime to climate-change-induced costs …“. Yup, that’s just what a “carbon tax” does to you.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Mike Jonas
May 24, 2019 8:53 am


Reply to  Mike Jonas
May 24, 2019 11:25 am

That is less than $3,000 per year if they work to 66. Unfortunate, but not catastrophic. Plus, if we can grow at 3%, the economy will be almost four times as big per capita. At an average growth rate of 2.5 the GDP will be three times larger.

Steve Richards
May 24, 2019 7:40 am

It is a shame if this has any truth to it. Each generation has its issues and problems to face. The commonality between generations, especially at the younger end of the spectrum is that they think it only effects them.

They learn as they get older that it is always the same…

May 24, 2019 7:46 am

You think they’re depressed now? Wait a decade and see how they’re doing after they find out that all their panic and doubt was for nothing, and the world is going to go on just fine.

Why, they might even have to face the crushing despair of having the Media and the rest of the Left dump them in favor of the NEXT generation of easily lead children.


Joel Snider
May 24, 2019 7:51 am

Well, gee, progressives are bankrupting the hell out of my state – and a lot of it is in the name of climate. Does that count?

May 24, 2019 7:54 am

“is not saving for retirement, and it isn’t necessarily because she can’t afford to — it’s because she ”

….has had socialism beat into her head…and thinks the government will do it

May 24, 2019 7:59 am

if you are frugal and save all you can or invest it, the government at some point will try to take it from you, climate/weather has nothing to do with it.

Michael H Anderson
Reply to  RonK
May 24, 2019 8:52 am

Yep. The older I get, the libertarian-er I become.

son od mulder
May 24, 2019 8:01 am

So at what point do the models predict that human lifespan will start to shorten?

Michael H Anderson
May 24, 2019 8:04 am

So don’t invest, don’t save. Finish out your life in a welfare hotel eating dog food if that’s what you want. It’s what your elitist puppet-masters want for the western world, so both demographics will be happy. We can’t save every witless kid who believes what the news tells them, we all have our own lives to live and our energy is better spent fighting the swine that gave them the idea in the first place. Cure the disease, not the symptoms.

It’s sad I know, because the education system grooms them to be blindly obedient followers, but although I’m sympathetic you have to pick your battles. My own son developed critical thinking skills at an early age because that’s the kind of parents he has, but he’s an exception. Lots of the other gifted kids in his school drank the AGW Kool-aid without a whimper, so it takes more than just brains; it takes practice and the will to use them well.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Michael H Anderson
May 24, 2019 11:33 am

“We can’t save every witless kid who believes what the news tells them”

Especially considering they have the internet available to them where they can find the truth of the matter they are interested in, if they look hard enough.

If they looked hard enough at the matter of CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) they would find there is nothing to be feared in putting CO2 in the atmosphere as there is no evidence CO2 is having any noticeable effect on the Earth’s weather or climate, and no evidence that it will have an effect in the future.

So rather than being scared of the future, I think if I were them, I would do an internet search or two. You might even find WUWT, where experts on many subjects manage to put and keep things in the proper perspective.

Reply to  Michael H Anderson
May 24, 2019 1:20 pm

“The weather systems are already off, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to be a little apocalyptic.” — Lori Rodriguez, a 27-year-old communications professional in New York City

In another 30-40 years, I think Ms. Rodriguez’s title will be a “communications bag-lady in New York City”, with no one to blame but herself.

May 24, 2019 8:08 am

People do silly things when they buy into hysteria. – Snowflakes eventually melt.

The best plan is to stop voting for idiots. There is plenty of common sense out there if you care to dig it out from beneath the Mainstream trash clogging up the airwaves.

Finally: Save like mad as you will need the dosh should the left wing idiots get control.

May 24, 2019 8:11 am

It all stems from not being Science literate. When I taught I was amazed by some of the beliefs of students . The young people for the most part have no basis to evaluate all the crap on social media and just believe it. SAD.

May 24, 2019 8:52 am

“Global warming causes young people not to invest in the future.” Add this to the too-unwieldy-to-keep-currently-maintained list of things caused by global warming:

May 24, 2019 8:54 am

If AGW acolytes weren’t so determined to make energy too expensive to afford, the kids would have a lot more money to put into savings.

May 24, 2019 9:05 am

This zeitgeist comes from 4 sources.
1) Socialist education pushing the “government does it best” meme, in the schools.
2) Politicians seeking the latest fad to jump on for re-election,
3) The major public media virtually all pushing “climate disaster” every day.
4) Dark money from wealthy liberals who bought into the socialist agenda years ago and have been manipulating the United Nations, governments, the press, and any other lever to sell their agenda.

Hocus Locus
May 24, 2019 9:20 am

When I left my last job the big sell job was “roll your unvested pension funds into a 401k!” That’s a big negatory. Cashed out expensively and bought tools, radios, disaster supplies. And as it turns out, a newer used car after my old used car died. And resettled in another city where it took awhile to find a job. That’s it! All gone! And I’m too old to die young, cannot imagine what the young are going through.

I’ll have to pay for my own cremation by credit card.

Reply to  Hocus Locus
May 24, 2019 3:44 pm

How do you plan on signing the receipt?

Hocus Locus
Reply to  MarkW
May 25, 2019 8:37 am

By ordering it online

May 24, 2019 9:20 am

I think they mean climate communications professional.

May 24, 2019 9:27 am

what’s new ?
I never thought I’d reach 30.

May 24, 2019 9:30 am

[try again]
what’s new ?
I never thought I’d reach 30

May 24, 2019 9:33 am

Too poor to save for the future? Yeah right, just gotta have that new smartphone, regular fast food deliveries, alcohol and other drugs, holidays abroad, etc. When I were a lad, living in a shoe-box in the middle of a motorway, every penny was saved to buy a house, that attitude no longer exists in the millenials I know, and its got nothing to do with CC.

May 24, 2019 9:51 am

The real story is one sentence – “While most millennials say they are not saving because they simply can’t afford to.” – Done.

Reply to  ScienceABC123
May 24, 2019 10:24 am

Exactly. Problem is they made bad choices. If you’re going to take on big educational debt, there had better be a lucrative career at the end of it. Also, they love to spend and don’t want to save.

Blame “climate change” for your own poor decisions.

On the outer Barcoo
May 24, 2019 9:53 am

The solution is already working its way through the system: it’s Darwinian, no less, with the most adaptable being destined to survive and prosper.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  On the outer Barcoo
May 24, 2019 10:57 am

…with the most adaptable being destined to survive and prosper.

Unfortunately, these are the folk who will be expected to provide for the non-prospering people, via a government ‘program’. Of course, the government will take their cut off the top for ‘administration’.

Oh, “On The Outer Barcoo” – if anyone isn’t familiar with that phrase, look up “A Bush Christening” by “The Banjo” – A. B. Paterson. It’s a great little poem…..

J Mac
May 24, 2019 10:05 am

The stridency of Climate Change alarmist fraudulent claims of ever increasing impending disaster is resulting in clinical mental illness affecting mood, thinking, and behavior in susceptible individuals. Lori Rodriguez’s delusions illustrate this well.

Let’s call it Climate Change Psychosis – an abnormal (irrational fear) condition of the mind that results in difficulties telling what is normal climate variability and what is not. Symptoms may include false beliefs (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear (hallucinations). When you witness the extraordinary claims being made about ‘Climate Change’ by the afflicted, entertain yourself and others by identifying their delusions vs their hallucinations.
AOC “We only have 12 years to save the world.” Delusion.
Greta Thunberg “I can see CO2 emissions.” Hallucination.

May 24, 2019 10:05 am

The author only found one person to quote regarding climate change and mental health and extrapolated to the entire millennial generation. Maybe more data points are needed to see if the speculation is warranted?

May 24, 2019 10:25 am

The enormous amounts of money being wasted by government and institutions at all levels on non-existent Global Warming/Climate Change hysteria are so insanely large that it is going to impoverish present and several future generations.

May 24, 2019 10:30 am

They better save for those increases in electricity prices coming if the Greenies get their way. Also buy candles to survive the blackouts.

Joel O’Bryan
May 24, 2019 10:44 am


May 24, 2019 10:57 am

Want, to see something really scary? Dig up or search for a HS Senior class level book for Chemistry, Physics or Math. Make sure that it is for the typical college prep level class not business level classes they had 30 – 40 years ago. Now compare that book with the ones used today.
After retiring, I considered brushing up on my field of learning, Math/Physics. I had used little of it as my last 20 years of work I was in management. The AP Physics course offered was below that in depth of comprehension than my 1959 HS Physics book. It appeared to be what I would call an Introductory course, similar to the courses I taught while in the Navy that had no calculus other than simple first semester calculus and used only HS level algebra.

kate michaels
Reply to  Usurbrain
May 24, 2019 2:40 pm

I’ve been aware of this since my early teens as our family supplements school textbooks with resources from previous generations, my dad with me (probably the generation of material you had for education) and now myself for my kids.

However, what has become additionally apparent is not just that the subject level has reduced, but the quality has degraded appreciably. My children’s maths textbooks have clear and striking errors in their explanations and examples (and some of the questions too, now that i think about it). Personally, i supplemented my high school maths with Schaums(?), first year University textbooks. The level was clearly higher but i found them vastly more instructive than the prescribed texts.

Randle Dewees
May 24, 2019 12:41 pm

What a crock.

I have four friends of around my age (64) that I know well enough to know their financial habits. Two were forward looking and careful about money, they are comfortably retired. The others saved nothing, spent every dime they earned and more. They are living lives of quasi desperation in a financial hole with no retirement in sight. Millennials are no different, some will grow up and do what is necessary to gain financial freedom, the others will bumble along making excuses for their lack of discipline.

Every generation is special, to a writer. Afterall, the writer has to write something or he/she has no financial future.

May 24, 2019 2:44 pm

Some will buck the trend and get rich.

always the way it has been

always the way it will be.

let them get on with it

kate michaels
May 24, 2019 2:47 pm

The irony (and perhaps hypocrisy) of using an illustration for a post-apocalyptic world, with the prevalent visual cliche of light snowfall, when it is supposed to be depicting a world caused by Global -Warming-.

May 24, 2019 5:03 pm

I sometimes think that the best thing to happen to me was my leaving
school at 14, and then getting a job. Under the old system, and this was
during the war, 1942, by the time we had got to 14 we had a good grasp of
grammar, writing, science, history, geography, woodwork and metal work
etc .We even found time for P.T. and playing sport.

So why today is it deemed necessary to extend education to 18 years, with
all of its complications of adolescence and rebellion occurring.

Unless of course its the Governments way of keeping them off the “Dole””,

As for University, for most getting a bit of paper does not guarantee a job.
That depends as always on demand for a particular skill, unless of course you
go straight into the Public Service or Teaching.

My son who went to a boarding school in Australia said that he did not really start learn anything useful until after he left school.

One of the Saints said, “”Give me a child until he is seven, then he is mine
for life””, so true. We need to clean out the whole of the teaching
profession starting with the Universities, then perhaps we will have citizens
worth something.

Perhaps Heinlin’s ” Starship Troopers” is the long term answer.


Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Michael
May 24, 2019 6:07 pm

“Starship Troopers”

The book – not – repeat not – the movie.

May 24, 2019 5:26 pm

Short solar and wind, go long on nukes.

Rod Evans
Reply to  u.k.(us)
May 25, 2019 12:17 am

And study Chinese script. You will need that to read the instruction manuals, because all the western world nuclear engineers will have passed away with no one being trained to replace them.

May 25, 2019 9:40 am

Asteroid so large it has its own moon set to whizz by Earth this weekend

Reply to  Robertvd
May 25, 2019 6:48 pm

Are you saying I shouldn’t bother paying my Visa bill ?

Reply to  u.k.(us)
May 26, 2019 12:20 pm

Don’t use Visa

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