In a tumultuous time, many adults under 35 have stopped playing it safe. Instead of banking as much of their salary as before, they save less, spend more, and pursue passion projects or risky careers.
Nimarta Narang, 27, said she was cautious about almost everything until late last year when she had an epiphany: “I don’t want to spend my life being so careful and cautious. “
For most of the coronavirus pandemic, she was unable to travel to Bangkok to see her family. When she finally made the visit, she was struck by everything she had missed – her mother’s 50th birthday, her grandmother’s funeral, her sister’s engagement, her father’s beard turning gray .
“Coming back to the United States, I realized I had to do things differently,” said Ms. Narang, literary editor at Brown Girl Magazine.
One thing she had always wanted to do was live in New York. She packed everything up in her Los Angeles apartment and moved out in March. She also took a new approach to her finances. Before the pandemic, she said, she deposited about $2,000 in her savings account each month. Now it’s half that amount. The rest goes toward a more expensive apartment ($600 more in monthly rent), nights out with friends, and small indulgences she would have previously denied herself.
“I wanted to use my savings to have a life experience,” she said. “Visiting home made me see how much I had missed life.”
She is not alone. A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that 45% of people between the ages of 18 and 35 “don’t see the point of saving until things get back to normal”. In this same age group, 55% said they had put retirement planning on hold.
For some, like Ms Narang, the isolation of pandemic life sparked the decision to enjoy the moment, to hell with the financial consequences. For others, the motivation came from worries about climate change, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, domestic political instability, soaring inflation, exorbitant housing prices and a stock market upside down.
Hannah Jones, a comedian from Denver, said she used to save almost all of her discretionary income. She was a thrift store regular who refused to pay for a Netflix subscription. Now she’s become what she calls a “financial nihilist,” meaning she puts a lot less in her savings account.
The fragile state of the world was on his mind. “I’m not going to deprive myself of the comforts of life now for a future that seems like it could be snatched away from me at any moment,” she said.
In her stand-up, Ms Jones, 27, has a reliable joke: “No, I’m not saving for retirement. i will spend my money now, while we still have a supply chain. It’s a quip that changes with the headlines. Some nights, instead of “supply chain,” she just plugs in the disaster of the day.
The anti-frugal mood is pervasive. Hannah Fuller, 25, said she was once enthusiastic about saving for the future. After receiving financial aid while attending private high school and college, she struggled to manage her money, making sure to maximize her Roth IRA each year. But now, she says, her mindset has changed. It all started when she was living in Portland, Oregon, where she grew up, during the 2020 wildfires.
“Being surrounded by smoke, you could really feel the unhappiness and sadness,” said Ms. Fuller, who works for the Farmers Market Coalition, a nonprofit in Washington. “It was like we were living in ‘The Martian’, like we were living in an airlock, trying to keep the smoke out of our apartment.”
“Going to those places that you visited as a child and seeing them completely burnt down, it makes it really hard to want to build new things,” she continued.
Now Ms. Fuller has broken her old habit of ordering the cheapest item on a menu. She even booked tickets to a summer music festival in Barcelona. And given the boom in the housing market, she decided that saving to buy a house wasn’t something she was going to worry about right now.
“Houses are so unaffordable,” she said. “I don’t even know if it’s worth my time and energy.”
Some experts say the attitude of spending now isn’t unique to young people in 2022. “Every generation has had an apocalyptic view of their lives,” said Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist in Boulder, Colorado. During the Great Depression, he noted, many people lost faith in banks. At the height of the Cold War, fear of nuclear war affected the way many young people planned for the future. And during the financial crisis of 2008, saving for a home seemed pointless to many.
“We’re not wired to save,” Mr. Klontz said. “We are programmed to consume. If you have an exciting vision for the future, these are the people who are saving aggressively for retirement. If you have an apocalyptic vision of the future, why would you save for it? Of course you wouldn’t.
This gloomy view of what is to come can be exacerbated by issues like climate change. Danilo Jiménez, who plans to go to graduate school to study environmental policy in the fall, said he’s suspended saving for retirement in favor of spending that money on weekends and quitting the job. her parents’ house to live with roommates in Brooklyn.
“The idea that I’m going to put money in an account that I can’t access until I’m 60 is 2056!” said Mr. Jiménez, 25, who has worked as a youth football coach and a carpenter’s assistant. “A lot of things are going to change by then, as far as climate change is concerned.”
Rather than putting his salary into a traditional savings account, 25-year-old Schuyler Wagner devotes his time and money to an idiosyncratic investment: coral farming. For Mr. Wagner, a financial analyst in Tempe, Arizona, aquaculture was a childhood hobby he gave up during his college days — large tanks don’t exactly fit in dorm rooms.
After graduating, he pursued it again. Now he cares for Goniopora (also known as flowerpot coral), Euphylia (which can be very expensive, Wagner said), and Acanthophyllia (“a massive, single-polyp coral that can be as big as a pizza”), among other types of coral. Mr. Wagner has seven tanks in his condo, with a total volume of over 450 gallons. He buys and trades the pieces with other hobbyists in Arizona, as well as reef specialty stores and aquatic pet stores.
Mr. Wagner said he spends $750 to $1,500 on materials and equipment each month. He hopes that one day his expensive hobby will pay off and he can pursue aquaculture as a full-time job.
“Rather than trying to save for inflation or buy a house five years from now, which doesn’t make sense to me right now, I want to pursue this passion,” he said. “There is so much uncertainty in the world, and Covid has pushed passions to the fore.”