“Nearly half of U.S. households own equities or bonds, a significant increase during the last two decades, however, ownership of these investment assets has declined since 2001, as increasing market volatility has reduced Americans’ tolerance for risk,” according to a new joint study–Equity and Bond Ownership in America–by the Investment Company Institute (ICI) and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA). Based on a survey of more than 5,000 households, researchers found that 54.5 million households participated in the financial markets through equity or bond ownership in early 2008. Of that group, 67% reported that they consulted with financial advisors in the five years preceding the survey (2003 to 2008). Seventy percent of those investors use only one advisor, though almost a quarter (23%) use two.

The study also found that the primary financial advisors of U.S. households owning equities or bonds are typically either full-service brokers or independent financial planners. Among households that have consulted with advisors within the last five years, 34% indicated their primary advisors were full service brokers, and 26% pointed to independent financial planners. Another 10% cited bank or savings institution representatives as their primary financial advisors.

The report also found that among the working-age population, household income plays a dominant role. Furthermore, within income groups, education is also a determining factor. For example, research shows that among those earning $100,000 or more, the ownership rate of equities or bonds is 65% for those with no more than a high school education, and 90% for those with at least some graduate school education.