The percentage of total millennials who are not investing in the market today is large, finds the 2017 Wells Fargo Millennial Study, an online survey of 1,771 millennials (ages 20–36).
The study finds that 20% of millennials are not currently invested in the market and “never plan to be.” Another 17% of millennials are not currently invested in the market but “plan to in the future.”
Of the millennials surveyed, 41% say they have “reduced investments” in the stock market because of the effects of the Great Recession, and 53% of millennials say they will “never be comfortable investing in the market.”
According to Kristi Mitchem, CEO of Wells Fargo Asset Management, it’s important that the industry address this straight on by showing the value of saving and investing for the long term.
“That one-fifth of the millennial population is signaling that they would never invest in the stock market, I think, is not only an interesting finding but also a finding that not just financial services companies but really society at large needs to engage around,” she said during a press briefing in New York.
According to calculations from Wells Fargo Investment Institute, investors in the U.S. stock market in March 2009 would have realized a cumulative gain (including dividends) of 190.7% on their investment at the close of the second quarter of 2017, a period of more than eight years.
Mitchem thinks there are a couple reasons why so many millennials are averse to stock investing, and they need help overcoming what she calls this “one-two punch.”
The first punch is the fact that millennials have a “very low level of literacy.”
When Wells Fargo looked at the number of millennials that answered all four of its financial literacy questions correctly, it found it was only 17%.
“And these are not hard questions. These are ‘Do you understand what the stock market does? Do you understand compound interest?’” Mitchem explained.
Then, looking at how many millennials can answer three questions correctly, the study finds that men had slightly more success than women – 33% compared with 20%, respectively.
“The reason I think that’s particularly striking is this is the most educated generation that we’ve ever seen in the United States,” Mitchem said. (The study finds that 63% of millennials attended some college at some time, which is a 20% gap over other generations.)
The second part of that one-two punch is that millennials came of age at a “very disrupted time for the marketplace,” according to Mitchem.
“If you think about what was happening with the global financial crisis … I think we have to recognize that and move them past it,” she said.
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