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Survey Results: How are Americans Investing Today?

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Marcus by Goldman Sachs conducted a survey of over 2,000 Americans to uncover their financial habits and attitudes towards investing. Of that population, we looked at American investors, including those who are currently investing outside of their workplace retirement accounts, to uncover even more about their investing behaviors and feelings about investing. 

We compared responses across generations, focusing on Millennials (age 25 – 40), Gen X (age 41 – 56), and Baby Boomers (age 57+).

Survey Highlights: Americans Investing Outside of Workplace Retirement

Of the surveyed population, 498 respondents said they currently invest outside of workplace retirement accounts. Here’s what we found from those respondents:

Investing Snapshot: Where Americans Are Investing 

When it comes to investing, people are investing their funds in a variety of ways. So, what are Americans investing in? Of those Americans currently investing outside of workplace retirement accounts:

  • 72% currently invest in individual stocks.
  • 39% currently invest in mutual funds.
  • 28% currently invest in ETFs.
  • 83% of Gen X currently invest in individual stocks, compared to 69% of Millennials and 65% of Boomers.
  • Nearly one-third (31%) of Millennials currently invest in ETFs, compared to 29% of Gen X and 22% of Boomers.

Factors That Are Important to Americans Who Invest 

While investment strategies are created based on individuals’ goals, tolerance for risk and investment timeframe, of those Americans currently investing outside of workplace retirement accounts, nearly half (49%) felt having a diversified portfolio is very important to their investment strategy, followed by:

  • 46% state the ability to pick their own stocks is very important to their investment strategy
  • 29% state investing with a financial advisor is very important to their investment strategy.
  • 18% state investing in ESG funds is very important to their investment strategy.

ESG investing is more important to Millennials surveyed compared to other generations, while building a diversified portfolio is more important to Baby Boomers surveyed compared to other generations.

  • Over a quarter (27%) of Millennials state investing in ESG funds is very important to their investment strategy, compared to 19% of Gen X and 7% of Boomers.
  • 53% of Boomers state building a diversified portfolio is very important to their investment strategy, compared to 48% of Gen X and 47% of Millennials.

Investing by Age: Getting Started Early

While some may choose to start investing when they enter the workforce, the age at which American investors start investing outside their workplace retirement accounts varies. Of those Americans currently investing outside of workplace retirement accounts:

  • 42% started investing outside their workplace retirement accounts when they were 25 years old or younger.
  • Over one-third (34%) started investing outside their workplace retirement accounts between the ages of 30 and 40 years old.

The sooner the better according to those surveyed since,

  • 87% think people should start investing outside workplace retirement accounts when they are 25 years old or younger.

Investing Literacy: Where Americans Are Getting Their Investing Advice

To invest with confidence, it is important to have some foundational knowledge of what you are getting into. The pandemic provided an opportunity for some people to look closely at their financial know-how, and in fact of those Americans currently investing outside of workplace retirement accounts, 30% state they are spending more time learning about investing than they were before the pandemic. 

So where are they getting their investing advice?

  • 59% get their investing advice from online research.
  • 40% get their investing advice from a financial advisor.
  • 36% get their investing advice from friends or family.
  • 21% get their investing advice from social media.
  • 15% get their investing advice from podcasts.

However, generations have different preferences when it comes to where they get their investing advice from, with Millennials more likely to get advice from online research, social media and podcasts.

Online Research

  • 69% of Millennials get their investing advice from online research, compared to 65% of Gen X and 39% of Boomers.

Financial Advisor 

  • Over half (52%) of Boomers get their investing advice from a financial advisor, compared to 37% of Gen X and 31% of Millennials.

Social Media 

  • 27% of Millennials get their investing advice from social media, compared to 16% of Gen X and 5% of Boomers.

Podcasts

  • A quarter (25%) of Millennials get their investing advice from podcasts, compared to 10% of Gen X and 0% of Boomers.

Investing Behavior: Before the Pandemic vs. Now

Not only have those surveyed spent more time learning about investing than before the pandemic, but they are taking more action as well. Of those Americans currently investing outside of workplace retirement accounts, 31% state they are investing more money compared to before the pandemic, nearly one-third (32%) state they are managing their investment portfolio more often than they were before the pandemic and 21% would say they’ve taken a more aggressive investment strategy compared to before the pandemic.

The following changes were made to investment strategies during the pandemic:

  • 10% started using a robo-advisor or digital investing platform.
  • 20% changed how they invested in individual stocks.
  • 18% changed how they invested in alternative asset types (cryptocurrencies, real-estate, etc.). 
  • 15% diversified funds across different asset or account types.

Reasons why they expect to invest more in the next 6 months:

  • Nearly half (47%) plan to do so because they want to build additional savings.
  • 45% plan to do so because they think the stock market will go up.
  • Over one-third (35%) plan to do so because they want to increase the share of their portfolio that is allocated towards long-term investments.

Areas they would like to invest in the next 6 months:

  • 58% would like to invest in individual stocks.
  • One-third (33%) would like to invest in mutual funds.
  • Nearly a quarter (24%) would like to invest in alternative investments (cryptocurrencies, hedge funds, art, etc.).
  • 23% would like to invest in ETFs.
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Survey Highlights: American Investors

Of the surveyed population, 644 respondents said they currently invest in either retirement or non-retirement investment accounts. Here’s what we found from those respondents:

Investing Snapshot: How Americans Are Investing 

When deciding how to invest your funds, Americans have several options to explore, and preference seems to vary by generation when it comes to robo-advisors. Of those Americans currently investing in either retirement or non-retirement investment accounts:

  • Nearly half (48%) invest through a retirement account through their employer.
  • 40% invest through a brokerage account or self-directed online trading.
  • More than a third (35%) invest with a personal financial advisor. 18% invest through an automated investment platform or robo-advisor.

However, Millennials are more likely to invest in an automated investment platform or robo-advisor, compared to other generations. One in five (21%) Millennials invest through an automated investment platform or robo-advisor, compared to 18% of Gen X and 7% of Baby Boomers.

Barriers to Investing: People Find it Overwhelming

The number of investment choices out there can be overwhelming, especially if someone is still somewhat new to investing. Of those Americans currently investing in either retirement or non-retirement investment accounts, over one-third (35%) find investing overwhelming.

According to this survey, the top three reasons attributed to why they find investing overwhelming are because:

  • They struggle when deciding how and/or where to invest (51%).
  • They feel they don’t know enough about investing (44%).
  • They think it takes too much time (23%).
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Additional Survey Highlights

Methodology: The Invest Survey was conducted by Marcus by Goldman Sachs in June 2021 among 2,037 Americans.

Thinking about your finances, which of the following are you currently doing? Select all that apply.

  • 43% of Americans are currently paying down debt.
  • Nearly three out of five (59%) Americans are currently saving.
  • One in five (19%) Americans are currently investing in retirement accounts.
  • 17% of Americans are currently investing in non-retirement accounts.

Which of the following do you wish you had started earlier? Select all that apply.

  • One-third (32%) of Americans wish they had started paying down debt earlier.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of Americans wish they had started saving earlier.
  • One-third (34%) of Americans wish they had started investing in retirement accounts earlier.
  • More than one-in-four (28%) Americans wish they had started investing in non-retirement accounts earlier.

Which of the following, if any, do you find overwhelming? Select all that apply.

  • More than a quarter (27%) of Americans find investing to be overwhelming.
  • 44% of Americans find saving money to be overwhelming.
  • More than a third (36%) of Americans find managing debt to be overwhelming.

What about investing is overwhelming for you?

  • Of those Americans who find investing to be overwhelming, almost half (46%) say it’s because they struggle when deciding how and/or where to invest.
  • Of those Americans who find investing to be overwhelming, more than half (56%) say it’s because they feel they don’t know enough about investing.

Why are you not currently investing?

  • Of those Americans not currently investing, a quarter (25%) aren’t investing because they don’t have enough knowledge about investing.

Imagine you started investing. How important would the following be to your investment strategy?

  • More than a quarter (27%) of Americans state building a diversified portfolio would be very important to their investment strategy if they were to start investing.
  • 21% of Americans state investing in ESG funds would be very important to their investment strategy if they were to start investing.

Thinking about your spending, do you think you will spend more, less, or the same post-pandemic? 

  • 60% of Americans think they will continue to spend the same amount post-pandemic. 
  • 21% of Americans think they will spend less post-pandemic. 
  • 19% of Americans think they will spend more post-pandemic. 
  • 79% of Americans think they will spend more or the same post-pandemic. 

What do you want to spend more on post-pandemic? 

Of those Americans who think they will spend more post-pandemic:

  • 54% want to spend more on general expenses. 
  • 43% want to spend more on vacation. 
  • 38% want to spend more on dining. 
  • More than a quarter (27%) want to spend more on home renovation. 
  • 37% want to spend more on clothes. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.