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From stocks to crypto: unravelling generational investment trends and theories

Andrew Trudeau Senior Consultant 02/08/2023

As people begin to accumulate an income and generate a net worth for themselves, making investments to support their future becomes relevant. In fact, investing has become so much more popular in recent years that over half of Americans (54%) reported holding at least one investment. This article explores what Americans are investing their money in today as well as what they would invest in if they don’t have the means to do so. Moreover, this article will also delve into the dichotomy between those that are single versus those in relationships and how priorities in investing shift.

Over three-quarters of Boomers (79%) make investments due to the long-term gains in investing their money, while Gen Z decided to invest as they have both time (31%) and are interested in investing (49%).

Of the 54% of respondents that hold at least one investment, males (62%), Gen X (54%) and Boomers (62%) lead the pack. While older generations do tend to make more investments than younger generations, investing is still relatively popular among Gen Z with just under half of them taking part (45%). Nonetheless, this uptick in popularity demonstrates Americans’ increased interest in investing and the long-term gains and benefits that they can reap.

Generational Differences and What Americans Are Investing In

When asked about how long Americans have had their investments for, 52% of Boomers noted having them for 10+ years while 35% of Gen Z have only had theirs for 1-2 years. Although it makes sense for older generations to be investing longer than their younger counterpart, the primary point of difference lies in what they are investing in.

Among Gen Z, real estate and Bitcoin/cryptocurrency were the most popular with 35% and 25% holding investments in them respectively, while more than two-thirds of Gen X Americans (69%) have investments in retirement funds. This demonstrates that what one invests in largely has to do with what is most pertinent and top of mind. Obviously, those who are older and nearing retirement will be most interested in investing in retirement funds whereas those respondents who are younger will perceive real estate and Bitcoin/cryptocurrency as a more lucrative investment. In other words, younger generations are more inclined to invest in real estate as 27% of Gen Z say this is their top priority investment. Moreover, older generations are more likely to invest in their futures as 46% of Gen X are prioritising their retirement funds.

Although every individual has their own reasons for investing, more than half of Americans (59%) invest due to the long-term gains they can derive. Specifically, over three-quarters of Boomers (79%) make investments due to the long-term gains in investing their money; however, Gen Z  decided to invest as they have both time (31%) and are interested in investing (49%). These statistics demonstrate how the reward of investing outweighs the risk and how there is an apparent desire to be knowledgeable in investing given the benefits one can earn. On the contrary however, Americans who choose not to invest financially are incapable of doing so. In fact, 63% of Gen X and 65% of Boomers decided not to invest because they do not have enough money to do so. Additionally, roughly one-third of Gen Z  (31%) do not invest because they are unsure how to. This further alludes to how increased education around investing may lead to more Americans (especially those belonging to younger generations) feeling more confident in investing.

Investing for the Future + the Gender/Relationship Discrepancy

It is evident how much of an impact investing has made on Americans across all generations. The long-term gains and the belief in setting oneself up for a better future is an idea that most people can get behind. While the statistics point toward real estate being one of the most popular investments among Americans, there is a notable discrepancy between male and female attitudes. According to a PEW Research study, single women owned 58% of the nearly 35.2 million homes owned by unmarried Americans, while single men owned only 42%. We see the similar discrepancies in investment types in our own data. For example, 23% of single men have invested in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) while only 4% of single females have invested in ETFs. Additionally, over a third of single men (35%) have invested in Bitcoin/cryptocurrency while only 13% of single females have invested. Regardless however, this demonstrates that there is a gender gap in investments types, specifically among single Americans.

Over the next two years, Americans want to invest mostly in their retirement funds as well as real estate. Specifically, 43% of Gen Z plan on investing in real estate, while 39% of Millennial and 45% of Gen X want to invest in their retirement funds. When thinking of the future, single men are more likely to invest in Bitcoin/cryptocurrency (30%) than single females (15%). Single females are more likely to invest in tangible investments, such as retirement funds (39%) and stocks and bonds (29%). The future is bright for those who choose to invest as well as the popularity of investing.

If you’re curious about generational reach and insights, you can find out more about the work we do reaching Generation Z here. Working hard to understand young people – luckily, we’ve got decades of youth audience research experience and are skilled at engaging and communicating with youth audiences.

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