The stock market is the greatest public wealth-generation machine in human history. But for many Americans, investing is a confusing, overwhelming, anxiety-inducing mystery that they assume is the exclusive playground of the rich. A new study from MagnifyMoney.com reveals that a significant majority are hesitant to invest because of stock market anxiety—and that reluctance may be crippling their ability to save for retirement.
While there’s no such thing as a risk-free investment, the biggest risk might be not taking one when it comes to growing your wealth. If you’re sitting on the sidelines because you’re afraid of losing it all, the results of this study could help you put your fears in perspective.
Confusion, uncertainty and anxiety run high. The study, which polled more than 1,000 adults, found that about six people in 10 are hesitant to invest in the stock market. The number-one reason? Fear of a crash. If you’re one of the people keeping your money under the mattress because you’re worried about losing it all in a downturn, it’s important to note that those fears are certainly legitimate. But as the study’s authors point out, investing some of your money in the stock market is essential for anyone who isn’t independently wealthy and hopes to one day retire comfortably. There are strategies you can employ to mitigate or even avoid downturns, such as diversifying your holdings and training yourself to think of recessions like big sales on stocks and funds that only come around once every few years.
Younger investors are more likely to panic even though they’re best positioned to weather a market storm. Because of the miracle of compound interest, time is any investor’s most valuable tool—younger investors are in a much better position to take risks and absorb losses. Still, millennials (ages 22-37) are most likely to worry about a crash enough to avoid investing altogether. In fact, more than seven in 10 millennials are hobbled by the fear of a market downturn compared with only a little over half of Generation Xers (38-53) and baby boomers (54-72). What does this mean for you? If you have an adult child who avoids investing, consider sharing the wisdom that creating a well-planned, long-term investment strategy is far less risky than not investing at all, especially with a fairly lengthy amount of time before retirement. Share some stories about your own investments. Recall that when they dropped, your blood pressure spiked, and then a little while later, you had made back the money—or learned a valuable lesson.
Investment anxiety is not gender neutral. Men are much more likely to maintain investment accounts than their female counterparts—60% of men reported having one compared with just 44% of women. But the discrepancies don’t stop there. About 40% of men reported feeling excited by the idea of investing in stocks, but only 22% of women respondents felt the same way. More women than men said that they felt confused and anxious by the prospect of investing. For example, when presented with the hypothetical prospect of investing $1,000 with a 75% chance of doubling it in a year but a 25% chance of losing it all, a full 68% of women said they wouldn’t or that they weren’t sure if they would take the gamble, compared with a little more than half of men who said that they would.