'Market FOMO' has millennials putting cash into the stock market

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Writer

While record-high stock prices have some analysts warning of trouble, young investors with long time horizons still see opportunity.

Since the election, the stock market has been on a heater, roaring around 18% since the election in November. There may be chatter of bubbles and overvalued stocks, but a nine-month run that has been mostly free of turbulence does have the potential to affect investors’ psyches.

Millennials are getting into the investing game. (Wikimedia Commons)

E-Trade’s (ETFC) quarterly survey study found that very few people are seeing the bull market as a peak. Only 10% of the approximate 1,000 account holders with more than $10,000 surveyed said they were considering cashing out. On the other hand, 21% of respondents have elected to double down and put cash into the stock market. This bull market is making investors hungrier.

Of particular interest, however, is young people’s participation. Almost one in three younger investors investors ages 25 to 35 said they were considering moving money out of cash and into the stock market, the highest rate among all age groups surveyed.

(E-Trade)

As E-Trade’s Mike Loewengart, VP of investment strategy, notes, it’s natural for millennials to expose themselves to more risk given their long-term goals.

“Millennials have the longest runway. For this set, market FOMO may sting worse than any losses incurred by a correction,” said Loewengart.

Why millennials are skittish

For a somewhat cautious generation that came of age during the financial crisis and may have a different collective memory than their parents, this is interesting, given other generational skittishness such as preferring debit over credit cards. E-Trade’s findings also match what Legg Mason noted in June: Millennial investors are still largely shaken by the financial crisis, having watched parents and grandparents in struggle.

E-Trade’s Loewengart notes there is a flip side to the millennials’ conservative nature: They’ve also seen a recovery after the financial crisis.

“The lesson of cyclicality is likely not lost with these folks,” he said. “They may also have gained the wisdom that being invested for the long-term is a better bet than timing the market.”

For millennials, grappling with their own conservatism is potentially a critical move, especially since staying out of the stocks and risk would make meeting retirement savings much more challenging.

“For many in this age bracket, standing on the sidelines while the market breaks records may not be something they wish to stomach,” said Loewengart. “And with a time horizon spanning decades, they know they have time to make up any losses should a correction occur.”

But this group of millennials aren’t the only people emboldened by the bull market. A whopping 46% of people 55 and older said they wouldn’t touch their portfolio, keeping their chips on the table. It wasn’t the only way this group was feeling bullish. In fact, bucking the conventional wisdom that older investors ought to be less risk averse than the young, who have the time to wait out multiple recessions until retirement, only 7% of people over 55 surveyed said they were likely to liquidate to cash. For young people, 13% said they were considering stepping off the ride.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, tech, and personal finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann. Got a tip? Send it to tips@yahoo-inc.com.

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