Risk tolerance among younger U.S. mutual fund investors is returning to pre-recession levels, according to a new Investment Company Institute study.
In May 2012, 39 percent of mutual fund-owning investors younger than 35 expressed willingness to take above-average or substantial financial risk to get higher investment returns, the survey found. This is up from 31 percent in May 2010 and May 2011, and just above the 37 level in May 2008 before the economic collapse. In comparison, risk tolerance among seniors ages 65 and older stood at 13 percent, basically unchanged from 14 percent in May 2008.
“Willingness to take financial risk is strongly affected by age, but has also varied over time within age groups,” said Sarah Holden, ICI Senior Director of Retirement and Investor Research, in a statement. “Between 2011 and 2012, the willingness to take investment risk among all but the youngest shareholder group fell or remained about the same, while the youngest age group’s risk tolerance increased.”
ICI’s annual survey finds that the willingness to take financial risk across most investor age groups has continued to be subdued in the wake of the financial market crisis. Younger people, with more of their career years ahead of them, are the exception.
A first quarter wealth level study of Millionaire households with a net worth between $1 million and $4.9 million found that 41 percent of the youngest investors—under the age of 45—were the least likely to prioritize protecting their principal over growing their investments. In comparison, 53 percent of seniors said it was more important that they protect their principal.
The ICI survey found that in 2012, an estimated 44.4 percent of U.S. households, representing more than 90 million individual investors owned mutual funds. While mutual funds are the most commonly held type of fund, the study found, 3.4 million households reported owning exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
An August Millionaire Corner survey similarl found that Millionaire investors are more likely to purchase mutual fund shares or individual stocks than ETFs over the coming year. Just over half indicated that they preferred mutual funds and 40 percent said they were most likely to purchase individual stocks. Ten percent favored ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, an increasingly popular investment product first offered in 1993.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.