A recent study from investment app Stash reveals that many people are struggling to save…faith in investing is low…and far too many people are pinning their hopes on retirement strategies that are so impractical that the word “strategies” shouldn’t even apply.
Much of this financial dysfunction can be traced to the same root cause—people aren’t taking action to secure their financial futures largely because they’re overwhelmed by the process and they don’t know where to begin. The results of this study could help you let go of a risky or impractical retirement strategy while helping you confront any lack of faith you have in your own ability to invest for success. It might also help you steer adult children or other younger investors in your life toward planning for a secure future. Younger investors, the study shows, are having the hardest time saving and are putting the most faith in ill-advised plans.
Lack of know-how, more than lack of money, hinders wise investments. It’s true that millions of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and some simply don’t have anything left over to invest. But apps such as Acorns let users invest with nothing more than the spare change from purchases they’ve already made and apps such as Stash, which commissioned the study, allow investors to open up an account and invest with as little as $5. More traditional brokerage firms such as Firstrade and Robinhood allow users to buy and sell stocks, index funds and ETFs without any fees or account minimums. The point is, all but the most severely cash-strapped Americans can likely find a way to make their money work harder for them, no matter how small the investment—if only they knew how.
The study shows that many opt out simply because they aren’t confident in their own abilities. About half said they would start saving for retirement if they knew how or where to do it. A little less than one in three said they don’t invest because they lack the expertise or find the whole process overwhelming. A little more than one-third said they would start investing if only they had access to free, high-quality advice they could trust.
Desperation breeds desperate strategies. Less than one-third of respondents (31%) said they avoid investing because it’s too “risky.” A greater percentage (39%), however, said they actually believe that pursuing lottery jackpots is a reasonable strategy for retirement. In fact, 18% are basing their plan on the hopes of winning the lottery…22% plan to work a part-time job during retirement…4% plan to move to a cheaper country…4% say that they will depend on their children for support…and 3% say that their retirement plan is to marry a rich person.
The youngest investors struggle the most. Millennials (ages 23 to 38), particularly millennial men, are far more likely to pin their retirement hopes on a far-fetched strategy like winning the lottery. In fact, millennials are most likely to struggle to save and achieve financial stability in general, with roughly three out of four living paycheck to paycheck, the study finds. Among them, a much greater percentage of millennial women are struggling with debt and insufficient savings compared with their male counterparts.
So, what does this mean for you? If you’re a more seasoned investor who is watching a grown child or other young adult struggle to save, plan and prepare, keep in mind the results of this study. It’s likely that even if funds are limited, young people could and gladly would invest at least a little if only they knew how or where to start. A study by Financial Wellness Think Tank showed that employees who had access to financial coaching—for their entire financial lives, not just the investing part—contributed more to retirement plans and were more on track to meet their retirement goals than those who did not get the coaching. Employees who were given coaching contributed 9.4% of their pay in 2018, compared with 6.3% in 2013 before the coaching started. And 57% reported being on track to meet their retirement income goals, up from just 21% in 2013.
If you’re confident in your own knowledge, the best gift you could likely give them is some free advice or a push toward one of the free and trusted sources of information you rely on. Lack of information, it turns out, holds more people back from saving money than lack of money itself.