The FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation) recently announced the results of its “Investors in the United States 2016” report. More than half of respondents (56 percent) report using a financial professional—such as a broker or advisor—primarily to improve investment performance (81 percent), avoid losses (78 percent) and learn about investments (63 percent). Survey results indicate that knowledge of investment concepts is low—particularly among women.
“On a 10-question investor literacy quiz, on average, men answered 4.9 questions correctly compared to 3.8 for women. Interestingly, both genders got the same number of questions wrong: 3.4,” said FINRA Foundation President Gerri Walsh. “But women were significantly more likely to say they did not know the answer to a question compared to men, perhaps pointing to differences in investor confidence by gender.”
Seventy-four percent of households surveyed report owning individual stocks and 64 percent report owning mutual funds. Individual bonds are held by 35 percent of the population and annuities by 33 percent. Fewer respondents report holding investments in exchange-traded Funds (22 percent), REITS, options, private placements, or structured notes (15 percent) and commodities or futures (12 percent).
The majority of investors (70 percent) feel that the fees they pay for their investment accounts are reasonable (5 to 7 on a 7-point scale). And fewer than half (43 percent) of investors who use a financial professional are worried that sales incentives present a conflict of interest.
Only 10 percent of the respondents who took a 10-question investor literacy quiz could answer eight or more questions correctly. The majority (56 percent) were able to answer fewer than half of the questions correctly.
Regarding generational differences the survey found that thirty-eight percent of investors between the ages of 18 and 34 have used “robo-advisors,” compared to only four percent for those ages 55 and over.
Crowdfunding remains a mystery to those ages 55 and up, as only 22 percent had heard of the concept. However, 58 percent of investors between the ages of 18 and 34 were aware of such investments.
A greater percentage (61 percent) of younger investors between the ages of 18 and 34 are worried about being victimized by investment fraud, compared to 28 percent of those ages 55 and older.
This Investor survey provides a detailed analysis of 2,000 survey respondents from across the United States who hold investments in non-retirement accounts. It is a new component of the FINRA Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study (NFCS), and one of the largest and most comprehensive financial capability studies in the country. In July 2015 (several weeks after the 2015 NFCS data had been collected), NFCS respondents who identified themselves as owning investments outside of retirement accounts were contacted and asked a battery of questions intended to provide the Foundation and researchers with a better understanding of how and why investors make investment decisions.
In a series of follow-up interviews, researchers explored topics such as investors’ relationships with financial professionals, understanding and perceptions of fees charged for investment services, usage of investment information sources, attitudes towards investing and investor literacy.