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How Age Influences Investment Moves

Beyond dopamine flashes and senior moments, there are differences in perspective between older and younger investors that can influence their moves, for better or worse.

Steve Johnson,, a Boston area financial consultant for Charles Schwab (SCHW), says recent surveys have shown that younger investors are feeling less confident in their financial decisions.

Even if older investors are more confident about their moves, "it doesn't mean those are really the best decisions," he says.

Older investors often "anchor themselves into things that have happened in the past," Johnson says. The fear of rising inflation is one such example, as they flash back to the double-digit increases of the 1970s and "have convinced themselves that we have to see it again."

"Older investors are more reluctant to buy into fixed income," Johnson says. "After several years of seeing the market go down, we saw a lot of money poured into fixed income; now we see that income coming out as people start to be fearful of inflation. And yet, for those who are retired and looking for income, perhaps the best decision for them is to be looking at that allocation."

Older investors, he says, also tend to be creatures of habit when it comes to the stocks they choose, returning to stocks they and their parents were most familiar with over the years -- such companies as Exxon (XOM) and General Electric (GE).

"People tend to not look at familiar companies objectively and often own those stocks despite what the fundamentals may say," he says.

"Some of the older people, if they are more conservative, are going to look for dividend-paying stocks or dividend-paying mutual funds," says Rosanne Rogé, managing director of R.W. Rogé & Co., a New York-based wealth management firm. "The younger people are going to be a little more aware of other things they can invest in, like ETFs or emerging-market funds, something that will give them a little more bang for the buck. They have so many more choices than the older folks did. Back then, it was basically all about blue chip stocks."

Conventional wisdom is that younger investors are brash risk-takers and older folks are more cautious and methodical. Numerous post-recession studies, however, are finding that the opposite is true in many cases, with Generation Y and the even younger "millennials" proving to be skittish and risk averse when it comes to playing the market.

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