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Millennial Investors Care More Than Boomers, Gen X

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- If you want to learn a valuable lesson about investment, heed the mistakes of the generations of investors that came before.

The financial advisers at British firm deVere Group recently surveyed baby boomer, Generation X and millennial investors to get a sense of their priorities. The group discovered that while all three were scared away from risk by the recent financial crisis, millennials want more out of their investments than just an unending stream of payouts. Social responsibility matters, and that may not be millennials' youthful ideals talking.

For baby boomers planning or embarking on their dream retirement, avoiding risk is paramount from this point on. A full 67% view it as their top priority, which is more strongly than any other generation feels about any aspect of investing.

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Millennials, however, are also loath to gamble with what little fortune they've amassed. Among millennial investors, 59% marked avoiding risk as their top priority, while 18% are looking to diversify their portfolio to avoid finding their investments locked into another bursting bubble. For previous generations, ages 18 to 30 was the time to take risks, roll the dice and try to get as much reward as their youthful indiscretions would allow. For millennials, it's all about playing it safe and smart.

Who can blame them? According to a Gallup survey, a full 43% of U.S. workers are afraid they're going to have their benefits cut, down just slightly from 46% in 2009. Another 31% see a pay cut in their future, which is nearly the same as the 32% from four years earlier. Meanwhile, 29% are worried that they'll be laid off, which is a smaller percentage than the 32% in 2009 but still greater than the 26% who feared getting the fired in 2010. On top of that, 29% of U.S. workers surveyed by Cigna said they would exhaust their resources in a month or less if they left their job for any reason.

The Center For College Affordability and Productivity reported that nearly half of the college graduates from the class of 2010 are working in jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree. A full 38% have taken gigs that don't even require a high school education. According to The Associated Press, that has dropped the median wage for college graduates significantly since 2000.

Combine that with the fact that nearly half of the nation's unemployed are between ages 18 and 34 and there is absolutely no motivation for millennials to consider risky investments. Millennials are the most fiscally cautious generation since the Great Depression, with USB Wealth Management Americas noting that 34% of millennials consider themselves conservative or somewhat conservative. The most miserly millennials dedicate 52% of their portfolios to cash, compared with 23% for other investors.

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