Johnson sees their approach as understandable. These are age groups that, thus far in their short lives, have witnessed the tragedy of 9/11 and lived through a recession, bursting sector bubbles, the collapse of the housing market and bailouts of "too big to fail" financial institutions.

"People have the sense that the market is against them," Johnson says.

An upside may be that the younger set may be more serious about paying off debt, increasing their savings and planning for the future.

"One of the positives coming out of the financial crisis is that we are starting to see a more responsible generation, one that says, 'debt was a bad issue for my parents ... and I don't want that to be me.' After seeing the damage that was wrought over the past couple of years, and how it impacted their parents, the younger generation says they can't afford to have that much volatility and that much movement within their portfolio and savings. They think, 'If I can invest this conservatively, and save more frequently, that's a much better plan than going at it with an aggressive portfolio and hoping that over time it does well."

Rogé says perspectives are shaped depending "on when they first got into the market."

"Those in their 30s and 40s are OK with taking on a little more risk," she says. "The ones in their 20s were just started to get involved in the market when they saw their 401(k) values go down. They are the ones who tend to be a little more conservative, because they've been burned -- and burned badly. The 30- and 40-year-olds, they've been there and done that. They know it comes back at some point, so they are willing to take on more risk. Not a lot, but a little bit more."

Younger investors are often better educated and more savvy about financial decisions than their elders were at their age, Rogé says. That is partly due to the volume of news and guidance available to them. It also springs from the reality that they, unlike the pension-collecting generations before them, have to take control of their own retirement plan.

"When your dad or my dad left the company, they received a gold watch and they got a fixed pension," she says. "They didn't need to have any other education. They knew what was coming in and provided for them, so any other money they had was usually in a savings account. They weren't much into the market back in those days. These kids today are really going to have to really rely on it. They have no choice."

-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.

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