Laura Arnold remembers the bank bailouts, the down job market and the difficulty having to budget for unexpected expenses during the recession.
All of those fresh memories — as well some existing debt — have conspired to keep her money out of the stock market.
“I am hesitant to tie up money where I might not be able to get to it in case I need it for an emergency,” said the Cincinnati-based, 30-year-old public relations manager who also has a mortgage.
Arnold does participate in a 401(k) plan, but like most Millennials, she has chosen to stay out of the stock market. According to a study by the investment app Stash, 79% of Millennials are not currently investing in the stock market. What may be even more surprising is only 13% say the reason is paying off student debt. More than 40% say they don’t feel they have enough money to invest in the market.
“When Millennials say that they don't have enough money to start investing in the market, they really just haven't embraced the value and future benefit of investing at their current age,” said Paul Tarins, president and founder of Sovereign Retirement Solutions.
Tarins said Millennials need to understand the benefit of compounding and how time served in the market over time is beneficial. He added there are a few factors why Millennials don’t understand this.
“Financial literacy is not generally taught, and unless they take the initiative to educate themselves, they may not start investing when they should or can,” Tarins said. “Millennials also tend to see no ‘instant’ gratification in investing for retirement, because they haven't taken the time to envision themselves in retirement."
And that inability to have a long-term perspective is preventing them from taking the next step to maximizing the potential for money to grow over time.
“Until this changes, they may not capitalize on a golden opportunity of starting to invest at a relatively young age,” Tarins added.
Lucas Casarez, a wealth advisor at Keystone Financial Services in Colorado and a Millennial himself, said it’s interesting so many in his generation choose to stay out of the market when it also has been reported how Millennials are saving at a clip greater than previous generations did at the same ages. However, he adds it may make sense at the same time since many saw the stress the financial crisis of 2008 caused on their parents and grandparents.
“The financial crisis created stress by loss of jobs, instilling the fear to have a larger savings account to buffer sudden unemployment,” Casarez said. “Another thing we witnessed was investors panicking that half of their retirement value may have been lost. Although now in hindsight, we see that most disciplined investors would be well past their previous 2008 values had they stayed the course.”
Like Tarins, Casarez blames a lack of financial education.
“In my first job as a bank teller, I had multiple benefits available to me — a 401(k) — but my employer didn’t provide any real guidance beyond a short conversation,” he said. “Thankfully, I had a cousin who also worked at the bank that gave me some direction.”
Casarez said he sees the same thing every day with many clients.
“They are too busy and don’t get excited about finances,” he said. “They end up doing just the opposite and ‘shell up’ or put their head in the sand if it’s something they are not comfortable with.”
While they say youth is wasted on the young, so is the advantage of compounding interest if you do not take advantage of investing early. Derek Kreps, a financial advisor with Savant Capital Management, said for Millennials starting their careers and retirement accounts, it is important to take advantage of any company match program for your 401(k).
“Plan to at least contribute up to this match especially early on in your career as you want to take advantage of compounding interest,” Kreps said.
Kreps also recalled a famous quote from Albert Einstein on the topic: “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it…he who doesn’t…pays it.”