The bull and bear have long been two symbolic beasts of investing and finance. But we wondered if today’s independent investors still relate to those symbols when it comes to their finances.
So we asked. And we heard from more than 2,000 adults of all ages and income levels from different places around the U.S.
Turns out, the vast majority, 80 percent, don’t see their investing mindset aligning with either a bull or a bear. Instead, we found their approach to investing is much more nuanced, mapping to a whole host of new investing “animal spirits.”
Here’s how the survey data breaks down:
Do people still identify with the bull and the bear? Just bear-ly.
While the stock market of the past few years can still be solidly considered a bull market, only one in 10 Americans say they consider themselves a bull (10%) or a bear (10%) when it comes to investing.
Some of this may be explained by a general sense of confusion or lack of confidence when it comes to investing.
Among all Americans, 43% say no matter which investing approach they choose, they know it will most likely be the wrong one. But, those numbers jump to over half for those ages 18-29 (52%) and 30-39 (59%), indicating younger Americans are even less confident.
Just one-third of adults have a 401(k) or other retirement plan and one-quarter have an IRA, while less than one-quarter (23%) have stocks.
Are new investing spirit animals emerging?
So if investors are neither a bull nor a bear, are there other animals to which Americans better relate when it comes to investing? It appears the answer is yes.
One-third of all Americans (34%) might better align with an “emu” with their head in the sand as they say they don’t invest enough to have a particular style of investing.
Fewer than one in five identify with “prairie dogs” (17%), who believe in a balanced, diversified investment portfolio to achieve consistent results. These investors like to play it safe with low-risk investments or ETFs.
16% of responders are “mason bees.” When it comes to investing, they are diligently planning for the future and, while they might take a risk now and then, their goal is to ensure they always have a cushion.
14% are considered “mules,” being very cautious with their investing and not willing to put their money on unproven stocks.
“Owls” make up 13% of survey respondents, who say they do their research before they invest and have a clear understanding of the markets in which they want to invest.
8% of Americans are most like “narwhals,” the unicorns of the sea. Just as scientists don’t know much about this mysterious creature, this type of investor doesn’t know enough about investing to even begin to have a defined investing type.
6% of Americans are similar to the notorious “Sasquatch,” as the mythical creature has been known to pop up unexpectedly and unpredictably, without much rhyme or reason.
Does age make a difference?
When it comes to investing mindsets across age groups, the survey data shows some interesting differences and similarities.
Not surprisingly, the majority of millennials are “emus,” void of a particular investing style. But what is surprising is the number of baby boomers who join them. In contrast, Generation Xers are split pretty evenly among the whole range of investing spirit animals.
How many people are investing… and where?
When asked what types of investments they held, one in five Americans (20%) said they didn’t hold any of the following: savings account, life insurance, retirement plan, stock, bond, CD, pension plan or disability insurance.
While over half (56%) have a savings account, just one-third of adults (33%) have a 401(k) or other retirement plan, one-quarter (25%) have an IRA and less than one-quarter (23%) have stocks.
Looking at other types of investments, over two in five (42%) have life insurance and over one in ten have CDs (15%), a defined benefit pension plan (15%), bonds (14%), and/or disability insurance (12%).
Younger Americans are further behind when it comes to investing as three in ten of those 18-29 (31%) do not have any of these nine types of investments.