For Release: 
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Contact(s): 

Angelita Plemmer Williams (202) 728-8988
Nancy Condon (202) 728-8379

Survey Shows More Than Half of Respondents Use Financial Professionals, But Knowledge of Investment Concepts is Low and Generational Divides Exist

WASHINGTON — The FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation) announced today the results of its Investors in the United States 2016 report, which provides a detailed analysis of 2,000 survey respondents from across the United States who hold investments in non-retirement accounts.  

This Investor survey is a new component of the FINRA Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study (NFCS), one of the largest and most comprehensive financial capability studies in the country. In July 2015 (several weeks after the 2015 NFCS data had been collected), NFCS respondents who identified themselves as owning investments outside of retirement accounts were contacted and asked a battery of questions intended to provide the Foundation and researchers with a better understanding of how and why investors make investment decisions.     

In a series of follow-up interviews, researchers explored topics such as investors’ relationships with financial professionals, understanding and perceptions of fees charged for investment services, usage of investment information sources, attitudes towards investing and investor literacy. The survey’s full data set, methodology and related questionnaire are available at USFinancialCapability.org.

More than half of respondents (56 percent) report using a financial professional—such as a broker or advisor—primarily to improve investment performance (81 percent), avoid losses (78 percent) and learn about investments (63 percent). Survey results indicate that knowledge of investment concepts is low—particularly among women.

“On a 10-question investor literacy quiz, on average, men answered 4.9 questions correctly compared to 3.8 for women. Interestingly, both genders got the same number of questions wrong: 3.4," said FINRA Foundation President Gerri Walsh. "But women were significantly more likely to say they did not know the answer to a question compared to men, perhaps pointing to differences in investor confidence by gender.” 

Additional findings include the following: 

  • Seventy-four percent of households surveyed report owning individual stocks and 64 percent report owning mutual funds. Individual bonds are held by 35 percent of the population and annuities by 33 percent. Fewer respondents report holding investments in exchange-traded Funds (22 percent), REITS, options, private placements, or structured notes (15 percent) and commodities or futures (12 percent). 
  • The majority of investors (70 percent) feel that the fees they pay for their investment accounts are reasonable (5 to 7 on a 7-point scale).
  • Fewer than half (43 percent) of investors who use a financial professional are worried that sales incentives present a conflict of interest.
  • Only 10 percent of the respondents who took a 10-question investor literacy quiz could answer eight or more questions correctly. The majority (56 percent) were able to answer fewer than half of the questions correctly.  

Generational differences also emerged throughout the survey:    

  • Thirty-eight percent of investors between the ages of 18 and 34 have used “robo-advisors,” compared to only four percent for those ages 55 and over.
  • Crowdfunding remains a mystery to those ages 55 and up, as only 22 percent had heard of the concept. However, 58 percent of investors between the ages of 18 and 34 were aware of such investments. 
  • A greater percentage (61 percent) of younger investors between the ages of 18 and 34 are worried about being victimized by investment fraud, compared to 28 percent of those ages 55 and older. 

The FINRA Foundation supports innovative research and educational projects that give underserved Americans the knowledge, skills and tools necessary for financial success throughout life. For more information about FINRA Foundation initiatives, visit finrafoundation.org.

FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, regulates all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services. FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business – from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms, writing rules, enforcing those rules and the federal securities laws, and informing and educating the investing public. In addition, FINRA provides surveillance and other regulatory services for equities and options markets, as well as trade reporting and other industry utilities. FINRA also administers the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and firms. For more information, please visit www.finra.org.

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