Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Almost Half of U.S. Households Invest in Stocks or Bonds

According to a new joint study by the Investment Company Institute and SIFMA, nearly half of U.S. households owns equities or bonds, a significant increase during the last two decades. But ownership of these investment assets has declined since 2001, as increasing market volatility has reduced Americans’ tolerance for risk.  Based on a survey of more than 5,000 households, researchers at ICI and SIFMA calculate that 54.5 million households participated in the market through equity or bond ownership in early 2008. This represents 47 percent of U.S. households—up from 39 percent in 1989, the first year for which directly comparable survey data are available.

The two-decade rise in equity and bond investment was fueled by the rapid growth of defined contribution (DC) retirement savings plans, such as 401(k) plans, the researchers conclude. Between 1989 and 2004—the latest year for which comparable data are available—the number of participants in private-sector DC plans nearly doubled, from 36 million to 65 million. The ICI/SIFMA survey shows that at every income level, working-age households are much more likely to be equity or bond owners if their employer sponsors a DC plan.

Meanwhile, a story in today's Wall St. Journal details the gloomy prospects for many workers' retirement plans, as the value of employees' 401(k) retirement plans has plummeted this past year.  WSJ, Big Slide in 401(k)s Spurs Calls for Change.

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