U.S. investors overweight in stocks despite market fears: study

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three out of four U.S. investors age 40 and older worry about a correction that will eventually end the long-running bull market in stocks, yet most refuse to head for the exits.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Sixty-nine percent of older investors remain heavily exposed to equities, according to a national study released on Tuesday by Global Atlantic Financial Group, potentially leaving many ill-positioned for the inevitable downturn.

“Investors felt the pain from the 2008 financial crisis, but our study indicates many are not prepared for another significant downturn,” said Paula Nelson, president, Retirement, at Global Atlantic.

“It’s clear that investors need a better strategy to protect themselves from future market corrections and volatility, especially as they enter their peak earning years and prepare for and enter retirement,” she added.

The study was conducted in October and November by Ebiquity, a global market analytics firm. It polled 1,005 people who invest in equities through individual stocks, exchange-traded funds, mutual funds, 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts.

Fifty-nine percent of employed investors said a significant stock market drop would delay their planned retirement date, while 25 percent of retirees said it would disrupt their retirement.

Nonetheless, 52 percent said they believed the stock market could sustain continued growth for five years without a downturn of 10 percent or more.

According to the Global Atlantic study, the most popular investing strategy is steady income-focused investments (34 percent), followed by protecting/capital preservation investments (26 percent) and growth (24 percent).

Women appeared to be more conservative than men. Forty-three percent of women said they placed a higher value on income, compared with 34 percent of men, while 30 percent of women highly valued capital preservation, versus 23 percent of men.

More than one-third of retirees, 36 percent, also placed a higher value on capital preservation, compared with just 19 percent of employed people.

Forty-six percent of investors said they found equities and fixed income investments equally appealing, while 32 percent preferred equities and 22 percent preferred fixed income. More women than men preferred a mix, 52 percent to 38 percent.

The typical U.S. investor 40 and over on average invests $210,051 in the stock market, while retirees on average invest $236,148, the study said.

Reporting by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Dan Grebler