Poll: Young Americans Choose Saving Over Investing

New Survey Discovers Generational Gap in Investment Strategies

MILWAUKEE, WI, January 21, 2009 – Where should you put your money: in a bank or in the stock market?  According to a new poll by, almost five times as many kids said they would choose to put their money in savings accounts rather than the stock market, while adults would choose investing in the stock market, a finding that reveals a significant generational gap in personal investment strategies.

In the survey, visitors to the site were asked what they would do if handed $1,000 and told to invest it wisely.  Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of kids aged 17 or younger said a savings account was the wisest way to grow money, while just over one out of ten kids (13 percent) said they would choose to invest in the stock market.  Young adults aged 18 to 29 agreed with the children, with more than half (53 percent) saying they would put their money in a bank and less than one-third (31 percent) saying they would invest in stocks. Adults aged 30 to 59, by comparison, showed a far greater interest in stock market investing (48 percent), leading the way as the preferred method of investing over placement in a savings account (42 percent).

“Clearly, young people are less willing than adults to put their money in the stock market , but time is money, and even for kids, it’s never too early to consider long-term investing as part of a sound financial security plan,” said Meridee Maynard, Northwestern Mutual senior vice president and financial literacy expert. “Though investment news today is mostly doom and gloom, the reality is that investing money can have future benefits, and parents can help by explaining  to kids the risks and potential rewards.”

Despite their preference for savings accounts, kids nonetheless showed a strong interest in investing, an indication they may engage in stock market investing later on in life. More than half of the respondents aged 17 or younger (55 percent) thought investing was “cool,” endorsing it as a way to make more money.  Only 32 percent of kids said investing was “scary” or “confusing.”

From October through December 2008, visitors to the financial literacy Web site were invited to answer two questions related to investing. A combined total of more than 2,200 respondents from across the country weighed in about what they believe investing is, as well as what they would do if handed a sum of money and told to invest it wisely. The results were then analyzed based on several demographic factors, including the age, gender and location of respondents.

Gender Gap: Boys Choose Stocks Two Times More than Girls

The poll results revealed a significant gender gap whereby boys surveyed were two times more likely to choose stocks over savings accounts than girls (33 percent versus 16 percent).  Girls were also more likely to report that investing is “scary” or “confusing” than boys (38 percent versus 24 percent).

“Women continue to close the financial security gender gap, but we have not yet achieved gender equality,” said Maynard.  “It’s critical for women of all ages to learn about investing, providing them the confidence to help independently achieve their financial goals.”

Midwesterners Most Confident Investors; Southerners More Likely to be Scared or Confused

According to the poll results, Midwesterners were the most confident in investing.  Sixty-two percent of people surveyed in the Midwest said investing was “cool,” while only 53 percent of Southerners agreed.  Almost two out of five respondents from the South said investing was either “scary” or “confusing.”  In the Northeast and West, 59 and 54 percent respectively said investing was “cool.”

Teaching Kids About Investments has developed helpful tips to help parents teach their kids about investing:

  • Begin a 401(kids) matching program. To reinforce saving and create more incentive, parents can pledge to “match” any money their kids save.  Sit down with your child every two weeks and count the total saved so your child can see matching in action.
  • Start a four-bank system. Consider taking the learning experience to the next level by expanding to a four-bank model, which includes a “spending bank” for money to be used soon, a “saving bank” for money to be used later, an “investing bank” for money that will grow on its own, and a “giving bank” for money to donate to others.
  • Help your child plan. Parents can work together with their child to decide what portion of savings should go to short-term and long-term savings goals.  Let the kids take ownership of the plan. Use educational resources. Financial literacy Web sites like can help provide “learn by doing” experiences for kids. features interactive resources including When Will You Be A Millionaire?, Ways To Invest and What Is The Stock Market?


Launched in 1997, is a collaboration between the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the charitable arm of Northwestern Mutual, and the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE). The site provides fun activities, games, challenges, quizzes and tests for students and teens, helpful tips for parents, and entertaining programs and lesson plans for teachers to promote financial literacy.

This poll marks the fourth in a series of polls by, with the aim of bringing continued awareness to financial literacy issues. Poll results are archived on the site and can be viewed at

About Northwestern Mutual

The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (Northwestern Mutual) has been helping policyowners and clients achieve financial security for more than 150 years. The company is an industry leader, with over $1 trillion of life insurance protection in force, and maintains the highest available ratings for insurance financial strength from all four major rating agencies:  Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings, A. M. Best and Moody’s.

For 25 years, a FORTUNE magazine survey has named Northwestern Mutual “America’s Most Admired” company in the life/health insurance industry. Further information on Northwestern Mutual, its subsidiaries and affiliates can be found at:

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