Know Investor Optimism Hits

The Great Recession left some deep scars in the American consciousness, like a fear of overspending and an understandable wariness of the stock market. But slowly, surely, we’re regaining confidence, and new research shows that investor optimism is at a seven-year high.

According to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index, 56% of investors say that now is a good time to invest. Compare that to 2012, when the majority said it was not an opportune time to put their money in the market. Meanwhile, slightly less than half of investors rate the financial markets as an “excellent” or “good” way to grow their assets, up from 37% just one year ago.

That confidence translates to actual investing behavior, too: As many as 78% of Americans polled currently own stocks.

This is all very promising, but there’s a discrepancy. While investors are more willing to plunk money into the stock market, they’re not as focused on planning for retirement: Although 96% of survey respondents with access to a 401(k) said they’re contributing to the plan, only about one-third have upped their retirement savings in the last year.

More than two-thirds of investors readily admit they could be saving more for retirement—so what’s stopping them? While the problem may be partly psychological, practical factors seem to be getting in the way as well. Respondents say they believe Americans have trouble setting aside ample funds for retirement because they’re struggling to keep up with daily expenses.

Other folks may be relying on Social Security—more than half said they would save more if they were certain they wouldn’t receive Social Security payments upon retirement. (Counting on government support is likely a mistake: Experts say there will soon be insufficient funds left to pay future retirees.)

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