Value investors often point to the complementary roles of fear and greed in creating market distortions and investment opportunities, but they might want to add another emotion to the list: guilt. According to a study conducted by Braun Research for Merrill Edge, a third of the ‘mass affluent’ (what Merrill Edge calls people with between $50,000 and $250,000 in investable assets) felt guilty that they haven’t invested more money this year, outpacing the guilt over food and drink choices (18%) or not spending enough time with loved ones (17%). Only one person in four was proud of how they have handled their money in the last year.
More than half of ‘mass affluent’ aren’t saving for retirement
The study doesn’t provide enough detail to know what people might have invested in, so we don’t know how many wished they had been buying stocks and how many feel bad for ignoring employer matching plans. What’s more surprising is that 51% of all respondents haven’t saved any money for retirement so far this year. We don’t have an age breakdown so we can’t tell how many people older and may already have a retirement plan compounding away, or how many are recent graduates that are struggling with student loan debt before they can even start thinking about retirement (or a house, as the weak housing market shows). It does tell us that millennials with student loan debt are more likely to feel guilty about not investing enough, but we don’t know how that relates to the broader group.
Of the people who haven’t been saving for retirement, only a third have plans to start saving next year, which sounds a lot like the people who plan to start losing weight next year.
Millennials put a bigger investment on investing than older people
The study also found that most ‘mass affluent’ people had the right idea about their personal finances, even if they weren’t following through on what they know. Most of them defined financial success as being debt free and having achieving long-term goals, such as having enough money to enjoy retirement. A full 90% said that the key to reaching those goals mostly boiled down to saving money and investing it responsibly, though millennials put a bigger emphasis on the importance of growing their investments than older people.