What Crash? Number of Middle-Income Earners in Stocks Drops by 16% [Chart]
What Crash? [Chart]
Number of Middle-Income Earners Invested in Stock Market Drops by 16% Since 2007
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Over the last six years, with some help of the loosest monetary policy in history, the S&P 500 tripled in value from its lows during the Financial Crisis. Then in the last week, U.S. markets have been up and down like a roller coaster with surprising daily movements of historical proportions in both directions. Currently, at our time of publication, the DJIA is down -7% year-to-date.
While the majority of investors are familiar with the above story, this time there are millions of fewer people along for the ride. And most of those that sat this one out are middle or lower income earners.
Several polls tell the same story, which is that the number of Americans invested in the stock market has decreased significantly since 2007, the year before the Financial Crisis. In a series of Gallup polls, which are what we use for today’s chart, respondents were asked the following question: “Do you, personally, or jointly with a spouse, have any money invested in the stock market right now — either in an individual stock, a stock mutual fund, or in a self-directed 401(k) or IRA?”
The total number of adults invested in the market has decreased from 65% (2007) to 55% (today). More alarmingly, it is people in the lower and middle income classes that make up the vast majority of this drop. For people making between $30k and $75k per year, the percentage of those invested has decreased from 72% to 56%. For those making less than $30k, it decreased from 28% to 21%.
The folks that make over $75k per year? The percentage is close to the same, going from 90% to 88% – likely the result of some baby boomers retiring or focusing on fixed income securities in their later years.
Going back further in the data, it actually turns out that the total amount of people invested in the markets is lower than virtually any time in the last two decades. Part of this is because of recent stagnation in wages, and another part is related to the rising distrust in the financial system itself.
In our view, part of the problem is also that policies such as quantitative easing, zero interest-rates, and bank bailouts tend to help those out that are closer to the top of the food chain. Inflating asset bubbles help the people that own such assets, and low rates give well-off people access to even more capital to invest with. However, for the middle and lower income earners that rely on regular paychecks to accumulate capital, these same policies encourage consumption and indebtedness. Lower earners do not get to see their house or stock portfolio sail in growth because they do not own them. They also rely more on credit cards, which have only dropped from 14.5% to 13% in average rates.
So don’t be surprised this weekend when your neighbor is unaware of the stock market mayhem over the last week. The majority of people in middle and lower income classes didn’t experience it.
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