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What Crash? Number of Middle-Income Earners in Stocks Drops by 16% [Chart]

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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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Markets

The Top Google Searches Related to Investing in 2022

What was on investors’ minds in 2022? Discover the top Google searches and how the dominant trends played out in portfolios.

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Trend lines showing when the top Google searches related to investing reached peak popularity over the course of 2022.
The following content is sponsored by New York Life Investments

The Top Google Searches Related to Investing in 2022

It was a turbulent year for the markets in 2022, with geopolitical conflict, rising prices, and the labor market playing key roles. Which stories captured investors’ attention the most? 

This infographic from New York Life Investments outlines the top Google searches related to investing in 2022, and offers a closer look at some of the trends.

Top Google Searches: Year in Review

We picked some of the top economic and investing stories that saw peak search interest in the U.S. each month, according to Google Trends.

Month of Peak InterestSearch Term
JanuaryGreat Resignation
FebruaryRussian Stock Market
MarchOil Price
April Housing Bubble
MayValue Investing
JuneBitcoin
JulyRecession
AugustInflation
SeptemberUS Dollar
OctoberOPEC
NovemberLayoffs
DecemberInterest Rate Forecast

Data based on exact searches in the U.S. from December 26, 2021 to December 18, 2022.

Let’s look at each quarter in more detail, to see how these top Google searches were related to activity in the economy and investors’ portfolios.

Q1 2022

The start of the year was marked by U.S. workers quitting their jobs in record numbers, and the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war. For instance, the price of crude oil skyrocketed after the war caused supply uncertainties. Early March’s peak of $125 per barrel was a 13-year high.

DateClosing Price of WTI Crude Oil
(USD/Barrel)
January 2, 2022$76
March 3, 2022$125
December 29, 2022$80

While crude oil lost nearly all its gains by year-end, the energy sector in general performed well. In fact, the S&P 500 Energy Index gained 57% over the year compared to the S&P 500’s 19% loss.

Q2 2022

The second quarter of 2022 saw abnormal house price growth, renewed interest in value investing, and a bitcoin crash. In particular, value investing performed much better than growth investing over the course of the year.

IndexPrice Return in 2022
S&P 500 Value Index-7.4%
S&P 500 Growth Index-30.1%

Value stocks have typically outperformed during periods of rising rates, and 2022 was no exception.

Q3 2022

The third quarter was defined by worries about a recession and inflation, along with interest in the rising U.S. dollar. In fact, the U.S. dollar gained against nearly every major currency.

Currency USD Appreciation Against Currency
(Dec 31 2020-Sep 30 2022)
Japanese Yen40.1%
Chinese Yuan9.2%
Euro25.1%
Canadian Dollar7.2%
British Pound22.0%
Australian Dollar18.1%

Higher interest rates made the U.S. dollar more attractive to investors, since it meant they would get a higher return on their fixed income investments.

Q4 2022

The end of the year was dominated by OPEC cutting oil production, high layoffs in the tech sector, and curiosity about the future of interest rates. The Federal Reserve’s December 2022 economic projections offer clues about the trajectory of the policy rate.

 202320242025Longer Run
Minimum Projection4.9%3.1%2.4%2.3%
Median Projection5.1%4.1%3.1%2.5%
Maximum Projection5.6%5.6%5.6%3.3%

The Federal Reserve expects interest rates to peak in 2023, with rates to remain elevated above pre-pandemic levels for the foreseeable future.

The Top Google Searches to Come

After a year of volatility across asset classes, economic uncertainty remains. Which themes will become investors’ top Google searches in 2023?

Find out how New York Life Investments can help you make sense of market trends.

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