Millennials Aren’t Scared of Investing

A new ICI study finds nearly one in three Millennial households owns mutual funds.

New research released by the Investment Company Institute (ICI) finds almost one-third of Millennial households owned mutual funds as of mid-2015.

Not a big surprise, more Baby Boomer and Generation X households—with family members being older and more likely in their peak earning and saving years—owned mutual funds in mid-2015, at about 50% for each generation. However, while the share of Millennial households that own funds is smaller than that of older generations, these Millennials started investing at a younger age than previous generations, ICI says.

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The median age at which adult Millennials—born between 1981 and 1997—first purchased mutual funds was 23, ICI finds, while the median age for first mutual fund purchase for households headed by a member of Gen X—born between 1965 and 1980—was 26. Among Baby Boomers—born between 1946 and 1964—the median first-purchase age was well into their 30s.

ICI finds that households headed by members of the Baby Boomer generation still represent the largest share of mutual fund owners, at 40% of all current mutual fund-owning households. The next-largest shareholder group is Gen X households, which represent 32% of mutual fund-owning households, followed by adult Millennial households, which make up 16%. ICI finds the two older generations, often called the Silent and GI Generations, constitute the remaining 12%.

Baby Boomers also appear to have more of their wealth tied to mutual funds than other generations, according to the ICI analysis. In fact Boomers in general held 53% of their total wealth in mutual funds as of mid-2015. This compares with 27% of household wealth tied to mutual funds for Generation X. Millennials, because they are younger and have had less time to accumulate savings, hold only 5% of all household assets in mutual funds.

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“Though the Baby Boom Generation is frequently highlighted for its significant role in mutual fund investing, this study shows that Millennials are also focused on saving and investing,” says Sarah Holden, ICI senior director of retirement and investor research. “Our 2015 household survey finds not only that Millennials are buying mutual funds at a younger age than any other generation, but also that nearly one-third of the 26.4 million households headed by Millennials owned mutual funds—showing that this generation is investing for the future.”

Other key survey findings show employer-sponsored retirement plans “increasingly are the gateway to mutual fund ownership” among all generations. In fact, 67% of mutual fund-owning households that purchased their first mutual fund in 2010 or later purchased that fund through an employer-sponsored retirement plan, ICI says, compared with 57% of those that made their first purchase before 1990.

At the same time, ICI finds almost all mutual fund investors were focused on retirement saving. Fully 91% of mutual fund-owning households listed saving for retirement as a financial goal, with almost three-quarters indicating it was the household’s primary financial goal. 

Interestingly, most U.S. mutual fund shareholders had moderate household incomes and were in their peak earning and saving years, highlighting the importance of the mutual fund industry for middle class savers. As the ICI explains, half of U.S. households owning mutual funds had incomes between $25,000 and $99,999, and nearly two-thirds were headed by individuals between the ages of 35 and 64.

These findings are drawn from two recent ICI studies: “Ownership of Mutual Funds, Shareholder Sentiment, and Use of the Internet, 2015” and “Characteristics of Mutual Fund Investors, 2015.” More information is at