Poll Finds Many Still Queasy about Equities

A majority of Americans have a false perception of how stock market investments fared last year, and are still uneasy about investing in stocks, according to a new poll.

A Franklin Templeton news release about its survey of 1,000 respondents showed that 66% of Americans believe the stock market was either down or flat in 2009, versus the 22.68% gain that the Dow Jones Industrial Average actually recorded. Adding to that misperception, nearly 60% of respondents believe gold would have provided a better total return on investment than stocks over the past 30 years.

The survey also found that 57% of Americans believe stocks are too risky to invest in right now, while 39% believe stocks represent a solid investment opportunity. More than a third (34%) of respondents are not saving for retirement.

Findings also affirm the long-held observation that women have a more conservative view, with 62% of women believing stocks are too risky. Younger respondents (18- to 34-year-olds) were more likely to think stocks are too risky than any of the other age groups surveyed.

“The market decline of 2008 and early 2009 is still fresh in investors’ minds and is stifling their willingness to invest in stocks,” said David McSpadden, senior vice president of Global Advisory Services for Franklin Templeton Investments, in the news release. “The misperception that exists right now is translating into a lost opportunity for people working to build their savings.”

When asked where they believe the best stock investment opportunities will be during the next 10 years, 50% of Americans said the best opportunities will be outside the U.S., and 46% said the U.S. represents the best opportunity. Age had a strong correlation to where respondents feel the best stock opportunities will exist, with 61% of 18- to 34-year-olds believing the best investment will be outside the U.S. versus 38% for those age 65 and older. Sixty percent of respondents believe the Dow Jones Industrial Average will not surpass 15,000 by the year 2020, while 16% anticipate that the stock market will go down over the next decade.

More affluent investors seem more positive about stocks: 59% of respondents with household incomes greater than $100,000 view stocks as a solid investment opportunity, while 66% of those making $75,000 or less believe stocks are too risky.