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CNBC|SurveyMonkey Poll: “Invest in You” August 2021

CNBC|SurveyMonkey Poll: “Invest in You” August 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to color the general public’s perception of financial recovery. Almost a quarter (23%) of people agree that COVID-19 is the biggest risk to their personal finances over the next 12 months. Investors differ from the general public, and believe inflation will most impact their personal finances in the next 12 months (20%). Despite this, about half (54%) of investors say that the pandemic has not changed their investment strategy. Of investors that say the pandemic has changed their strategy, 18% say they are now investing in different sectors, and 16% are investing less aggressively than before. 

Americans are split on where they expect the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) to be at the end of 2021 (22% say higher than where it is now, 20% say about equal to where it is now, 20% say lower to where it is now, 32% are not sure.) 

  • More Republicans than independents and Democrats believe the DJIA will be lower than where it is now (31% of Republicans, 15% of Independents, 12% of Democrats).
  • More men than women believe the DJIA will be better than where it is now (29% of white men, 15% of white women, 26% of Black men, 15% of Black women, 28% of Hispanic men, 14% of Hispanic women).
  • White Americans believe the DJIA will be lower than it is now (24% of whites, 10% of Blacks, 12% of Hispanics, 12% of Asians).


One in 10 people in the U.S. (11%) currently invest in cryptocurrency. 

  • More men than women invest in cryptocurrency (16% vs 7%). This is true for all racial/ethnic groups. 
  • More young and middle aged investors invest in cryptocurrency than older investors (15% of 18-34, 11% of 35-64, 4% of 65+).
  • Overall, only 3% of investors began to invest because they were encouraged by the growth in cryptocurrency. 

Those who invest in cryptocurrency say they do so because of the potential for long term growth (60%), the potential for high growth in a short period (44%), the ease of making their own trades (33%), and the excitement of investing (26%). Exactly half of cryptocurrency investors started investing within the last year, and most commonly use a mobile app (65%) or a self service website (23%) to make their trades.

Many are not entirely sold on cryptocurrency’s continued ascent. Less than half (44%) of the general public don’t know where they expect Bitcoin to be at the end of 2021 (21% say higher than where it is now, 14% say about where it is now, and 14% say lower than where it is now). About half (45%) of people believe that cryptocurrency is a high risk investment (31% moderate risk, 6% low risk, 9% no risk). Despite this, some see cryptocurrency as a short term investment opportunity: young people would invest in cryptocurrency to gain the largest return in 12 months (21% of 18-34, 13% of 35-64, 3% of 65+). 

  • New investors are more optimistic about cryptocurrency than those who began investing before 2019. A third (36%) of new investors believe the price of Bitcoin will be higher than it is now, compared to 20% of other investors.
  • 2 in 10 Blacks (19%) think cryptocurrency has no risk (6% of whites, 13% of Hispanics, 8% of Asians) 
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) of older people think cryptocurrency is high risk (29% of 18-34, 46% of 35-64).

Financial account ownership reflects societal access to financial knowledge and opportunity

While many Americans have diverse financial portfolios, others do not own more than one financial account. This trend is particularly true when comparing gender, race/ethnicity, and age.

  • Seven in 10 (70%) Americans own a traditional bank checking account. This is the most common financial account that men and women of all races/ethnicities hold. Racial differences, however, persist. While more than three-quarters (78%) of white men have a traditional bank account, only half (51%) of Black women do (71% of white women, 63% of black men, 67% of Hispanic men, 64% of Hispanic women).
  • Fewer young Americans own a traditional bank account than older Americans (57% of 18-34, 73% of 35-64, 81% of 65+).
  • Half (50%) of Americans own a retirement account. Almost twice (63%) as many white men own a retirement account than Black women (32%). (51% of white women, 33% of Black men 38% of Hispanic men, 39% of Hispanic women).
  • Fewer young Americans own a retirement account than older Americans (29% of 18-34, 58% of 35-64, 59% of 65+).
  • Men are more likely to own any type of financial account than women, except for a peer-to-peer payment app. 

Seven in 10 (70%) of the general public has some type of debt or outstanding loan.

  • Middle aged people (35-64) have many different types of debt: 43% have a mortgage loan, 41% have a car loan, and 39% have credit card debt. 
  • Black women have nearly twice as much student loan debt than all other groups (13% of white men, 16% of white women, 17% of Black men, 30% of Black women, 11% of Hispanic men, 17% of Hispanic women).
  • More than twice as many white men have a mortgage loan than Black women (40% of white men, 35% of white women, 26% of Black men, 18% of Black women, 27% of Hispanic men, 25% of Hispanic women) . 

About a third (35%) of Americans do not own real estate, individual stocks, mutual funds, bonds, cryptocurrency, nor exchange traded funds. Young Americans, women, and people of color have less investments than other groups. 

  • Four in 10 (40%) women do not own any investments. More women of color do not have investments than white women: as 6 in 10 (59%) of Black women and 5 in 10 (48%) Hispanic women do not own investments. 
  • About half of Blacks (51%) and Hispanics (49%) do not own investments.
  • Nearly half (48%) of young Americans do not own any investments, compared with 33% of those age 35-64, and 19% of those age 65+. 

Almost half (45%) of Americans who do not invest cite lack of funds as the primary reason. This is true among all ages, genders, and race/ethnicities. Two in ten Americans (21%) say they do not invest because they do not know how to. This is more common among Americans aged 18-34 (27% of 18-34, 18% of 35-64, 9% of 65+).

Investor Behavior

American investors own many types of investments: about a third (31%)of the general public owns individual stocks, a quarter owns mutual funds (25%), 12% own bonds, 11% own cryptocurrency, and 10% own Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Americans are interested in investing for the long term, rather than short term gains. Exactly two-thirds (66%) of investors primarily began to invest to plan for the future, and about 7 out of 10 (70%) continue to invest based on the potential for stable growth in the long term. Many more older investors than young investors say they are investing for stable growth in the long term (59% of 18-34, 70% of 35-64. 79% of 65+). 

A quarter (26%) of the general public began investing in 2020 and later (73% of investors began investing before 2019). 

  • More than half (60%) of young (18-34) investors began investing last year or later (21% of 34-64, 4% of 65+).
  • More people of color began investing in 2020 or later (20% of white men, 19% of white women, 44% of Black men, 47% of Black women, 41% of Hispanic men, 41% of Hispanic women).
  • A third of new investors use social media to research investment ideas (37% of those who began investing in 2020 or later, 12% of those who began investing in 2019 or earlier).
  • New investors began investing to plan for the future (35%), because friends and family encouraged them to (19%), they recently learned how to (16%), due to extra money from the pandemic (10%), and the growth of cryptocurrency (10%)..
  • Almost two-thirds (60%) of new investors use a mobile app to invest (25% of those who began investing before 2019 say they use a mobile app).

Technology and social media has changed what investing looks like for the public, particularly for younger people, low-income folks, and people of color. 

  • About one in 10 young investors (12%) (18-34 years old) learned how to invest from social media, in comparison to just 3% of those 35-64 years old and 1% of those aged 65+. 
  • By far, social media is the most popular way that young investors research investment ideas (37% of 18-34, 17% of 35-64, 5% of 65+). Older investors rely on discussions with their broker or financial advisor (15% of 18-34, 27% of 35-64, 52% of 65+).  
  • Investors of color use social media to learn about investment ideas more so than white investors (29% of Blacks, 34% of Hispanics, 14% of whites). White Americans prefer to speak with their broker (35% of whites, 17% of Blacks, 16% of Hispanics). 
  • A quarter (28%) of investors who earn less than $50,000 use social media for investment advice, and nearly half (51%) of those who earn more than $100,000 use financial websites.
  • Over half of investors conduct their own trades, either by mobile-app (31%) or a self-service website (26%). More than half (57%) of young investors use a mobile-app (57% of 18-34, 32% of 34-64, 5% of 65+). Older Americans prefer to call their broker to make trades (15% of 18-34, 34% of 35-64, 60% of 65+). 
  • More than three times as many new investors use a self-service mobile app than experienced investors  (63% of those who began investing in 2020 or later use a self-service mobile app, compared to 20% of those who began investing before 2019).

Differences exist between low-income and high-income individuals

  • About a quarter (23%) of investors do not invest based on sector. A majority (63%) of investors who earn more than $100,000 invest in technology (43% of those who make below $50,000, 53% of those who make $50,000-$99,999). 
  • The large majority (90%) of investors have never borrowed money to buy stocks, bonds, cryptocurrency, or other investments. Of those that have, a quarter applied for a bank loan (28%) or borrowed money from relatives/friends (27%). These investors mainly invested the money into individual stocks (48%), mutual funds (29%), cryptocurrency (24%), ETFs (24%), and bonds (15%). 
  • Over two-thirds (69%) of investors that received government stimulus funds did not invest it in stocks, bonds, cryptocurrency, or other investments. 

Read more about our polling methodology here

Click through all the results in the interactive toplines below: