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Rich millennials are loading up on stocks but still have a big chunk of cash on the sidelines

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Wealthy millennials are finally lowering their cash holdings and putting money their money to work in the stock market, according to a new survey from Bank of America’s U.S. Trust.

In the last year, wealthy millennials cut their cash holdings as a percentage of their portfolios from 46% to 21%. Most of that money went into equities, with their average allocation to stocks rising from 25% to 46%, the survey found.

“That’s a good sign there in the sense that you’ve got a big investing cohort out there putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and they’re backing their beliefs in U.S. corporations and becoming comfortable with equities. That’s important,” Joe Quinlan, Head of Market Strategy for U.S. Trust, told Yahoo Finance. “They’re having a big impact on the future of Wall Street,” he added. “The fact they’re warming up to equities is hugely important to Wall Street.”

U.S. Trust surveyed nearly 1,000 high-net-worth ($3 million and more in investable assets) and ultra-high-net worth (more than $10 million and more in investable assets) men and women across generations.

Millennials reduced their cash holdings and put more money to work in the stock market.

The data show that millennials tend to be conservative about equities and that they like to be more diversified.

“They were kind of baptized with equities coming out of the Great Recession of 2008, 2009, which is fresh in their memory versus older generations where they’ve been through the cycles before,” Quinlan said, noting that older investors are more comfortable riding out those cycles.

Presently, these wealthy millennials continue to have the lowest allocation to stocks, compared to GenX with 54% and baby boomers with 56%, and the silent generation, those older than 75, with 61% in stocks.

In the past, a traditional portfolio likely consisted of equities, bonds, and cash. Millennials, on the other hand, are favoring other assets such as real estate, private equity, and art. This year, 97% of the affluent millennials said they plan to buy a piece of art, compared to 78% of all art collectors, while 46% of collectors plan to sell some of their artwork.

Investments that ‘do good’

Another area millennials are keen on is impact investing.

“Millennials are the forefront, I believe, generationally speaking, for investors, of being more demanding of portfolios that not only do they perform well, but they also do good by the environment, by women, by climate change, on down the line. We are seeing that they are backing up their beliefs with hard investments.”

When putting a portfolio together, 87% of millennials surveyed said a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) track record matters. What’s more is 88% of millennials said they review the ESG impact of their holdings.

Wealthy millennials aren’t the only group driving charges. Millionaire women, including wealthy millennial women, are driving impact investing, with 46% of all high-net worth women responding that they own or are interested in holding ESG investments, and 64% answering that the EGG track record is an important consideration when making an investment decision.


Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.