Millennials are the most confident investors, survey shows

By Ken Tysiac

Millennials display more confidence than members of any other generation in investing in U.S. and overseas markets and U.S. public companies, and in the reliability of audited financial information, a new survey shows.

Almost nine in 10 (89%) of Millennial investors expressed at least some confidence in U.S. capital markets, according to the Center for Audit Quality’s 10th annual Main Street Investor Survey, the results of which were released Thursday.

The survey results show increased confidence in general from the previous year on the part of the public in:

  • Investing in U.S. capital markets (79%).
  • Investing in markets outside the United States (42%).
  • Investing in U.S. public companies (81%).
  • The reliability of audited financial statements (75%).

Data segmented by generation that were not included in the report posted online show that Millennials have more confidence in each of those categories than members of Generation X, Baby Boomers, and the pre-Baby Boomer “Silent Generation.”

Cindy Fornelli, the executive director of the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ), which is affiliated with the AICPA, said the enthusiasm of the newest investors is an encouraging sign for the economy.

“With all the information that they get bombarded with … and having all that information at the tip of their fingers, that they still remain confident in our markets … it bodes well for our market,” she said during a teleconference with reporters.

Almost across the board in an economy that indicators show is in a slow recovery from the recession that ended in 2009, investor confidence is up in this year’s survey compared with last year’s. Confidence was at its highest level since 2011 in each of 10 groups with roles in advancing investor protection, led by independent auditors of public companies (81%) and public company audit committees (77%).

Women, however, generally showed less confidence than men in most areas. Fornelli said the gender differences in opinions show the need for diversity in company leadership and board appointments.

“Companies that have that diversity of thought, whether it’s gender or other diversity, perform better,” she said. “I think it shows the difference in the way that men and women approach things and the way they think about things, and that makes for a healthier, more robust process, and it makes companies better, and it makes our markets better.”

The growing national debt was selected by the most respondents (29%) as the greatest risk to the U.S. economy in the next four years, followed by global political unrest (19%). And more than half (57%) of investors said the identity of the next U.S. president would affect their investment plans in the next year “a lot.”

On the presidential election, investors’ opinions diverged from those expressed by CPA decision-makers in the latest quarterly AICPA Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey. In the survey of CPAs, 79% said the election is not a factor in hiring decisions, and a majority said they don’t see the election figuring in capital expenditures and business expansion decisions.

Ken Tysiac ( is a JofA editorial director.

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