What Bull Market? Investors Would Rather Put Money Under the Mattress

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Main Street continues to ignore one of the strongest bull markets in history. Despite major indexes posting record gains over the past five years, the majority of Americans would rather keep their money out of stocks. In fact, many investors wouldn’t invest in stocks even if they were given a large wad of cash.

The mattress appears to be the preferred investing strategy these days. According to a new survey from Wells Fargo and Gallup, only 41 percent of U.S. investors say they would invest in the stock market if given an additional $10,000 to save or invest. In contrast, 36 percent say they would keep the newfound money in cash, while 20 percent would purchase a certificate of deposit (CD) — essentially, a mattress found at a bank.

In a separate question asking how investors feel about allocating their own money, nearly half of respondents feel extremely or somewhat nervous about investing in the stock market. Another 38 percent are a little nervous, and only 16 percent are not nervous at all. “Every bull market, such as the one the country is now experiencing, has the bear’s shadow hanging over it. And that shadow tends to grow bigger and darker with every additional month of market gains,” notes Gallup.

Last year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 26.5 percent to post its best year since 1995, while the S&P 500 surged nearly 30 percent to log its biggest annual gain since 1997. The Dow and S&P 500 made 52 and 45 record highs in 2013, respectively. In fact, the S&P 500 finished 2013 at a record high, which has only happened 11 times since 1927. About 460 stocks in the index finished higher, the broadest rally since 1990.

However, many investors are unaware of these sharp increases. Gallup finds the majority of investors know that stocks increased on average, but only a quarter believe they increased by 20 percent or better. Making matters worse, one in five investors thought stocks were flat last year.

Ignoring the ups and downs in the market can be beneficial for investors, but nearly seven in ten investors claim they are highly knowledgeable or somewhat knowledgeable about investing. “There’s a perception gap with investors,” explains Joe Nadreau, head of Innovation and Strategy at Wells Fargo Advisors. “They said they’re pretty knowledgeable about investing, but they don’t seem to be aware of the market’s record growth over the last year and a half.”

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