All it proves is that the wealth gap is, indeed, growing ever wider. Gallup recently released the results of a poll many are using to claim, “See! I told you this was the most hated bull market of all time!” It shows that only 52% of Americans currently own stocks, tied for the fewest on record (chart above).
Let’s set aside the fact that this is poll and many Americans don’t realize how much they currently have invested in the stock market via retirement plans. Let’s just focus instead on the actual data from the Fed which shows equity ownership as a percent of household financial assets near all-time highs. If they do, in fact, hate stocks, they certainly aren’t putting their money where their mouths are.
Now this still doesn’t address what percent of Americans actually own stocks. It just aggregates all of their financial assets and tells us what share is allocated to the stock market. But it certainly suggests that Americans don’t hate the stock market. In fact, as a group they have never preferred stocks to cash more than they do today.
And if you’re looking to understand why Americans as a group might not feel as wealthy or optimistic about their personal finances as they have in the past, despite the Fed’s apparent success in boosting the prices of risk assets, you might want to take a look at another poll. The Atlantic reports:
The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
If 47% of Americans don’t even have $400 in savings is it any wonder they aren’t buying stocks? But if they actually had $400 to their names, that Fed data referenced above suggests it would most likely be invested in the stock market, not in cash, that latter asset class truly being the most hated in history.