Millennials End Up in Stocks for Retirement Head Start: Economy

(Bloomberg) -- Chad Gentry would rather bet on his own ability to save for the next 40 years than on the U.S. Social Security Administration’s solvency, so enrollment in his employer’s 401(k) plan was a no-brainer.

“I wanted to take advantage of that to help build retirement from the start,” said the 24-year-old, who has worked as an accountant at Fleet Feet Sports in Carrboro, North Carolina, for three years. “I’ve gone in with the mindset from day 1 to not plan on getting any Social Security.”

Concern that the future of the federal safety net for seniors is precarious and the ubiquity of 401(k)s are prompting those born from 1979 to 1996 to get an earlier start on saving than prior generations, according to a report from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Millennial workers began building nest eggs at a median age of 22, younger than both Generation X, which started at 27, and the baby boomers, who started at 35.

Though many millennial workers say they’re risk-averse and stock-shy as a result of the most severe recession in the post- World War II era, their deeds are telling a different story. That bodes well in the long run for a generation that may have to bear a greater share of retirement costs on its own, even if it means the economy will get a little less consumer spending in the short term.

“The concern was that they would be like the Great Depression generation,” which shied away from equities, said Sarah Holden, director of retirement and investor research at the Investment Company Institute in Washington. In surveys, millennials “were saying that they were nervous about the stock market, they were saying that they were less willing to take risk, but the design of the 401(k) plans is really keeping them in equities.”

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