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More Americans prefer cash or real estate to stocks

Americans prefer to put long-term investments in cash.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Americans prefer to put long-term investments in cash.

When it comes to a long-term investment strategy, more people are sticking with a zero-risk, zero-return mentality.

A surprising 54 million Americans said they preferred cash investments for money they did not need for 10 years or more, according to a recent report by Bankrate.com.

Overall, one quarter of Americans said real estate was the most favored investment option for savings they wanted to stash for over a decade, closely followed by cash. Stocks and precious metals were a distant third, tied at 16 percent, while bonds were the least popular at 5 percent.

"While cash investments are entirely appropriate for short-term needs, such as an emergency fund, they are completely inappropriate for long-term investment horizons," Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's chief financial analyst, said in a statement.

"Returns on cash investments often trail the rate of inflation, with savers losing buying power as a result."

"Cash investments are completely inappropriate for long-term investment horizons" -Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's chief financial analyst

Younger millennials, or those at ages 18 to 25, overwhelmingly chose cash as their preferred investment for they money they would not need for at least 10 years. That was by more than a 2-to-1 margin over the next highest category, real estate. (Millennials are also less likely to own a home because they simply can't afford one, according to a separate report from the U.K.'s office of National Statistics.)

Older generations were more likely to cite real estate as their top choice for a long-term investment.

"The preference for real estate is well suited for investment horizons of more than a decade, but the apathy many investors feel towards the stock market is detrimental to achieving their long-term financial goals," McBride said.

Even with the recent volatility in the stock market, the S&P 500 has gained 6 percent year-to-date, while most cash investments yield less than 1 percent.