Watching the wild swings in the stock market has been a heartbreaking experience for Jasmine Okougbo, who started investing only last month.
Ms. Okougbo, 26, a business operations manager in Tucson, has an individual retirement account set up through her company and shares she got from her parents for her birthday. In one week, the value of her investments sank 65 percent.
"I don't think I will be buying or trading on the market again anytime soon," she said. "I still don't think it has hit me how much I lost so quickly."
For many millennials, the recent stock market gyrations have been a painful lesson in volatility that is being driven by fears that inflation and interest rates could rise faster than expected. Many have retreated from the market into savings accounts.
Twitter feeds quickly filled with teary, wailing GIFs and heart emoticons cracked in two — pithy punctuation about anemic 401(k) accounts being whittled down to wisps. Many young investors bemoaned the misfortune of equity portfolios shriveling up weeks after their cryptocurrency holdings also began deflating.
Lulled into confidence by the second-longest bull run in history, some had forgotten the passwords to their trading accounts and, to their panic, were locked out.
Mario Tehuitzil, 27, ducked into a restroom to check his cryptocurrency and stock holdings on Monday and felt "a punch to the gut," then a growing "rush of anxiety and nausea." His $33,000 stock portfolio had plummeted by more than 40 percent, to $19,000 in value, before swelling back to $24,000 on Wednesday.
"I'm aware of the risks but I never expected this rapid and severe drop," said Mr. Tehuitzil, a New York-based pediatrics assistant. "Looks like the down payment for an apartment I've been eyeing will have to wait."
Millennials, a sprawling and diverse demographic generally said to be born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, are known for their passion for social media and an affinity for instant gratification.
But as investors, haunted by the trauma of the Great Recession, they have been mostly cautious. Many young people struggling to find work retreated back to school or into part-time work. For millennials living paycheck to paycheck and sometimes bunking with their parents, saving for retirement seemed a remote priority as they watched debts pile up.