US Markets

Millennials are dumping their individual stocks and flocking to ETFs, Schwab survey shows

Key Points
  • More than 9 in 10 millennials see ETFs as vital to their investment strategies, according to a survey by Charles Schwab.
  • Overall, the survey showed that 55 percent of respondents consider ETFs "the primary investment type" in their future portfolio.
  • About 1 in 3 respondents said they have exchanged their entire portfolio for ETFs.
Kevin Dodge | Getty Images

Millennials are going all-in when it comes to using exchange-traded funds in their investment portfolios.

In fact, almost everyone — 96 percent — who responded to a recent Charles Schwab survey said they considered the passive index-tracking securities "a necessary part" of their investment strategy, and 91 percent said ETFs are their "investment vehicle of choice."

The move is coming at the expense of individual stocks, with more than half of millennials surveyed saying they dumped all their equity holdings for ETFs.

Passive investing, which involves using funds that track market indexes like the , the Dow industrials, and multiple other trackers and strategies, has surged in popularity over the past decade. Assets held by the industry have surged from $531 billion in 2008 to more than $3.4 trillion currently, according to Statista.

Growth has occurred across age groups but has been particularly strong among the youngest cohort, which grew up in an era in which indexing became vogue. Investors prefer the funds for their ease of trading and low costs compared with mutual funds.

"Within a decade, we've seen ETFs grow to the point where investors now see them as a foundational investment vehicle," Heather Fischer, vice president of ETF and mutual fund platforms at Schwab, said in a statement. "While this sentiment is particularly pronounced among millennial investors, it is reflected strongly across generations and genders."

Schwab conducted the survey of 1,500 ETF investors, 55 percent of whom said they consider the funds "the primary investment type" in their future portfolio. The percentage was highest among millennials, at 79 percent of respondents, and lowest among "matures," at 14 percent.

In all, millennials made up 35 percent of respondents, which was the largest group, while males made up 64 percent compared with 36 percent for females. ETF popularity was fairly equal among genders — they comprised 33 percent of female portfolios compared with 34 percent for men, while 57 percent of women said they expect to increase allocations versus 54 percent for men.

The surge in ETF popularity also is coming at the expense of individual stocks.

Of the total surveyed, 32 percent said they replaced all their stocks with ETFs and 58 percent said they had replaced some; for millennials, the numbers were 56 percent and 64 percent, respectively, the most for either response.

Schwab has been conducting the study for eight years. The firm is the fifth-largest ETF provider, with $115.9 billion in assets, according to

WATCH: Cramer cautions about buying stocks based on millennial behavior.

Cramer Remix: Millennials aren’t swaying the market as much as you think
Cramer Remix: Millennials aren’t swaying the market as much as you think