When it comes to investing, millennials are falling behind. A new survey of 1,519 Americans aged 21 to 37 by TD Ameritrade finds that only 50 percent of millennials currently invest in the stock market, including employer-sponsored retirement accounts.
That jibes with other recent findings, too. Millennials are generally as conservative with their investments as retirees and that's because so many of them feel intimidated by the market, Ally finds.
Getting started in the market doesn't have to be daunting, though. There are ways to begin investing for the future without taking on too much risk: Both Warren Buffett and Tony Robbins recommend starting with index funds, especially for anyone young or new to the market.
"Consistently buy an S&P 500 low-cost index fund," Buffett told CNBC's On The Money. "I think it's the thing that makes the most sense practically all of the time."
You can think of an index fund as a basket of stocks with hundreds or thousands of different ones inside, explains Nick Holeman, a certified financial planner at Betterment. The S&P 500, for example, is a fund that holds stocks for the 500 largest companies in the U.S., which includes familiar names such as Apple, Google, Exxon and Johnson & Johnson.
"It's the cheapest and easiest way to diversify your money that you're investing," Holeman says.