Americans still skittish about investing, post crisis

  • It's been 10 years since the financial crisis, yet many Americans are still shying away from investing in the market.
  • There is reason to remain cautious, those polled say: A large majority expect another financial crisis in the decade ahead.
Commuters at the Wall Street subway station near the New York Stock Exchange in New York.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Commuters at the Wall Street subway station near the New York Stock Exchange in New York.

In the last decade, the S&P 500 has rallied 200 percent, yet many Americans are less willing to invest in the market than they were before 2008.

Roughly three quarters of Americans, or 74 percent, said their financial habits have changed as a result of the financial fallout and Great Recession, according to a new survey by NerdWallet.

Nearly half of those polled said they are more cautious about their spending overall — 38 percent said they avoid debt as much as possible, one quarter said they have limited the number of credit cards they have as a result of the financial crisis and 7 percent said they no longer invest in the stock market.

The personal finance website polled more than 2,000 adults in September.

"When it comes to spending and limiting credit card debt — that kind of conservatism is good," said Holden Lewis, NerdWallet's markets insight expert.

But there is a problem with people being too conservative with their investments, he added. "They are really missing out by not putting their money in the market."

That likely means that falling far short when it comes to maximizing returns. The average interest rate on a savings account has remained just above zero percent, while a 60/40 stock/bond portfolio has returned about 8 percent over the last 10 years.

As a result, many people are still clawing their way back to where they stood a decade ago. About 65 percent of people say they have still not fully recovered from the financial crisis, according to another survey of 2,000 adults by Betterment.

Nearly a third said they are making a concerted effort to save more today as a result of the crash, Betterment found. But of those polled, only 10 percent of total respondents invest more today than they did 10 years ago, compared with 66 percent who said they invest less.

And still, there is reason to remain overly cautious, most people believe. A large majority — 85 percent — said they expect another financial crisis in the next 10 years.

More from Personal Finance:
Post-financial crisis, retirees still struggle to find reliable retirement income
Nearly 6 in 10 workers are still recovering after the Great Recession
Lack of savings a big problem for many Americans, Fed survey shows