Less than half of Americans invest in the stock market, survey finds

Main reason most Americans aren't invested in the stock market: lack of money

More than half of Americans are not invested in the stock market and thus haven't participated in the bull market that has restored the wealth of stock investors beyond pre-recession levels, a new survey said.

The survey, by personal-finance publisher Bankrate.com, helps explain what analysts say is both the unevenness of the recovery from the Great Recession, in which the greatest benefits have flowed to the wealthy, and widely differing perceptions about how the economy is doing.

"They say that a rising stock market lifts all boats," said Claes Bell, Bankrate.com's banking analyst. "But there's a lot of people that don't have a boat in the water."

The survey of 1,001 adults by Princeton Survey Research Associates International found that 52% of Americans are not invested in the market, with a majority (53%) citing "lack of money" as the biggest reason. Other deterrents to stock investing include not knowing enough about stocks (42%), a lack of trust in brokers (9%), and a fear that the stock market is too risky (7%).

The survey is line with other stock-ownership data following the recession. A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that 53% of American said they had no money at all invested in stocks, including through retirement accounts. Pew said the stock surge, which still continues, had "masked the unevenness of the recovery among Americans since 2009."

Pew cited an analysis by the Federal Reserve Board that showed that stock market wealth is held by a relatively small number of the most affluent.

And, Pew said, whether a household has at least some money invested in stocks is broadly determined by class. Majorities of those in households earning $75,000 a year or more (80%) and those with college degrees (77%) said they had some stock investments. But just 15% of those earning less than $30,000 and only 25% of those with no more than a high school diploma said they had any money invested in stocks.

Since the market last hit bottom on March 9, 2009, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index has gained more than 175% as of the close of markets Wednesday, according to FactSet Research Systems Inc.

The Bankrate survey, conducted by telephone from March 19 to 22, had a margin of error that ranged from plus or minus 3.7 percentage points to plus or minus 5.3 percentage points, depending on the question asked.

Twitter: @deanstarkman

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