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Survey: Real estate stays on top as Americans’ favorite investment for the long term

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Mortgage rates are surging higher, inflation is soaring, and many experts are forecasting a recession may soon be on the way. Despite these negative impacts on the housing market, real estate remains America’s favorite long-term investment in 2022, according to a just-released Bankrate survey. It was the third time in the last four years that real estate took the top honors.

In all, 29 percent of Americans said that real estate was their top pick for investing money that they didn’t need for 10 or more years. Real estate made a strong showing, and it was the second-highest result – behind only the 31 percent it notched in 2019 – in the survey’s 10 years of polling. The runner-up in this year’s survey was stocks, which garnered 26 percent of Americans’ votes.

“Despite a housing market that is coming off the boil, preference for real estate remains high,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate chief financial analyst. “For the third time in the past four years and sixth time in the past 10 years, real estate is Americans’ preferred way to invest money not needed for more than 10 years. Despite a brutal bear market in 2022, the stock market was a close second.”

Bankrate surveyed 1,025 American adults from June 17-20 about their investment preferences. Below are the main findings from the survey.

Key takeaways:

Real estate remains the most popular long-term investment

As it did last year and for three of the past four years, real estate sits atop the list of Americans’ favorite ways to invest money not needed for 10 or more years. More than 29 percent tapped real estate as their preferred long-term investment, the second-highest showing ever in the 10 years of the Bankrate survey.

Here’s the full list of responses and the percentage of Americans who favored each:

  • Real estate – 29 percent
  • Stock market – 26 percent
  • Cash investments (savings, CDs) – 17 percent
  • Gold or other precious metals – 9 percent
  • Bonds – 9 percent
  • Bitcoin/cryptocurrency – 6 percent
  • None of these – 3 percent

Americans appear to be more enthusiastic for the stock market, despite stocks being down 20 percent year to date at the time of polling. The preference for stocks as a long-term investment surged to 26 percent, from 16 percent in the year-ago survey. That result was below only the preference for stocks in 2018 (32 percent) and 2020 (28 percent) in 10 years of the survey.

Cash came in third, falling from 25 percent last year to 17 percent in 2022, even as interest rates have sharply risen and are poised to go even higher.

“Preference for cash moderated notably, cited by just 17 percent of respondents, the lowest in a decade’s worth of polls,” says McBride. “Nothing like the highest inflation in more than 40 years to remind investors of the need to earn higher returns to grow the buying power of a nest egg.”

Bonds have gotten crushed in the market this year, but that didn’t stop survey respondents from citing them as their preferred investment at the highest rate, 9 percent, in a decade of polling. That’s up from just 4 percent in 2021.

Gold and other precious metals were less popular than last year, falling from 13 percent to just 9 percent in 2022, sinking to the lowest all-time level during the decade of the survey.

Cryptocurrency became less popular as well, falling from 9 percent last year to 6 percent in 2022. Finally, a further 3 percent of respondents said none of these choices was the best place for investing money over the next ten or more years.

Many Americans dislike stocks, mainly due to their volatility

Stocks have been among the top performers in the Bankrate survey, but why are investors just a bit less optimistic about them than real estate? The survey dug into the reasons.

Among respondents who didn’t pick the stock market as their preferred investment for the next decade or more, here are the top answers for why they didn’t select it:

  • “Too much volatility” – 36 percent
  • “Intimidated by the stock market” – 16 percent
  • “The investment returns won’t keep pace with others” – 15 percent
  • “The stock market is rigged against individuals” – 14 percent
  • “Focused on preserving money rather than growing it” – 10 percent
  • “Some other reason” – 9 percent
  • “Don’t know” – 1 percent

Age seemed to play a role in whether a respondent said that volatility was the key factor in their decision, with 44 percent of baby boomers (ages 58-76) and 40 percent of Generation X (ages 42-57) citing it, compared to 29 percent of millennials (ages 26-41).

In contrast, being intimidated with the stock market was more associated with younger cohorts. About 22 percent of older millennials (ages 33-41) and 18 percent of younger millennials (ages 26-32) cited this reason, compared to 15 percent of Gen X and 11 percent of baby boomers.

Age also seemed to be associated with whether Americans said that their top reason for not preferring stocks was the market was rigged against individual investors. Younger millennials (20 percent) and older millennials (17 percent) responded at higher rates than did Generation X (13 percent) and baby boomers (12 percent).

Income was also associated with whether a respondent said the stock market being rigged was the key reason for not preferring stocks. Households earning less than $50,000 annually were twice as likely (18 percent) to cite this reason as those earning $50,000 or more (9 percent).

Comfort levels with cryptocurrency have fallen along with their price

Americans say they’re much less comfortable with investing in cryptocurrency, according to the latest Bankrate survey. Only 21 percent say they’re either “somewhat comfortable” or “very comfortable” with cryptocurrency, compared to 35 percent in last year’s survey.

In contrast, 75 percent of respondents said they were “not too comfortable” or “not at all comfortable,” compared to 61 percent in last year’s figures.

Here are the full results:

  • Very comfortable – 5 percent
  • Somewhat comfortable – 16 percent
  • Not too comfortable – 29 percent
  • Not at all comfortable – 47 percent

Last year, 28 percent of respondents said they were not too comfortable, while 33 percent said they were not at all comfortable.

Age seemed to be associated with the comfort level for investing in cryptocurrency, with younger investors reporting higher levels of comfortability.

  • 34 percent of Generation Z said they were somewhat or very comfortable with investing in crypto.
  • 29 percent of millennials reported they were somewhat or very comfortable.
  • Just 21 percent of Generation X responded the same.
  • Only 11 percent of baby boomers said they were somewhat or very comfortable with crypto as an investment.

On the flip side, a total of 66 percent of Gen Z says that it’s either not too comfortable or not at all comfortable investing in cryptocurrencies. Millennials reported a similar result (68 percent).

Investment preferences vary widely by age, income and gender

The Bankrate survey also revealed key ways that investment preferences differed among groups, notably by age, income and gender.

Of all generations, millennials had the strongest preference (33 percent) for investing in real estate for money not needed in the next decade or more, consistent with results in prior years. And Gen Z and Gen X also preferred real estate above other options. In contrast, baby boomers preferred the stock market (33 percent) to real estate (25 percent). The boomers’ preference for stocks exceeded that of all other generations.

Besides being a favorite of baby boomers, the stock market was also the top pick for households headed by a college graduate (40 percent) and households earning more than $75,000 a year (40 percent).

About twice as many women (22 percent) picked cash investments such as high-yield savings accounts and CDs as their top choice compared to men (11 percent). Older millennials had the highest preference for cash investments of any age group, second only to their preference for real estate (33 percent).

Methodology

This study was conducted for Bankrate by SSR on its Opinion Panel Omnibus platform using both the telephone and the web. Interviews were conducted from June 17-20, 2022, among a sample of 1,025 adults. Data are weighted and are intended to represent all U.S. adults, and therefore are subject to statistical errors typically associated with sample-based information.

Written by
James Royal
Senior investing and wealth management reporter
Bankrate senior reporter James F. Royal, Ph.D., covers investing and wealth management. His work has been cited by CNBC, the Washington Post, The New York Times and more.
Edited by
Managing editor