Americans Less Comfortable Taking Risks

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Americans are significantly more risk-averse than they were before the height of the Great Recession.

Thirty-two percent of Americans say they have become less comfortable taking risks since the fall of 2008, according to the 2015 Northwestern Mutual’s Planning and Progress Study.

More specifically, 20 percent say they are less comfortable taking career risks, and 28 percent are less comfortable taking risks with health care coverage.

The Harris Poll conducted the study of more than 5,400 American adults from multiple generations, including baby boomers (ages 50 to 68), Generation X (ages 35 to 49) and millennials (ages 18-34).

Baby boomers stand out as being averse to several major types of risk. For example:

  • Finances: 83 percent of baby boomers are more comfortable playing it safe with savings and investments (compared with 74 percent of Gen X and 71 percent of millennials)
  • Home: 88 percent prefer to stay where they live long-term, even if an opportunity to move could potentially result in career or financial growth (compared with 77 percent of Gen X, 65 percent of millennials)
  • Career: 72 percent prefer staying with one employer over risking a career move (compared to 67 percent of Gen X, 59 percent of millennials)

These findings about one of these groups — Generation X — are similar to those of a study published last month by Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America.

The Allianz Life study found that, compared with baby boomers, members of Generation X feel more hopeless about their financial situations in general and about reaching their retirement goals.

Katie Libbe, Allianz Life’s vice president of consumer insights, said in a press release:

“While our study confirms that many boomers still lack confidence about their future, it reveals alarming realities about the significant angst and pessimism Gen X feels regarding the current and future state of their finances. They’re the next generation that’s quickly approaching retirement and their hands-off approach to planning and preparation is alarming.”

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