- About 7 in 10 retirement planners (71%) said they’d like to invest in cryptocurrency for their retirement plans, though only 3 in 10 (28%) currently hold cryptocurrency.
- Eight out of 10 (83%) said they’d likely choose socially responsible investments if offered in their workplace retirement plan.
Life today is, in some ways, unrecognizable to life three years ago before the coronavirus pandemic. Many of us dreamt of work-from-home jobs back then but didn’t know we’d be getting them in the form of quarantine and lockdowns.
Let’s rewind to 2019, an optimistic year for investors. All major indices performed well over historical norms. The S&P 500 had its best performance since 2013, soaring 29% than the previous year. The Nasdaq Composite and the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw healthy gains, 35% and 22% respectively, and passive investors reaped the benefits of a low stress, set-it-and-forget it approach to wealth.
But then, everything changed. Many of us lost income or experienced temporary furloughs. Some of us took out unemployment for the first time. College students graduated on Zoom and took their first professional job interviews online in their childhood bedrooms.
Retirement Planning in the Pandemic
Over the past two years, we’ve had time to reflect. On money, certainly, but also on our values. At the end of 2021, Personal Capital and Kiplinger fielded an annual survey* around retirement planning and found that workers are expressing strong interest in having more options for sustainable and alternative investments as part of their retirement plans, which could be tied to the upheavals in how we live our lives.
Blame it on more time spent at home—i.e. more time to think and spend time on social media—but consumers are growing curious about ways to generate wealth outside the traditional stock market. Whether using cryptocurrency as an inflation hedge while the Fed commits to interest rate hikes, or exploring environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments to help fund carbon-neutral and socially ethical businesses—consumers are flocking towards a new path forward amid what has started to feel like dooms-day economic predictions left and right.
Practically speaking, consumers aren’t quite prepared to overhaul their entire portfolio overnight—it’d be far too risky. However, those who contribute to a portfolio of retirement plus additional investments say they’d be open to adding crypto and ESG to their mix.
The survey looked at 997 respondents ages 25 to 75 with at least $50,000 in retirement savings (excluding those partially or fully retired). The median age of respondents was 43, and the median household income before taxes in 2021 was $95,105. The median retirement savings among survey respondents was $122,725 and the median net worth was $232,854 (not including the price tag of their primary residence).
Retirement Planners Eye Crypto & ESG
In the survey, Personal Capital found that eight out of 10 respondents (83%) said they would be somewhat or very likely to choose investments that consider ESG issues if these were offered in their workplace retirement plan. About 7 in 10 (71%) said they would like to invest in cryptocurrency at work, though only 3 in 10 (28%) hold some type of cryptocurrency investment already.
The majority of survey respondents expect to retire comfortably between the ages of 60 and 69 and feel somewhat-to-very confident they will be able to reach this goal by investing in a diverse blend of mutual funds, exchange-traded-funds (ETFs), individual stocks, and other investment vehicles.
About four out of 10 (41%) of workers currently invest in a target-date fund, but only a tiny percentage (4.5%) put all their retirement money into these funds. Across all investment vehicles (retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, robo-advisors, etc.) about half (51%) of respondents held individual stocks, while 62% held stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.
The typical overall asset allocation among respondents remains highly conservative: 34% stocks, 23% cash, 16% bonds, 13% real estate investments and 15% other—begging the question, what’s the appeal of crypto and alternative investments to this otherwise traditional sample?
Age and generational status had some bearing on how values-oriented and “crypto-curious” respondents were: Millennials were most likely to want ESG options compared to their Gen X and boomer counterparts (93% of Millennials, compared with 81% of Gen Xers and 63% of Baby Boomers). Millennials were also more likely to want cryptocurrency options (86% of Millennials, compared with 68% of Gen Xers and 42% of Baby Boomers).
With federal regulation on cryptocurrency still ongoing and emergent, it will likely be a long while before workers can invest in crypto through their company’s 401(k). Cryptocurrency is a volatile asset class that’s most utilized by high-risk traders, not passive retail investors.
Considerations for Supplementing Your Retirement Portfolio
Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the first bitcoin futures ETF, but the investment vehicle only provides exposure to bitcoin futures contracts (aka agreements to buy or sell the asset later for an agreed-upon price) — but not bitcoin itself.
Meanwhile, bitcoin trusts might present an easier way to add to your portfolio through your brokerage or retirement accounts. However, bitcoin trusts could have higher fees and be unable to keep up with the real-time fluctuations of bitcoin’s price changes (which are constant).
In general, if you find that you’re “crypto curious,” an easy way to start is with a popular crypto exchange like CoinBase or Gemini. Financial planners typically suggest allocating a small amount of your overall portfolio to crypto, and sticking with the two most popular cryptocurrencies, bitcoin and Ethereum, when you first start. Take things slow and learn about digital wallet safety to protect your assets from being stolen. If you opt to purchase cryptocurrency, you can track its value alongside your other financial accounts on your Personal Capital Dashboard.
Craig Birk, Personal Capital Chief Investment Officer, considers crypto “volatility so great that it remains more speculative than tactical.” He suggests two paths forward based on a person’s interest, risk tolerance, and financial situation:
- “If you are a believer in Bitcoin or other crypto, take the time to learn about the different ways to buy and own it, and consider making an allocation that won’t impact you emotionally if things don’t go well. Fees on most crypto trading tend to be high, even if not immediately visible. Don’t buy and sell crypto frequently; you won’t outguess the fees. Reading up on blockchain and crypto is great if you have the time. They are fascinating. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement, so make sure to always consider the source.”
- “If you are not a believer and don’t understand it, don’t worry about it. Any given cryptocurrency may yield high returns or may lose most of its value. That really doesn’t need to impact you.”
And for those eco-conscious and socially responsible investors, consider supplementing your retirement portfolio through an accessible ESG fund or speaking with your financial advisor about ways to invest according to your values. Personal Capital’s Socially Responsible Personal Strategy (SRI) is a way for you to support and invest in companies more proactively managing environmental, social, and corporate governance related issues.
The Bottom Line
Preparing for retirement is part of your overall financial plan. You can take a few actions now to get yourself on the right track.
- Download 65 Ways to Retire Smart, an actionable guide with insights from fiduciary financial advisors. The guide is free.
- Sign up for the Personal Capital Dashboard. Millions of people use these free and secure professional-grade online financial tools. You can use them to see all of your accounts in one place, analyze your spending, and plan for long-term financial goals.
- Consider talking to a fiduciary financial advisor for more detailed guidance on your retirement saving strategies.
*Survey Methodology: 997 respondents; ages 25 to 75; with at least $50,000 in retirement savings; excluding those partially or fully retired. Fielded Nov. 9 to Nov. 16, 2021, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.
Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation and is compensated as a freelance writer.
The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. Compensation not to exceed $500. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money. Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.