Stock Ownership | WYPR

Stock Ownership

Mar 1, 2018

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years regarding America’s retirement savings crisis.  One might think that a significant fraction of this crisis has been resolved by a booming stock market, with the logic being that 401Ks and 403Bs have been sufficiently stimulated to better position Americans for their golden years.  But data indicate that rising or falling stock prices have little impact on the income of wealth of most families. The reason?  They own little or no stock.  As indicated by writer Patricia Cohen, an astonishing 84 percent of all stocks owned by Americans belong to the wealthiest 10 percent of households... 

And that figure includes everyone’s stakes in 401ks, pension plans, individual retirement accounts, trust funds, mutual funds and college savings programs like 529 plans.  Certain elected officials have promoted the idea that a rising stock market broadly lifts the fortunes of Americans.  To a large extent, that’s not true.  There was a move toward democratizing stock ownership in the 1980s and 1980s with the advent of individual retirement accounts.  But the stock market busts of 2001 and 2008 scared off many middle class investors.  According to the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, approximately half of households have not a single penny invested in stock.  That leaves half the population with some exposure to financial market gyrations, but that exposure can of course be minuscule.