RISKY BUSINESS

Millennial investors take big risks, but it’s older folks who see the biggest gains

The investment battle of the ages.
The investment battle of the ages.
Image: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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No risk, no reward—at least, that’s how the saying goes. Though millennials have larger appetites for risky bets, a recent report finds that their returns pale to the more conservative portfolios of older investors.

New York City-based Openfolio, which offers a platform for users to share details of their investments without revealing actual dollar amounts, analyzed the one-year performance of 2,500 portfolios spread across four age brackets. Millennial investors, those younger than 25 years old, on average saw a 2.2% return in the 12 months ended Dec. 17. In contrast, older investors gained 6.9% on average, including an 8.6% pop for baby boomers, the oldest age bracket in the sample.

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The reason for this discrepancy lies largely in the distribution of assets, according to David Ma, who heads business development at Openfolio. Millennials primarily invest in single stocks, comprising 61% of their portfolios, instead of funds and ETFs, which offer the benefit of diversification. For investors over 25, the distribution is 49% stocks and 51% funds and ETFs.

Younger investors, who Ma notes are more wary of traditional financial institutions, also have been more bullish on bitcoin, which made up 3.3% of their portfolios, compared with 0.2% for older people.

“Three percent of your portfolio directionally is not huge,” Ma tells Quartz. “But if you look at it speculatively—because bitcoin is very volatile—to have three cents of every dollar in bitcoin is not insubstantial in terms of an average.”

As it turns out, older folks had good reason to be cautious. Considered one of the worst investments of 2014, the virtual currency lost more than half its value this year.