Americans still don't trust the stock market

April 21, 2014: 7:03 AM ET
nyse premarkets 041414
Despite a big rally, small investors remain skeptical of Wall Street.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

More than five years after the financial crisis, the average American is still wary of the stock market, according to a survey released Monday.

The survey of over 1,000 households by Bankrate.com showed that 73% are "not more inclined to invest in stocks."

It was the third year in a row that individual investors expressed a negative view of the stock market.

The survey suggests that average Americans remain wary of Wall Street even though stocks have been in a bull market for more than five years.

After bottoming in 2009, the S&P 500 has more than doubled in value.

Individual investors have a history of buying stocks when prices are high selling when the market falls, often resulting in losses.

But they seem to be avoiding that fate this time around by not buying stocks at all, said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

Related: Wealthy investors flock to fine art funds

The difference this time is that individual investors have experienced two major downturns in the past decade. First there was the technology bubble in 2000, then the financial crisis and Great Recession of 2008.

"A lot of individual investors got burned twice and as a result they swore off investing in equities," said McBride.

Instead, he said small investors have been "hunkering down" in more conservative investments, such as bonds and cash, which have returned next to nothing in the past few years.

Data on how much money is flowing into and out of mutual funds reflects this cautious approach. While investors began adding exposure to stocks in the first quarter of 2013, the flow of money into equity mutual funds has since tapered off.

But this strategy is even more risky than investing in stocks for investors saving for retirement, according to McBride.

Related: The real economy is finally doing better than the money economy

"Individual investors are jeopardizing their long-term financial stability over concerns about short-term volatility," he said.

He said the number one risk for investors over the long run is not market volatility but inflation, which severely erodes the value of fixed income assets like bonds.

While stocks are prone to boom and bust cycles, experts say a well balanced portfolio is the best way to grow wealth over a long period of time.

"Investing over period of years in diverse portfolio is the pathway to financial stability," said McBride.

Markets
Sponsored by
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,804.80 26.65 0.15%
Nasdaq 4,765.38 16.98 0.36%
S&P 500 2,070.65 9.42 0.46%
Treasuries 2.18 -0.03 -1.27%
Data as of 8:42am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.62 0.09 0.51%
Apple Inc 111.78 -0.87 -0.77%
General Electric Co 25.62 0.48 1.91%
Intel Corp 36.37 -0.65 -1.76%
Microsoft Corp 47.66 0.14 0.29%
Data as of Dec 19