Those Nervous Investors

Investors are more prosperous on average than non-investors, but they’re also exposed to the risks endemic in stock ownership in the best of times (which, as you may have noticed, these aren’t). Thus, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll finds plenty of financial anxiety among people who own stocks, bonds and/or mutual funds.

Asked to rate “the state of your own personal finances these days,” 20 percent characterized them as “very secure,” while a more equivocal 51 percent said they’re “fairly secure.” About one in four said they’re either “fairly shaky” (18 percent) or “very shaky” (8 percent, with the rest unsure). Nor is this a case of financial false modesty, to judge by the survey’s findings about the amount of credit-card debt investors are carrying. Just over half (53 percent) said they pay off their full balance each month. Among those who leave an unpaid balance, 44 percent reported carrying at least $3,000 in debt, including 13 percent who carry more than $10,000.

It’s not as if many respondents expect a surge in investment income to carry them through a tough economy. Thirty-five percent said they think their investments will yield a lower rate of return in 2008 than they did last year (which was, for most, a disappointing year in its own right), vs. 15 percent expecting a greater rate of return.

Whatever their qualms about the equity markets, investors remain upbeat about real estate. Among those who own their primary residence (as four-fifths of them do), 57 percent believe it will appreciate in value during the next three years, vs. 10 percent expecting it’ll decline in value. And a good thing, too, as 48 percent estimate that half or more of their total net worth lies in the value of real estate they own. Past experience helps the optimists feel as they do. Among all investors who own their primary residence, 80 percent said it’s worth more now than when they bought it (including 58 percent who said it’s worth “much more”). A mere 5 percent said it’s worth less.