Generation and Gender: Striking Differences in Approaches to Investing and Saving

More than half of millennials, gen-Xers, and baby boomers prioritize saving for retirement over any other financial goal

Women choose to invest more conservatively than men;
Robo-advisors are more popular with millennials than any other generation

CHICAGO, November 6, 2017 – BMO Wealth Management (U.S.) today released a report focusing on the attitudes and behaviors towards saving and investing across generations. Titled Generational Perspectives: How Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers Save and Invest, the report is based on a survey of 1,006 Americans ages 18 and older.

It reveals compelling insights about the differences and similarities among generations, while also highlighting key distinctions in the way men and women save and invest as well as the role psychological biases can play in people’s approaches to financial planning.

The survey found a consensus among generations, with nearly 60 percent of respondents across all three generations citing saving and investing for retirement as their primary financial goal.

Save early, save often

“It’s reassuring to know that all generations recognize the importance of saving for retirement and consider it a top financial priority,” said Tania Slade, National Head of Wealth Planning, BMO Wealth Management (U.S.). “Working with a financial advisor who has specialized expertise in advising people at different stages in their lives can go a long way toward maximizing your retirement income. But even without the aid of an advisor, simply beginning to save for retirement as early as possible is a terrific first step.”

Respondents in every generation indicated that a portfolio approach is their top method for investing. For investment preferences – with or without assistance – respondents across generations were again in agreement, choosing most often to rely on the guidance of an advisor at a financial institution. Millennials reported heavier use of robo-advisors (10 percent) – with gen-Xers a close second at 9 percent – compared to just 5 percent of boomers.

Women surveyed were slightly more conservative investors than men – 19 percent of women prefer to invest in individual stocks, compared to 25 percent of their male counterparts. Further, 16 percent of women invest in Certificate of Deposit (CD) accounts and money market securities, compared to 12 percent of men.

Generational differences arose when respondents who neither save nor invest explained why. Twelve percent of millennials said they worry about losing money, compared to only seven percent of boomers. Meanwhile, 18 percent of millennials admitted it is too complicated, compared to just 8 percent of boomers.

When asked what they find confusing about investing, 21 percent of millennials cited discomfort from a lack of understanding of the markets, a reason cited by just 12 percent of gen-Xers and 10 percent of boomers. Sixteen percent of millennials indicated they don’t know what their investing options are, a reason cited by 13 percent of gen-Xers and only 7 percent of boomers.

“Working with a financial advisor not only helps you create a roadmap tailored to your current financial reality and future financial goals,” added Slade. “It can also provide an essential financial planning education so that you feel confident in your savings and investments choices you’ve made.”

even without the aid of an advisor, simply beginning to save for retirement as early as possible is a terrific first step

BMO offers the following financial saving and investing tips:

  • Have a plan:
    A financial planner can help outline your personal and financial goals and the steps you need to take to achieve them.
  • At the very minimum, contribute to your 401(k) the amount your employer will match:
    If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that offers any kind of retirement contribution match, take advantage of it.
  • Pick the right asset allocation strategy for your age level:
    Don’t turn a blind eye to assessing the right plan for your life. With each contribution you’re making an investment, so ensure it’s the best investment based on your age and your retirement goals. That means drafting a plan and knowing how much you’ll need once you retire. Also, as major life events occur (such as getting married or buying a home), reevaluate your plan and adjust your contributions accordingly.
  • Automatically increase your contributions whenever you get a raise:
    Got a raise this year? Instead of increasing your expendable income, invest in your retirement. While you may not be able to put your entire raise into long-term savings, you can still set aside a portion of it. Once you take into account any expected cost-of-living increases, deposit a percentage of your raise so you can grow your retirement income.

To view a copy of the full report, which includes more financial planning tips and additional survey findings explored in detail, please visit:




About BMO Wealth Management
BMO Wealth Management serves mass affluent, high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals and families with a full suite of wealth management solutions including wealth planning, banking, investment management and trust and estate services. With 35 offices across 12 states and international offices in Canada, Hong Kong, and Singapore, BMO Wealth Management provides guidance and planning advice combined with individualized service and local expertise. As of January 31, 2017, BMO Wealth Management had assets under management of US$46 billion and assets under administration of US$47 billion. BMO Wealth Management is supported by the resources and stability of one of North America’s premier financial services organizations—BMO Financial Group. Visit