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Safe as Houses: Majorities of Americans See Home Ownership, Gold and Jewelry as Safe Investments

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NEW YORK, Sept. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Despite periods of volatility in the real estate market over the past few years, over seven in ten Americans (72%) see owning a home as a safe investment. Majorities agree on this point across generations, albeit with considerable shifts from one generation to the next: nine in ten Matures (89%) see home ownership as a safe investment, compared to just over three-fourths of Baby Boomers (77%) and seven in ten Gen Xers (70%). Even among Millennials – for whom the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-2008 and the ensuing financial crisis it helped kick off is likely a more formative experience – the majority still see home ownership as a safe investment (63%), albeit with a slimmer majority vote than any of their elder counterparts.
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Majorities of Americans also see gold (65%) and jewelry (59%) as safe investments.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,306 adults surveyed online between July 16 and 21, 2014. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

Risky Business

Turning to the other end of the scale, eight in ten Americans see owning one’s own business as a risky investment (80%), while two-thirds say the same of stocks/bonds (68%) and luxury or classic cars (67%).

Perceived investment risk varies, as one might expect, according to what one has on hand to invest. As such, it should come as little surprise that those with higher investable assets are less likely to see owning a business and investing in stocks/bonds as risky investments than those with less available to invest.
Owning your own business – 67% among those with $500,000 or more in investable assets vs. 81% of those with $10,000-$49,999 and 85% for those with under $10,000 to invest.
Stocks/bonds – 52% of those with $500,000 or more in investable assets see this as a risky investment, vs. 70% of those with $10,000-$99,999 available to invest and 73% for those with under $10,000 on hand for investments.

Slimmer majorities see wine (60%), investment property ownership (56%) and art (55%) as risky investments, though it’s worth noting that strong minorities do rate each of these as safe (45% art, 44% investment property, 40% wine).

The perception of wine as a safe investment varies considerably by generation, with half of Millennials (49%) and four in ten Gen Xers (41%) rating it safe, compared to fewer than a third of Baby Boomers (32%) and Matures (31%).

Money makers

When asked which of these types of possible investments have strong earning potential, stocks/bonds (45%), owning an investment property (43%), and gold (42%) are the top selections, with over four in ten seeing each as potentially to be strong money-makers. Roughly a third each see owning a home (36%) and owning a business (32%) as having strong earning potential.

Fewer see investments in art (16%), jewelry (14%), luxury/classic cars (11%) or wine (7%) as having strong earning potential.

Generational divides show up again on this measure, with Millennials more likely than any other generation to see strong earning potential for owning one’s own business (39%, vs. 28% Gen Xers, 29% Baby Boomers and 29% Matures) and investing in wine (11% vs. 6%, 5% and 3%, respectively).
What one can afford to invest also repeats as a factor in responses.
Those with higher investable asset levels are more likely to see strong earning potential in stocks/bonds (71% $500k+ vs. 54% $100k-$499.9k, 44% $50k-$99.9k, 36% $10k-$49.9k, 39% <$10k) and owning an investment property (54% and 52% vs. 37%, 37% and 42%, respectively). Meanwhile, those with less on hand to invest are more likely to see strong earning potential in gold (46% <$10k, 47% $10k-$49.9k, 45% $50k-$99.9k vs. 30% $500k+) and jewelry (19% <$10k, 18% $10k-$49.9k vs. 10% $100k-$499.9k, 9% $500k+) investments. To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room. Want Harris Polls delivered direct to your inbox? Click here! Methodology This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,306 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online. All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.