Southern Californians Feel Most Successful With Their Investments Compared to a Decade Ago

December 4, 2017 at 9:00 AM Eastern

Compared to all Americans surveyed, Southern California residents believe their investment habits are more “successful” (57 percent versus 48 percent nationally) today than they were 10 years ago. Southern Californians also believe their investing habits have been more “responsible” (60 percent versus 54 percent nationally) and more “forward-looking” (57 percent versus 52 percent nationally) over the past decade.  

This optimism surrounding investing habits may be driven by local residents’ willingness to take matters into their own hands to save money. In fact, many Southern Californians are willing to cut back on going out (39 percent) and skip vacation for a year (31 percent) to have more in the long term. They’re also the most likely of any region surveyed to get a side job (31 percent) and delay buying a house (29 percent) when thinking of long-term savings.

These findings come from the latest Merrill Edge Report, a biannual survey of 1,000 mass affluent Americans that oversampled 302 Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County residents between September 6 and September 24, 2017. The report reveals how Southern Californians and Americans in general are saving money today and redefining success.

“The initiative Southern Californians are taking to cut back on spending and save with a purpose is promising,” said Joseph Santos, regional manager at Merrill Edge. “The fact that they believe their investing habits are better today suggests they’re taking action, outlining their goals and creating strategies to meet them.”

In defining success, family comes first

Although Southern Californians are willing to make sacrifices to save money in the long run, money may not be their top priority. The report suggests Southern Californians are redefining success as they take a family-first approach to the idea of achievement.

Seventy-six percent of Southern California respondents say providing for family is most essential to their definition of success, followed by having a family (57 percent versus 52 percent nationally). Prioritizing family in Southern California is slightly higher than the 72 percent of Americans who say providing for a family is most essential to success.

However, when it comes to how money impacts the definition of success, there are drastic differences between Southern Californians and Americans in general. In Southern California, being a millionaire is more than twice as essential to the definition of success (21 percent versus 9 percent nationally).

Risk averse

This family-first approach may be why Southern California respondents appear to be risk averse. Southern California respondents believe not investing in a 401(k) and taking a job without benefits (40 percent, respectively) are risky decisions.

They may also be less inclined to take risks as 55 percent of Southern California respondents predict another recession in the next 10 years, and 36 percent predict one in the next five years.


Merrill Edge Survey Methodology

Convergys (an independent market research company) conducted a nationally representative, panel-sample online survey on behalf of Merrill Edge Sept. 6-24, 2017. The survey consisted of 1,010 mass affluent respondents throughout the U.S. Respondents in the study were defined as aged 18 to 34 (millennials) with investable assets between $50,000 and $250,000 or those aged 18 to 34 who have investable assets between $20,000 and $50,000 with an annual income of at least $50,000; or aged 35-plus with investable assets between $50,000 and $250,000. For this purpose, investable assets consist of the value of all cash, savings, mutual funds, CDs, IRAs, stocks, bonds and all other types of investments excluding primary home and other real estate investments. We conducted an oversampling of 300 mass affluents in the following markets: Southern California, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Atlanta, and Phoenix. An additional group of 205 Generation Z respondents was surveyed. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent for the national sample, about +/- 5.6 percent for the oversample markets, and +/- 6.8 percent for the Gen Z group, all reported at a 95 percent confidence level.

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