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The bear market brought ‘fear and insecurity’ to Generation Z. How are they coping.

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Ella Gupta made her first investment when she was 10 years old. With the help of her parents, she took half of the profits from her bracelet-making business and invested them in the stock market. At age 14, she opened Roth IRA after starting her first job cleaning dental instruments. Now at 17, Gupta is facing his first bear market.

As the stock market froths, there is also an opportunity to buy stocks of quality stocks on sale. “For younger investors, a market correction or even a bear market can be good for your long-term savings if you have the discipline to hold on and the fortitude to buy more when markets pull back,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.

US stocks have not experienced a prolonged bear market since the financial crisis of 2008-09. While the generation of investors who have come of age since then may not have the experience of their elders, today’s bear market inductees have benefits that previous generations could not have imagined. The main one, perhaps, is unhindered access to information via the Internet, the ability to find and distribute it almost instantly. The proliferation of online brokerages and investment websites has not only democratized investing; it allowed new and mostly young investors to build communities and share knowledge in new ways.

Gupta invested the money she earned into making and selling Rainbow Loom bracelets.

Photography by Kate Medley

According to the 2022 Investopedia Financial Literacy Survey, more than half of Gen Z adults — ages 18 to 25 — are already investors, with 26% investing in individual stocks. According to Investopedia, this will make them more financially active than any previous generation at their age. Generation Z is also the first generation to be born in a world where social media use is the norm. this means that their investment thinking is heavily influenced by peers.

“Peer education is very effective,” says Gupta, who also wrote a book for her colleagues on personal finance and investing.

Gen-Z survey respondents say they learned about investing online, with just under half saying they learned about it on YouTube or other videos. About a third are grateful to TikTok for their new knowledge. For most of the last two years, following the investment advice from social media strategists has paid off. According to market sentiment aggregator MarketPsych, an analysis of more than 30,000 stocks worldwide between 2006 and 2020 found that stocks with the most positive media sentiment outperformed stocks with the most negative sentiment.

However, a bear market can indicate the dangers of groupthink, whether on Wall Street or in the digital world. This is something Gen Zers are also learning as meme stocks plummet, cryptocurrency crashes and other assets boosted by online investment authorities plummet back to the ground. Many stocks popular last year on online forums like Reddit have since dropped by double digits.

When she turned 14, Gupta used part of her earnings to purchase a mother-of-pearl necklace.

Photography by Kate Medley

“In a bull market, everyone looks like a genius because they’re like, ‘I’m making incredible profits on everything,'” says Vivian Tu, financial literacy content creator at TikTok. “And now, by definition, we are in a bear market. People who haven’t weighed the pros and cons will feel them now, and it’s a scary time if you’ve been overweight in risky asset classes.”

Even conservative investors have suffered losses this year.

S&P 500

decreased by about 17%. Surveys show that new investors sell much faster than their more experienced seniors – in many cases the exact opposite of what they should be doing. A Bankrate survey found that 73% of Gen Z investors were active traders this year, compared to 28% of Gen X investors aged 42 to 57 and 25% of Baby Boomers.

Some experts fear that social media may be to blame for encouraging bad investment behavior. “A lot of stuff on social media is great advice; it’s just not nuanced,” says Ann Lester, former head of pensions at

JPMorgan
.

“It has to be short and digestible, so some of the nuance is lost.”

But concerns about Gen-Z’s risky trading behavior may also be exaggerated. There is reason to believe this generation will be more financially conservative than its predecessors, according to Wells Fargo Advisors, as parents have witnessed job losses during the financial crisis and the turmoil caused by the Covid pandemic.

Gupta says she’s not overly concerned about the prospect of a bear market because her investment strategy revolves around dollar cost averaging, or regularly investing a fixed dollar amount. She also researches any company whose shares she buys, examines financial statements, business conditions and valuations.

“Whenever I buy stocks, I do so with the intention of holding them for the long term,” she says.

Many aspiring investors seem to have sharpened their pencils in recent months, says Zoe Barry, CEO of social trading platform Zingeroo. Of all the clients trading on the Zingeroo platform, Gen-Z investor activity most closely mirrored the advice of professional research firms, she said, noting that few still believe in the meme stock hype.

Tu, the content creator of TikTok, agrees. She has 1.5 million followers of @yourrichbff, her TikTok account, and says that with recession fears on the rise, her followers are worried, bombarding her with questions about how the current macroeconomic environment will affect them.

“People talk about it like we’re going to move into our bunkers for three years,” she says.

It’s not, she assures them.

Email Sabrina Escobar at sabrina.escobar@barrons.com

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