Poll: Real estate and cash top the list of Americans’ favorite investments for the next 10 years

Real estate is the preferred long-term investment choice for Americans, according to a new study from Bankrate. Real estate has been the top pick in five of the past seven years and won last place in Bankrate’s 2019 poll.

The survey finds that 28% of Americans prefer real estate as a way to invest money they don’t need for 10 years or more. That’s up from 26% last year, when stocks received top honors.

Americans also had a real penchant for cash in this year’s survey, with cash (including savings accounts and CDs) making its strongest performance since 2014, as did 25 percent of people interviewed cited it. Surprisingly, the surge in popularity comes as interest rates are at record highs and with little potential for return.

Meanwhile, just 16% of Americans have chosen stocks, down sharply from 28% last year.

“The strong preference for cash is ironic given record interest rates and renewed concerns about inflation, and could be particularly damaging if inflation exceeds returns on cash investments,” said Greg McBride, CFA , Chief Financial Analyst of Bankrate. “While the pandemic has highlighted the need for sufficient short-term savings, cash investments are not profitable over long periods.”

Bankrate surveyed 1,008 American adults from May 25 to 30 about their investment preferences. Below are the main results of the survey.

Key points to remember:

Real estate is the most popular long-term investment

Real estate dominated the survey of Americans’ favorite investments over the next decade, garnering 28% of the vote. The results marked a return to first place in real estate, which was last in Bankrate’s 2019 survey.

In second place were cash or similar investments such as CDs or savings accounts, which garnered 25 percent of the vote. The stock market completed the top three, with 16%.

Stocks have fallen out of favor with respondents since last year, when they took first place for 28% of Americans, despite a year of rising stock prices and low downside volatility. This year’s figure was the worst result for stocks in the survey since 2016. The stock market was far behind real estate and cash from 2013 to 2017, despite a bullish stock market raging.

“Sentiment in the stock market has fluctuated over the past five years, but building wealth for the long haul means staying determined to hang in there and invest consistently despite the inevitable ups and downs,” says McBride.

Gold and other precious metals were the choice of 13% of Americans, down slightly from 14% last year and in the same range since 2013.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have grown in popularity, chosen by 9% of respondents, up from 4% in 2019 and 2020 and just 2% in 2018.

Bonds were the choice of only 4% of Americans, in line with last year’s results and tied with the nine-year low of the Bankrate survey.

About 4 percent of Americans cited an investment other than these, while an additional 2 percent said they didn’t know or declined to answer.

Most Americans remain uncomfortable buying cryptocurrency

While cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin has shown notable gains in the survey over the past few years, most Americans are still uncomfortable investing in it. About 61% say they are “not too comfortable” (28%) or “not at all comfortable” (33%) investing in it.

About 35% of Americans say they have some level of comfort when investing in crypto. About 9% are “very comfortable” owning it, while an additional 26% are “somewhat comfortable”. Around 4% admit to never having heard of Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies.

Comfort levels decline with age, with 51% of millennials (aged 25-31) “somewhat” or “very comfortable” investing in crypto, compared with just 16% of those older 67 years of age or older.

Inflation does not affect the way Americans invest

Bankrate asked Americans, “How will inflation issues change the way you invest money that you wouldn’t need for more than 10 years?” The results suggest that inflation doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on how Americans invest their money over the long term:

  • About 58 percent say inflation won’t change the way they invest.
  • About 20% say they would invest more aggressively.
  • Another 20% say, surprisingly, that they would invest less aggressively.
  • About 2 percent of respondents did not know or refused to answer.

At 29%, Millennials were the most likely to say they would invest more aggressively because of higher inflation. Gen X and Baby Boomers reached 19% and 14%, respectively, while only 6% of the Silent Generation said they would.

Investment preference varies considerably by age

So exactly which age groups preferred which investments over the next decade? Bankrate’s results shed light on who liked each type of investment the most and the least.

  • Immovable was most preferred as a long-term investment by millennials at 33 percent, while it was least preferred by baby boomers at 27 percent.
  • Cash was the most preferred among older millennials (ages 32-40), at 31%, compared to 25% of Gen Xers and 21% of Millennials and Baby Boomers.
  • the stock Exchange was preferred by millennials and those under 30, with 20% using it. Meanwhile, stocks were the least preferred among Gen Xers at 11%.
  • Preference for cryptocurrency younger, with 14% of millennials and under 30s saying it’s the best way to invest. Only 9% of older millennials and Gen Xers cited crypto, and only 5% of baby boomers.

Investment preferences vary widely by income and education

Americans’ investment preferences over 10 years or more vary widely depending on household income and level of education.

  • Immovable ranged in popularity from 22 percent for lowest-income households and those with a high school diploma or less to 36 percent for highest-income households and college graduates.
  • Cash investments were cited more than twice as often (30%) among households with an income below $ 75,000 than among those with $ 75,000 or more (14%).
  • the stock Exchange was preferred by the highest income households ($ 75,000 or more) at 22%, about twice as much as the lowest income households ($ 30,000 or less) at 11%.
  • The preference for cryptocurrency, about 8 to 9 percent, was consistent across all households regardless of education level.


This study was conducted for Bankrate via a telephone interview by SSRS. Interviews were conducted from May 25 to 30, 2021 with a sample of 1,008 adults. The data is weighted and is believed to be representative of all American adults, and therefore is subject to statistical errors typically associated with sample-based information.

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