"We're at risk of losing an entire generation of investors," John Thiel, head of private banking and the investment group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told an industry conference in April.
Reluctance to invest is less of an issue for some young investors than dealing with the financial stresses of a bad economy, said Stewart Koesten, of KHC Wealth Management in Overland Park, Kan.
After all, work is scarce. Unemployment tops 14 percent among Americans between 20 and 25.
And those lucky enough to find that first job are just setting up. They've got car payments and rent; they need a rainy day fund. Add a big student loan payment, and maybe nothing's left for a nest egg.
Lots of twenty-somethings would like to invest - if they could.
"Unfortunately right now it's probably the last thing on my mind," said Brad Martin, a 26-year-old Lee's Summit, Mo., resident.
Armed with a degree in mathematics, Martin isn't afraid of stocks. "I'm a gambling man," he said, acknowledging the market's volatility.
His attention is focused elsewhere right now - on the job market. And it has been uglier than the stock market.
More than a year after graduating, Martin dutifully hangs on to his part-time merchandise specialist job at Old Navy. He started working there at 19, stayed all through college, always part-time.
It means he had to give up an apartment he shared with a friend and move back in with his parents.
Martin's former roommate, Ryan Teaney, is applying for law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City but tells a similar story. College degree, part-time income, job hunt, living with parents, ready to worry about retirement after the career begins.
Financial advisers recognize that nest eggs are an early victim in the extreme budget battles that many in this generation face.
Their ability to invest is further threatened by an explosion in student loans - which means a future of debt payments. The federal government has originated $1.3 trillion in new student loans since mid-2009, a June report from Wells Fargo Securities said.
Tanya Sherman figures her student loans, if they came due now, would put an end to her investing plans.
Only 22, Sherman has had an Edward Jones investment account for more than three years. A little bit of every paycheck she earned at a call center job went into that account while she attended Kansas State University.
The call center closed, and Sherman ended up leaving school. Now, she's a year into her new job and finishing her education online.
After the rent, bills and car payment, Sherman figures there still should be enough to restart the Edward Jones investing. Maybe cut down on expensive makeup.
"If I had to make the student debt payment, on top of my car? Absolutely not. I would be in the negative," she said.
The stock market also often eludes the attention of twenty-somethings with jobs. They've got a lot of other things on their minds, too.
Raashid Brown of Raytown, Mo., is a classic example.
He has worked full-time in law enforcement for four years. But Brown has yet to put away any of his pay in the retirement plan at work. Mind you, he's been pushed to do so.
Tellis Bolton brought up the idea at church, planting the seed three years ago. Retirement, the Primerica representative in Lee's Summit said, doesn't happen at a certain age. It happens when your nest egg gets big enough to support you.
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