Interactive Investor

Have Boomers come around to these shares?

We compare the holdings of Baby Boomers and Millennials in the era of the Magnificent Seven. Who owns what, and what’s changed since the pandemic?

26th February 2024 09:56

Nina Kelly from interactive investor

There have been many articles over the years comparing Baby Boomers and Millennials. It tends to be the same argument: the former’s final salary pensions and free higher education are an obvious benefit, while the latter are painted as digital-native, avocado-loving snowflakes.

But rather than focusing on differences, it’s interesting to see how much the generational cohorts have in common when it comes to investing.

From five FAANGs to the Magnificent Seven

Almost four years ago, in April 2020, when the pandemic was in its infancy and office staff were adjusting to Zoom calls and working from home, we looked at our customer data to compare the holdings of Boomers and Millennials.

Boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964, and Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996. Baby Boomers will be aged between 60 and 78 in 2024, and Millennials between 28 and 43.

In April 2020, the five FAANG stocks (Facebook – now Meta Platforms Inc Class A (NASDAQ:META)Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL), Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN), Netflix Inc (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Google owner Alphabet Inc Class A (NASDAQ:GOOGL)) were the “pandemic winners” as tech stole the limelight and came to our rescue, helping us work and play at home during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Since then, with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), the term has morphed into the “Magnificent Seven”, which includes all the former FAANGs, minus Netflix, plus Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT), Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) and computer-chip star NVIDIA Corp (NASDAQ:NVDA).

In 2020, the average Millennial had two FAANG stocks in their top 10 holdings - Apple and Amazon - while Boomers had none. But what about today; have Boomers come around to Big Tech?

Much has changed since 2020, both economically and to growth stocks, where profits are expected way into the future, as rapid interest rate rises designed to curb inflation increased the cost of borrowing, ending an unprecedented period of ultra-low rates.

In 2024, the average Boomer still has zero exposure to the Magnificent Seven stocks in terms of individual stock holdings. It’s easy to accuse Boomers of being somewhat backwards when it comes to Big Tech, but even the average Millennial owns just one of them (Tesla) in their top 10.

What’s more, the average Boomer has exposure to Big Tech through an investment trust such as Scottish Mortgage Ord (LSE:SMT), which is the second most-held investment among this generational cohort. The trust owns three Magnificent Seven stocks in its top 10 holdings - Nvidia, Amazon and Tesla.

It seems that both Boomers and the average Millennial - who also has Scottish Mortgage in their top 10, as well as a Vanguard S&P 500 tracker fund - like using diversified investment vehicles to play the tech and AI theme rather than betting the farm on individual “star stocks”.

That’s possibly because Boomer’s are between 60 and 78 and likely to have either given up work or are at least thinking about it. At this stage, exposure to high-risk individual stocks is perhaps something they’d prefer not to take with capital earmarked for retirement.

So, far from being generational cohorts divided by opposing attitudes to tech, our January 2024 data suggests that Boomers and Millennials are not too dissimilar when it comes to the Magnificent Seven.

Beyond tech stocks

Compared to 2020, both generations still hold Alliance Trust Ord (LSE:ATST), Scottish Mortgage, and Fundsmith Equity in their top 10, although for Millennials, Alliance Trust drops from the top spot in 2020 to 10th place today.

But in 2024, there are some notable differences between the cohorts.

In 2020, the average Boomer had more than half their portfolio in UK shares, all of which were FTSE 100 names such as Lloyds Banking Group (LSE:LLOY) and BP (LSE:BP.). The only difference today is that Personal Assets Ord (LSE:PNL) trust is replaced in the top 10 by Legal & General Group (LSE:LGEN). So, Boomer portfolios remain disproportionately weighted to mostly high-yielding UK blue-chip shares, which do at least provide valuable income.

Perhaps as you would expect, when it comes to Millennials the reverse is true. While in 2020 half the average portfolio was made up of direct equities, today there’s just one in the top 10 - Tesla. Instead, it is comprised of low-cost tracker funds, including Vanguard LifeStrategy 80% Equity and 100% Equity, and some short-dated government bondschosen no doubt to tap into high yields given the current interest rate backdrop and inverted yield curve, meaning that short-term bonds yield more than longer ones. 

For Millennials, the preference for trackers and funds is perhaps explained by the growth, or accumulation, phase of investing given their ages in 2024 range between 28 and 43. Diversified, low-cost global trackers allow them to cast their net wide and grow their wealth, while reducing risk.

Compared to 2020, investment trusts remain more popular among the average Boomer (23.5%) in 2024 compared to 12.2% for Millennials. But the preference among Millennials for trackers is reflected in the ownership of exchange-traded products (ETPs), which make up 16% of portfolios compared with just 6% for Boomers.

And while direct equities are still the most-popular asset type among Boomers (36.4%) in 2024, investment funds (29.4%) now pip shares (27.5%) for the average Millennial.

When it comes to both portfolio composition and product preference, Boomers and Millennials really are quite different.

Top 10 most-held investments among generational cohorts in January 2024 (on 17 January) and April 2020 (on 27 April)

Baby Boomers 2024

Baby Boomers 2020

Millennials 2024

Millennials 2020

Alliance Trust Ord (LSE:ATST)

Scottish Mortgage

Vanguard LifeStrategy 80% Equity

Alliance Trust

Scottish Mortgage Ord (LSE:SMT)

Alliance Trust

Fundsmith Equity

Scottish Mortgage

Fundsmith Equity

GSK

Vanguard FTSE Global All Cap Index

Vanguard LifeStrategy 80% Equity

Lloyds Banking Group (LSE:LLOY)

Lloyds Banking Group

Vanguard LifeStrategy 100% Equity

Fundsmith Equity

Shell (LSE:SHEL)

Fundsmith Equity

UNITED KINGDOM 0.25 31/01/2025 (LSE:TN25)

Vanguard LifeStrategy 100% Equity

BP (LSE:BP.)

Shell

UK (GOVT OF) 0.125% BDS 31/01/24 GBP1000

Lloyds Banking Group

GSK (LSE:GSK)

BP

Scottish Mortgage Ord (LSE:SMT)

Shell

AstraZeneca (LSE:AZN)

AstraZeneca

Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)

Apple

Legal & General Group (LSE:LGEN)

National Grid

Vanguard S&P 500 UCITS ETF (LSE:VUSD)

Amazon

National Grid (LSE:NG.)

Personal Assets Trust

Alliance Trust Ord (LSE:ATST)

GSK

Data source: interactive investor. Notes: figures refer to investments held across ISA, SIPP, and GIA by value of instrument.

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