While the cost of getting involved in various financial markets has dropped over the years and access has increased, overall use of various instruments remains quite low.
I came across an interesting blog by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis—one of my favorite Federal Reserve Banks to boot— on “What Types of Financial Assets Do People Hold?” The upshot was that, as you would expect, simple transaction accounts is by far the highest category for participation at 98 percent. Far down the list are retirement accounts, owned by some 52.1 percent of U.S. households.
Things fall rather dramatically from there. Only 10 percent of households own assets indirectly via pooled investments—mutual funds and the like—which is down in the last few years. The things they own directly include certificates of deposit at 6.5 percent, savings bonds at 8.6 percent, stocks at 13.9 percent and so-called “risky” bonds, like mortgage-backed securities, issued and backed by government-sponsored corporations, at 1.2 percent.