The third Consob Report on financial investments of Italian households surveys individuals' attitudes towards the whole range of behaviours relevant to financial control, savings accumulation and savings use with a focus on investment choices and demand for financial advice.
After a cross-country comparison, showing (among the others) a slightly rising gross saving rate in Italy that however continues to rank below to both the euro area average and its historical level (Section 1), the Report surveys first of all the level of financial knowledge of Italian households (Section 2). The level of financial knowledge of Italian households remains largely unsatisfactory, while assessing the risk of the most known financial products is a challenge for more than one-third of respondents. Inconsistencies between self-assessed and actual knowledge ranges from 32% to 41% of the sample, generally accounting for individuals prone to an ‘upward mismatch', i.e. reporting to have understood the selected financial notions while being unable to define them. For about 50% of the respondents, mainly low financially literate, engagement with one's personal finances triggers feelings of anxiousness. However, learning about financial matters is deemed to be interesting by half of the interviewees, and even more when respondents are elicited about the usefulness of financial matters to a specific task (e.g., choosing a financial advisor). Not surprisingly, individual financial background is mainly triggered by personal interest, followed by experience in household budgeting.
Interest and financial anxiety seem to play a role in individuals' attitude towards financial control and saving (Section 3). Only about one fourth of the interviewees have a financial plan and monitor it, while more than half of respondents report to have a budget, although only 13% always stuck to it and only 20% properly track spending. More than 60% of respondents report to save, mainly for precautionary reasons, while the remaining is prevented from accumulating by either tight budget constraints or indebtedness (at the end of 2016, about 40% of households carry debt, either mortgages and/or consumer credit for consumer good purchase and daily expenses). Financial control and saving are more frequently associated to high financial knowledge (both actual and perceived) and interest in financial matters, while anxiety plays the other way round.
As for investment choices, at the end of 2016 45% of respondents hold at least one financial instrument (Section 4). Propensity to participate in financial markets is positively correlated with financial knowledge, interest in financial matters, optimism and trust in financial intermediaries. Vice versa, inclination towards financial anxiety seems to discourage investments. As for investment styles, more than half of the interviewees rely on the support of family, friends and colleagues when making investment choices (so called informal advice), whereas the remaining either rely on a professional expert (by seeking for advice or delegating portfolio management; one-fourth of the sample) or manage their investments on their own. Understanding the investment decision process, both in its ex-ante and ex-post dimensions, is not widespread, given that 41% of the interviewees do not consider either their objectives or time horizon or emotional and financial risk capacity before investing, while three-quarters of the remaining respondents refer only to one out of five items (mainly the holding period).
As for financial advice retail investors mainly receive passive or generic advice, with only one third of the advisees getting personalised recommendations (Section 5). The choice of the advisor is mainly driven by confidence, along with the recommendation from the investment firm, while empathetic skills keep being important when defining what to expect from professionals, beyond performance. Advisees do not seem aware of the characteristics of the service received. Indeed, more than 40% of them are not able to indicate how their advisors are compensated, while 37% report that the service is free.
Finally, the Report focuses on how individuals use financial information when approaching to an investment choice (Section 6). More than 40% of the investors report to read information about financial products, either on their own (25%) or with the support of family and friends (10%) or with the help of their advisors. About half of the respondents are not willing to invest in the recommended product if they don't understand the available financial information, while in 27% of the cases, willingness to invest regardless of understanding is triggered by trust and familiarity with the intermediary.
The Report was prepared by:
Nadia Linciano (coordinator) - CONSOB, Head of the Economic Studies, Research Department (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Monica Gentile - CONSOB, Economic Studies, Research Department (email@example.com)
Paola Soccorso - CONSOB, Economic Studies, Research Department (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The opinions expressed in the Report are the authors' personal views and are in no way binding on Consob.
ISSN 2465-1974 [online]