Most millennial millionaires have the bulk of their wealth in crypto, and they’re planning to add more in 2022 despite the recent price declines, according to the CNBC Millionaire Survey.
Fully 83% of millennial millionaires own cryptocurrencies, according to the survey, which polls investors with investible assets of $1 million or more (not including primary residences). More than half (53%) have at least 50% of their wealth in crypto and nearly a third have at least three-quarters of their wealth in bitcoin, ether and other types of cryptocurrency, according to the survey.
The crypto holdings of millennial millionaires stand in stark contrast to older generations of millionaires. Only 4% of baby boomers hold any cryptocurrency, while more than three quarters of Gen X investors don’t own any crypto, according to the survey.
A generational divide
The results suggest that crypto is creating a vast generational schism in investing and wealth creation. While older generations of millionaires are still largely skeptical of crypto and its future, cryptocurrencies have become the primary source of wealth creation and asset growth for many younger investors who got in early and have seen rapid returns.
“This is a big difference between different generations of wealth,” said George Walper, president of Spectrem Group, which conducts the survey with CNBC.
Despite the recent price declines in bitcoin and other crypto, millennial millionaires have no plans to dial back their crypto investing. About half (48%) plan to add to their holdings over the next 12 months, while another 39% plan to maintain their current crypto levels. Only 6% of millennial millionaires plan to reduce their crypto investments over the next year.
A dilemma for wealth managers
With so many millennials and Gen Z investors becoming millionaires from the crypto economy, it’s likely to remain central to their investing in the coming years. That’s created a new dilemma for wealth management firms. Most of the existing business of private banks, wealth management firms and advisors comes from wealthier older clients who don’t want crypto and its associated risks in their portfolio or products. Yet their future relies on the next generation clients — who are demanding crypto products and advice.
“I’m not sure the wealth management industry has recognized that they really need to think of these as completely different generations,” Walper said. “Most firms were hoping to ignore it. But millennial millionaires are not going to just ‘grow out’ of crypto.”
Walper said many wealth management firms are reluctant to add crypto directly to their investing platforms due to the legal and performance risks. Yet with a growing number of crypto financial products becoming available, including crypto-based ETF’s, many more firms are now able to start offering crypto products to younger investors.
“That allows them to offer exposure to bitcoin and other crypto, without being a direct holder,” he said.
Walper said there are two broad categories of millennial crypto investors — those who made their millions from crypto, and those who added to their existing wealth (mainly received from inheritance or start-ups) by investing in crypto. Fully 45% of millennial millionaires credited inheritance as a factor in their wealth, according to a Spectrem survey. Among millennials worth $5 million or more, inheritance was the top factor (at 75%) in their wealth.
At the same time, millennials who got in crypto years ago, with small stakes from their incomes, have become self-made millionaires thanks to crypto returns that have vastly outperformed stocks and other asset classes. The question now is whether millennials stay in the crypto market — and in the ranks of millionaires — if bitcoin and other tokens have a prolonged decline.
“They seem to be comfortable with the volatility,” he said.