Daily Factoid: Seniors kick Millennials' butts (investing)

TD Ameritrade recently issued a press release comparing the investment habits of Millennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, and Seniors.

The company cited the top-10 equities held by each group (including equities held in mutual funds and ETFs which were, in turn, owned by members of each generation.) 

Not surprisingly, all four generations' top-10 lists skew heavily towards the largest American companies by market cap. (Note that TD Ameritrade customers trade on US exchanges almost exclusively.) As such, only 16 companies, in total, figure on all generations' top-10 lists.

Of all the companies mentioned, only Tesla is not amongst the 50 largest US companies by market cap; it was the #10 choice among Millennial investors. Presumably Millennials can afford a few Tesla shares, but not a new Tesla.

Top 10 investment holdings by generation: It's a tribute to the strength of brands that almost every one of these companies is immediately recognizable by its logo alone. (Exceptions: BH logo is the logo of Berkshire Hathaway's specialty insurance business, although Warren Buffett's a big believer in brands, his own brand is low key. Altria is on right, third from bottom. Big Tobacco doesn't want you to recognize that one, so you're excused.)

Top 10 investment holdings by generation: It's a tribute to the strength of brands that almost every one of these companies is immediately recognizable by its logo alone. (Exceptions: BH logo is the logo of Berkshire Hathaway's specialty insurance business, although Warren Buffett's a big believer in brands, his own brand is low key. Altria is on right, third from bottom. Big Tobacco doesn't want you to recognize that one, so you're excused.)

Notwithstanding the similarities in each generations' Top-10 holdings, TD Ameritrade's customer cohorts have not had similar YTD performance. 

Millennials have earned a 5.35% return

Gen X-ers: 9.1%

Baby Boomers: 8.7%

Seniors: 10.2%

TD Ameritrade doesn't offer any suggestions as to why Seniors have had twice Millennials' success, in terms of return on investments to date. I can think of several possible explanations: Seniors may be more likely to be active investors, choosing individual equities; Millennials may be choosing mutual funds and paying higher fees. Expenses like trading fees also take a relatively bigger bite of smaller purchases.

Still, the Seniors' top returns call into question the old investing truism that as investors age, they should (or do) become more conservative.