The Stocks and Shares ISA, which is the most accessible and widely publicised route into investing, is still a very poor relation to the Cash ISA and this trend has changed very little despite the very poor returns of cash ISAs in recent years. Statistics show that Cash ISAs consistently form over 70% of the total takeup.1
This disparity is also reflected in the PF blogscape and on sites such as MSE. There are still relatively few UK investment bloggers, and the majority of these are people who work, or have worked, in banking or financial institutions, so cannot consider themselves ordinary mortals :-). (The situation in the US seems to be a little different where Dividend Investing is more popular).
Despite the relative lack of involvement in investing in the UK there's certainly no lack of interest in money itself, evidenced by the vast amount of Budgeting, Saving and DebtFree blogging and forum participation going on.
Looking back at my own journey I can understand the reticence people feel. For most of us money is hard earned and we are very loath to "play" with it. I believe that this is a pivotal point. Money, for the majority of people, is something that is tied tightly to work. We earn it. It is not something that can be grown. It really does not "grow on trees". However, the select few who grow up in a culture of inheritance see things from a very different point of view. For them what essentially makes money is money itself, compound interest is their biggest friend and volatility holds no real fear. There's a whole different mindset involved and it's one which it is difficult to introduce to people who actually need what they've got and would really struggle if it was lost.
Putting a little away in a savings account and watching it grow slowly is one thing, but tossing it into the seething cauldron of the stock market feels very much like losing control. In the eyes of the general public investing still has that impenetrable fence of, danger, magic, and privilege surrounding it. You need financial qualifications and "insider" knowledge to be able to invest, or you need to be able to pay someone who does. It's much safer to stay on the other side of that fence.
This apprehension is gradually being addressed by the increasing availability of advice and information on the Internet forums such as MSE, blogs such as Monevator, and the DIY platforms themselves. Helpful "Investing Made Easy" books are readily available and understandable. I have used of a lot of this material myself over the last year and I'm really grateful for the time taken by the authors and participants to help and inform. But all this help should be making more inroads than it is.
I suppose we could ask why does it matter? If the majority of people are not comfortable with investing then why should they be encouraged to do so. This might be a sensible response in a world where not so much lay at the door of the individual. In the days of the Defined Benefit pension and co-operative financial institutions such as Building Societies personal finance didn't need to be quite so personal. However many sensible people these days are not even including receiving a state pension in their financial planning. It seems that, (sadly in my opinion - and dangerously too) the state is "letting go" of its responsibility to be mindful of the financial well-being of all its citizens.
Earned wealth is dropping and "grown" wealth is growing. This makes it even more important that ordinary people (what used to equate to the working and lower middle class) start to see the benefit of investing their money. Maybe the newer types of "investment" that don't carry the old fear factor - things like peer-to-peer lending and crowd funding might be a less daunting way into the whole process for some people. Despite the fact that they are often inherently just as risky, they do seem more transparent than the whole cult of "Wealth Management", with its performance charts, asset allocation, diversification, ETFs, Bonds and a multitude of other incomprehensible terms, rules, calculations and acronyms.
All in all, I have had a very interesting year teaching myself the ways of the dark art. I have learnt a lot and although I know that I still have a lot to learn, I have found the whole process incredibly satisfying and engaging. What worries me is that most people don't have the time, inclination or interest to do the legwork, nor the money to pay someone else to do it for them. This fact will do nothing to halt the growing trend towards wealth inequality.
Investing still isn't simple enough, probably because it isn't in the interest of the industry to make it so. This is something we should all be concerned about.