The vast majority of Australians have never invested in shares, and there's no great mystery why - they can't afford it.
But the rise of fintech solutions such as Acorns has made share trading more accessible to everyday Australians, a survey by comparison site Finder suggests.
The online survey of 2017 Australians aged 18 to 90 found that three out of four people had never invested in shares. Men are nearly twice as likely to have invested in shares as women, with 35 per cent of men having tried it compared with 17 per cent of women.
The majority of shares investment is traditional ASX investing, which one in five Australians has tried. As you might expect, older people are more experienced with this than Millennials. Twenty-seven per cent of Baby Boomers and older Australians (anyone born 1959 or earlier), 23 per cent of Generation X (born 1960-1979), 14 per cent of Generation Y (born 1980-1994) and 9 per cent of Generation Z (born 1995 or later) have tried traditional ASX investing.
I was fascinated to learn that 3 per cent of Australians have invested in shares through work schemes - but this is skewed to mid-career workers. Only 1 per cent of Baby Boomers and older Australians and 1 per cent of Generation Z - who are just starting in the workforce - have invested in shares through work schemes, but it's 5 per cent for both Gen Xers and Gen Ys.
About 3 per cent of Australians have invested through apps such as Acorns, a micro-investment service that lets you invest in index funds with as little as $1. This has been embraced by Gen Y, with 7 per cent of this cohort using investment apps.
That might not sound like much but since these services didn't exist a few years ago, it's likely to represent new people trying share investment for the first time.
The biggest reason people say they don't buy shares is lack of funds. Nearly two of five Australians cite this as the main obstacle. Gen Y - perhaps because so many of them are locked out of the property market and not paying large mortgages - is the most likely to have the spare cash to buy shares, with only 31 per cent citing funds as an obstacle. Meanwhile, 47 per cent of Baby Boomers and older generations, many of whom are retired, say they can't afford it.
Another big factor is not knowing how to trade shares, with 12 per cent of respondents stating this as a reason. Another 7 per cent plan to invest at some point, 4 per cent are "afraid", 4 per cent prefer property, 3 per cent don't have time and another 3 per cent don't want to commit to a long-term investment. Note, respondents could choose more than one answer.
For women, 45 per cent say they don't have the spare funds and 16 per cent say they don't know how.
So basically a large number of people are broke, unsure, nervous or time poor - and it's worse for women.
Fintech solves many of these problems.
First, the mechanics of buying shares is already very simple - gone are the days when you need to find a stockbroker. Opening an online trading account is quite similar to opening an online bank account - but many of the fintech solutions are simpler still, as many people find starting with an app a compelling customer experience.
Second, the dilemma of not knowing what stocks to buy can be addressed by buying into an exchange-traded fund (ETF). This is a type of index fund that is listed on the exchange and bought in exactly the same way as an individual stock. The way it works is that the fund owns a diversified portfolio of small quantities of stocks that it buys and sells each day in order to track the market or a particular index.
This should reduce the fear factor and it's a good solution for anyone too time poor to research individual stocks.
If you invest with Acorns or through a robo-advice service such as Stockspot, it will allocate you to various ETFs depending on your risk portfolio. You can also open an online share trading account and buy ETF shares directly.
Third, the round-ups feature offered by many fintech products can help people save their pennies, reducing that barrier to entry. Round-ups let you send "spare change" to another account. So if you buy a coffee for $3.70 and pay by tapping your card, you'll take a $4 debit and 30c will be sent to your nominated account.
Acorns pioneered the concept in Australia, but it's also offered by GROW Super for superannuation deposits, ING for its online savings account and WealthNation, which takes round-ups from any Australian bank account into a savings account with Macquarie Bank. With ING and GROW, it's free.
I've been using Acorns since it launched early 2016 and I now have $1683.12 in there. The app tells me exactly how much I've invested and how much is market gains and reinvested dividends so I can see the compound growth. It's demystified share investing for me and it's fun.
My next goal, now that I have my mortgage under control, is to experiment with individual shares.
Caitlin Fitzsimmons is the Money editor.