Nearly 40 percent of young adults would stash their spare cash in a savings account for long-term investment – or a checking account, or a CD, or just under the mattress, according to a bankrate.com survey released Monday.

A plurality of adults aged 18-29 said cash investment would be their first choice for money they wouldn’t need for 10 years. Just 13 percent said they would put that money into the stock market.

That’s a bad sign, said bankrate.com chief financial analyst Greg McBride, since younger people need to concentrate on retirement investing more than older adults do.

“This is the age group that has the biggest retirement savings need or hurdle relative to any other age group,” McBride said. “Life spans are getting longer, health care costs are going up, they don’t have the pensions their parents did, Social Security is more uncertain for their future.”

Overall, 25 percent of adults of all ages said they would choose cash; nearly as many – 23 percent – said they would choose to invest in real estate. Thirty-nine percent of young adults said they would choose cash.

Brittney Lane agrees with them.

“Right now I just have money in savings and checking,” the 25-year-old Streeterville resident said. “Every time I’ve gone to research even the most basic information [about investing], I find that I’m still scratching my head and I don’t even know where to start.”

Lane added that she had family members who lost their invested money in the financial crash of 2008.

“It definitely makes me a little bit more wary,” she said.

Millennials’ gun-shy attitude is understandable, said McBride, since people in their 20s came of age during a financial crisis and the resulting recession.

“Even if they weren’t directly impacted by the financial crisis and the tech bust, they had a front-row seat for it,” McBride said. “So I think that naturally leads to a more risk-averse mentality from the get-go.”

Familiarity with compound interest and the long-term security of the stock market could help younger people get more comfortable with investing, McBride said.

“It’s appropriate to take on a short-term price risk with long-term money,” he said. “That’s how you’re going to get the returns that you need to accumulate the nest egg for your golden years. People don’t save enough to do it on their own by hunkering down on cash investment.”

Lauraann Wood plans to begin investing as soon as she gets some extra cash, and said she is unfazed by the intricacies of the stock market.

“It’s a chance that I’m willing to take. I’m capable of doing research, I’m capable of deciding which companies to put my money in,” said Wood, 24, of south suburban Sauk Village. “I just think I’ll be able to make informed enough decisions to where such a chance won’t bite me in the butt.”

MCREPEAU@TRIBUNE.COM | @CREPEAU

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