Shares are popular investments because they offer the highest returns of all the major assets classes over the long-term. Unfortunately, this means shares also come with the highest risk of the major asset classes.
According to a study  on share ownership by the Australian Securities Exchange in 2010, around 7.26 million people, or 43% of Australia's adult population, participated in the Australian share market either directly (via shares or other listed investments) or indirectly (via unlisted managed funds).
Of this total, around 6.6 million people, or 39% of the adult population, held at least some shares directly. The study also showed that around 13% of Australian adults have their own self-managed super fund, with one in two of these funds holding shares listed on the ASX.