Age Your Financial Attitude for Greater Happiness

May 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Money and Behavior

older_happyIt seems that old, white male Republicans have an edge on happiness.  Before you go “ewwwwww – who wants to be one of those”, I’m not proposing that anyone change genders or political affiliations. However, let’s consider the financial fine print of these findings (or at least my interpretation of them).

First, the key data:

In response to the question “Have you cut back spending in the past year?”, this how different age groups broke down with “yes” responses:

Ages 18-49: 68 percent

Ages 50-64: 59 percent

Ages 65 and older : 36 percent

The second question was: “Is the recession causing stress in your family?” The “yes” responses:

Ages 18-49: 52 percent

Ages 50-64: 58 percent

Ages 65 and over: 38 percent

Notice how the older folks are doing so much better at handling the difficult economic conditions. Fewer of them have had to cut back on their lifestyle and fewer are suffering stress compared to younger generations.

My amateur analysis of why this is and how it applies to the rest of us:

1. Older folks have ditched the desire for stuff and have  learned to be happy with what they have.

2. Older folks don’t have as much debt and aren’t working for the money to service their debt. This also means that it is easier for a retired person to cut back on expenses compared to those burdened by car loans  and mortgages.

3. Older folks understand that spending money on experiences, not stuff, provides greater returns in personal satisfaction.

I think that the takeaway for all of us from this data is that we don’t have to be old or retired to adopt financial plans or attitudes that mirror those of people who actually are old or retired. We can and should be doing it now.

Too many of us are learning from those who are trying to sell us the latest and greatest gadget, the best rewards credit card, a get-rich investment scheme, or a lottery ticket.

Why don’t we instead pay more attention to the older folks who are actually happier without all of that?  When someone is kicking your butt in the game of life, doesn’t it make sense to study and learn from what they are doing?

What is your take on this survey data?

Image credit:  daveelmore

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4 Responses to “Age Your Financial Attitude for Greater Happiness”
  1. kitty says:

    There is another reason, probably the most important one: older folks are mostly retired and retired people are not employed, so they don’t worry about losing their jobs. This is the main worry of those who are employed and not just those with debt.

    Their income comes from investments. The recession hasn’t affected their income as much. Or, maybe, it affected interest they earn on CDs, but as the prices came down as well, it may not be that much of an issue. Annuities, pensions, social security still pay the same. Sure, some people lost money in stocks, but most retired people with brains don’t keep that much money in stocks anyway.

    Debt is not the only reason to fear losing one’s job, losing one’s medical coverage is another. For folks over 65 on medicare it’s not that much of an issue.

  2. My old man had a saying: “We are too soon old, and too late smart.” I think this correlates with the survey. Older people probably have taken their lumps, and have figured it out, while younger people are still going through their growing pains.

  3. Ms. Ferret says:

    I’m with kitty. Yes, old folks probably don’t buy as much crap, because they don’t have to — they bought all of their crap decades ago and no longer have any need to impress others by buying new crap. However, I’m guessing the real reason old folks are happier is that they don’t have mortgages, don’t have a job to worry about losing, don’t have young dependent children, and don’t have to worry about health insurance any more.

    So while I agree that being happy with less is never a bad idea, I think that a person’s attitude in a recession also depends on where they are in the rat race — if you did your victory lap in 2003 and are kicking back in the clubhouse, you probably aren’t going to be quite as concerned as the rest of us when the racetrack catches fire.

  4. Ryan P Smith says:

    I think kitty is right on, people that had fixed incomes already and no job to lose were less effected by change in the economy. I would think that people nearing retirement age who don’t have time to wait for the market to recover would be feeling the most stress.

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