Conflicting Messages about Relative Wellbeing of the Generations

futurelab default header

Yesterday I was reading an article in the WSJ titled: “Aging and Broke, More Lean on Family.” Much was made of research from Pew about the increase in multigenerational households because of the inability of older people to afford to life alone. The article is behind a paywall – don’t worry – it was long on anecdotal stuff and short on detail.

Whilst trying to find the original research I came upon another Pew research report of November 2011 (the second graphic) titled: “The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being“. As you might expect, the theme of this report was to show the way that those under 35s had seen their net wealth decline, since 1984, relative to the 65+.

So who do you believe? Of course the answer is that they are probably both correct since they are talking about different groups of people and looking at the issue through very different prisms.

At the poorest end of the spectrum older people are having a tough time and it is set to get a hell of lot worse – then so are younger people – the difference is that if you are young you have some chance of repairing your finances – not a luxury you have when you are old.

The top tier of older people have done very nicely because of the increase in property prices, even allowing for the recent falls. 

Whichever way you want to cut the numbers, and they apply just as much to Europe as the US, you have a smallish group of older people (around 15%, who are older than younger) who are doing very nicely thank you. They are the people you should be talking to.

Original Post: