Does financial decision making decline with age?
We often read or hear stories about seniors being conned out of their life savings, but are older people really more susceptible to fraud than younger adults?
After peaking in middle age, the ability to make effective financial decisions begins to decline, suggests a recent study. Where’s the sweet spot? About 53 years old — which seems odd to me since people have garnered a fair amount of financial experience by then and generally still have most of their faculties.
The research team led by economist Sumit Agarwal looked at several financial decisions facing people ranging in age from 25 to 75, including transferring an account balance to a new credit card and borrowing through a line of credit. In every case, those in the oldest group made decisions that resulted in them paying more than others.
With home equity lines of credit, for example, the plus 53 crowd tended to incorrectly estimate the value of their homes and, as a result, took out home equity loans with higher interest rates than required. But they didn’t exactly trade the farm for a tricycle.
Agarwal’s proposed solution, nonetheless? Set up a government licensing system to ensure older adults have a sound level of financial understanding before they’re permitted to invest.
We need a license to drive, for example. So why not a test to ensure we’re still equipped to deal with our finances, he suggests. In the same way that several provinces reassess older drivers, seniors could be required to pass the test again after a certain age.
Except that it’s individual differences in processing speed and memory, not age, that are usually predictors of poor decision making, counters Duke University prof Scott Huettel.
As a result, rather than licensing, a better solution might be to allow older people more time for decisions, or presenting data in certain ways to assist them in making those decisions, his research suggests.
My mother will be very pleased.
What do you think? Is more licensing going to help older people cope with finances? And what happens to those who fail the test?By Gordon Powers, MSN Money
Posted by: W. Browne | Aug 5, 2021 11:03:29 AM
Perhaps that (increasing age) explains why financial advisors and execs.
have gotten us into such a mess--their maturity?
Posted by: Fred | Aug 5, 2021 4:51:25 PM
Regulation can be a positive solution but how far can we push it. If a 70 year old man decides to buy a Ferrari should the government step in and tell him to buy a Lincoln? I like having choices. I would not be responsible for implementing regulations that reduce my financial and decision making power. No one likes hearing about an elderly person that invested in some fictional assests. Their loved ones should speak with them about some sort of program that reduces their financial control voluntarily. Just like someone that voluntarily bans themselves from a casino because they lack the willpower to refuse. For better or worse survival of the fittest has got us this far why change now. If you're not smart and cautious enough to make sound decisions and think before investing, maybe the cunning thief deserves your money. The weak should seek measures to protect themselves with the support of friends and family.
Posted by: don | Aug 5, 2021 6:41:40 PM
So will we regulate persons under the age of 25? They seem to make a lot of bad financial decisions.
Posted by: Jeff | Aug 6, 2021 12:50:21 AM
There are two main points here. The first being that older people get duped by both legal (home equity) and illegal scams (Fictional assests, though it's not mentioned in the artcile itself) and they are making poor decisions with money in general.
No policing the poor decision making is not possible without taking away at least a portion of finacial power from the aging person in question. Where they can impact this type of fiscal error is to provide more than a salesman for loans at a bank. Example: When Oldman Rivers wants to buy that Ferrari, it's not the dealer's job to negate the sale it should be the financial advisor at the bank that is setting up the loan that says, "Hey, Oldman Rivers, you can't afford the Ferrari based on all of this information about your finacial situation." Then if Oldman Rivers wants to continue on with his late midlife crisis all the power to him.
People will still make poor decisions but at least someone will have given them reason not to.
As for the scams, legit or not the government needs to police these companies offering the loans and investments through licencing and due process of obtaining home equity loans. Make it a part of the application process to have the home appraised, or base the amounts off insuanrce coverage/premiums when available. These loans are still a fairly new thing and haven't established the checks and balances that older methods have.
As for the true scams, that's all common-sense, some people have it, some people don't. Do more older people get taken, probably, but that's more than likely simply because they are better targets fincially than the people struggling to get finacially stable. Example, creditors, who's more likely to pay up, the younger mother and father who have the option of feeding themselves and a baby or paying a harrassing creditor, or the wife and husband whose kids have moved out and are wondering what to do with that vacation fund they've been saving for twenty years.
Posted by: Cathy Summers | Aug 6, 2021 1:17:03 AM
More licencing is crap. Perhaps more financial education for everyone would be a good starting point. I am nearly 52 and my financial knowledge is superior. It has been for years and I am not forgetting things now that I am apparently old at 52. Oh yeah, I am still one year away from that magic age of 53 when I will need assistance with how to spend my money. Not likely. I worked hard, built a solid business, sold it and have been retired since the age of 45 full time and semi retired since the age of 41. I recently took a graduate college diploma course in law and graduated with the highest grade point average. Not bad for an old girl who is losing her mind. I really take offence to anyone who suggests that people need to be controlled financially at age 53 and up and to the fact that people get dumber as they get older. I went from a B average in my 20's to an A+ average in my late 40's.
Posted by: SG | Aug 6, 2021 3:33:21 PM
This sounds like a typical "Financial Advisor" scenario to get his hands on someone else's money and do with it as he pleases, for a commission of course!
Posted by: Steve | Aug 6, 2021 6:08:41 PM
Financial decision making is based on a convergence of experience, intelligence and mental health. Any Psychologist worth their salt understands the importance of physical health, life experience and disposition on Mental health and especially decision making. I'd trust old Warren Buffet or Carlos Slim with my money long before I'd trust any of the idiots who would be licensing these 'investors'. Besides If you're 53 years old and you need a home equity line of credit, an investing license is protecting you from only a small risk. Perhaps we should have one for cottages, Additions, Retirement, Divorce or Children. These are far more massive financial risks.
Posted by: a "declining" senior! | Aug 6, 2021 8:50:57 PM
Financial decisions do not cecline at 53. If you had "it" at 30, you will have "it" at 53. But if you did not have "it" at 30, then I guess you will not have "it" at 53. Nothing to do with age.
Posted by: Stan | Aug 6, 2021 11:26:13 PM
Testing? Licensing? Nonsense I say. It is a matter of education. Perhaps we would do better making handling financial matters part of the curriculum in High Schools so when students leave at that level they have an understanding of finances and life. Prepare them for reality in life. They teach sex education. Why not Finances. Should they go on to college then they are well equipped to make the right decisions. Nothing to do with age. It is responsibility and understanding the pitfalls of poor decisions.
Posted by: another declining senior | Aug 7, 2021 4:29:18 PM
I agree with decining senior- you are either wired to be financially stable or you are not-age has nothing to do with it. A prime example would be siblings in any family, they are both raised by the same mother and father and yet one is conscious of money and the other spends it before they even have it. I speak with authority on this as I grew up with this exact scenerio. We are a large family and yet out of 7 children5 of us handle our finances well, yet the other 2 go through their money like sailors on leave. We were all raised with the same lessons on money management, but obviously some chose not to listen or are just wired differently. I am banking on the wiring. If seniors are being scammed, I would be wiling to bet those seniors are lonely and starving for attention-you know what they say - even bad attention is better than none.
Posted by: laura taylor | Aug 7, 2021 9:04:31 PM
I think younger people who are taught sex education in schools should be taught finances as they know nothing about supporting themselves or how to spend their money other than on foolishness and then wonder how to pay the utilities or rent which is why a lot of the younger generation is still living at home with mom and dad long into their late 20's. Even when out on their own parents have to come to the rescue, i remember one daughter who went on a holiday and returned with no money for food and gas to go to work.
Should older people take the driving test again NO it is the youth who should as they are the ones with the most accidents, older people have been driving for years and i am sure the insurance companies know if they have a good driving record!
No I do not agree that siblings or family members should help parents make decisions on their money.
Financial decisions decline with age No it does not as then your smart enough to know what to do
Posted by: john | Aug 7, 2021 11:44:52 PM
ok why pick on the elderly,don't they have enough to worry about....i look back in my early years.and yes i spent money like water from a tap.as now am 59 am more carefull where i spend my money,,,so like these people say go for the younger age group for their license and leave the older ones alone..if the older people of life don't know how to drive at their age then they never will learn..i be more afraid of the younger drives myself................
Posted by: management_fan | Aug 11, 2021 1:55:46 PM
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Posted by: John | Aug 12, 2021 6:57:42 AM
I believe the licence comparison is being drawn unfairly in this article. I think the 53 was intended as the begining marker, yes most people at the age 53 are going to be just as savy as they were when younger effects of mental disorders as simple as forgetfulness can begin as early as 53.
Also mortality rate rises after the age of 50. Let's face it, more people above 50 are dying than those below, and 50 is as good as any dividing line. What does that have to do with this article. Well what if after twenty years the person in a relationship who deals with all the finacial aspects (which isn't that uncommon actually) and the remaining person now has to deal with that themselves.
Put those two statistics together and you have a perfect breeding ground for fincial ignornace after the age of 50.
This of course could not possibly apply to everyone, but there is a large number of people that have or will fall into this situation.
Posted by: Canadian Too | Aug 12, 2021 10:20:33 PM
Wow, this is a great idea. AND seeing how the biggest financial decisions are made in Ottawa and the Provincial capitals perhaps we can require licensing there and not allow anyone in past the age of 58. Win, win.