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Beyond 50.04: A Report to the Nation on Consumers in the Marketplace: Executive Summary

Table of Contents:

This report focuses on the role of mid-life and older consumers in the nation's economy and the challenges they face as financial managers in a rapidly changing and dynamic marketplace.

In the future, the word, "consumer," will increasingly come to mean "older consumer." This report examines the implications of this demographic and social change from a public policy perspective—more specifically, consumer information policy. It addresses a key policy question: What is needed in the context of today's marketplace to assure that older consumers have the information and tools they need to make wise decisions concerning their financial security?

In order to help consumers successfully meet the challenges of a dynamic marketplace and to assure the economic security of older households in the future, AARP recommends that the nation commit itself to the following goals:

  • Assist consumers in making informed choices by improving the quality of consumer information in the marketplace.
  • Increase the level of consumer financial literacy, particularly among Boomers, minorities, and low-income persons.
  • Increase consumer choice and financial service options for isolated communities and underserved market segments.

A Growing Market: Expenditures by the Older Population—Analysis from the Consumer Expenditure Survey

As a group, older consumers are a powerful economic force:

  • By 2001, older consumers (age 45 and older) were responsible for the majority (52 percent) of total consumer spending.
  • Older consumers held a majority of the market share in the key categories of food, housing, health care, transportation, and personal insurance and pensions in 2001.
  • Between 1984 and 2001, the total average annual expenditures of older consumers increased at a greater rate (+8 percent) than those for all consumers (+6 percent), largely reflecting the aging of the Boomers.

Large disparities in income become obvious when examining spending in the key categories—food, housing, health care, transportation, and personal insurance and pensions—by income, race, and ethnicity. While these disparities are not surprising, they reinforce the need for consumers to have the best information available so that they can manage and use their resources effectively. This is particularly true when income is limited. Further, the savings that accrue from effective shopping and financial management can help enable consumers to contend with myriad responsibilities, such as financing their children's education, caring for older relatives, and preparing for retirement.


The Management Challenge

Factors That Are Increasing the Difficulty of Consumer Decision Making

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