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The Economic Slowdown's Impact on Middle-Aged and Older Americans

AARP commissioned a nationwide survey to determine how people age 45 and older are responding to the current economic slowdown. The survey asked a nationally representative sample of 45+ Americans, including an oversample of Hispanic Americans, for their assessments of the economy's condition, whether they have taken actions in response to the changing economy, and if they felt enough was being done to address economic problems. Results show that a majority of respondents believe the economy is in bad shape and that many have adapted their behaviors in response to the floundering economy.

Survey findings include:

  • Eighty-one percent of all respondents, and 86% of Hispanic respondents, say the economy is in fairly bad or very bad condition. A similar percentage feel the economy is getting worse.
  • Over one-fourth of all respondents, and 41% of Hispanic respondents, said they are having trouble paying their mortgage or rent and one-third have stopped putting money into their retirement accounts. More than one-fourth of all workers and Hispanic workers ages 45+ have postponed plans to retire.
  • As the economy slows and prices rise, most middle-aged and older respondents, including Hispanic respondents, report that they are having difficulty paying for food, gas, utilities, and medicine, and are responding to the situation by cutting luxuries and postponing major purchases and travel.
  • Respondents age 65 and over were less likely than those ages 45-64 to report having taken steps to cope with a slowing economy or increasing prices as a result of the recent economic slowdown. This does not indicate that the older population is better off financially. Rather, the data suggest that the 65 and over group had, even prior to the economic downturn, been forced to adjust their spending habits because of their work status, fixed income, and rising costs.

This study is based on a national telephone survey of 1,002 adults ages 45 and older who were currently working, looking for work, or retired. This sample was then boosted to obtain additional interviews with Hispanics, producing an oversample of 400 Hispanics ages 45 and older. The interviews were conducted in English by Woelfel Research, Inc. from April 12 to April 23, 2008. The results are weighted by age and gender. For additional information about the national survey, contact Jeffrey Love, Director of Strategic Issues Research, at 202-434-6279. For information on the Hispanic survey, contact Gerard Rainville at 202-434-6295.