7 Financial Worries of Older US Consumers

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The financial future for Americans 50 years of age and older (50+) is not only uncertain, it is also complex. These 50+ consumers represent 35% of the total U.S. population but control 56% of the nation’s investable assets.

And while 50+ consumers are savvy users of digital technology, their most commonly asked question regarding their financial future is, “Where do I start and whom do I turn to for help?”

These details were reported Thursday by AARP in a new study titled “Financial Innovation Frontiers.”

According to the AARP report, 50+ consumers are seeking answers to seven financial stress factors that are increasingly common in the 21st century economy:

  1. The impact of unexpected expenses and financial emergencies
  2. The reality of caring for aging parents
  3. The burden of student loans
  4. The personal responsibility of saving for retirement
  5. The rising cost of health care
  6. The overwhelming complexity of financial products
  7. The lack of tailored and helpful digital tools

Career setbacks, unplanned withdrawals for unexpected life events, and student debt have caused retirement savings gaps totaling an estimated $9.8 trillion to the more than 111 million 50+ Americans. Recovering from those losses is a huge opportunity for fintech innovators.

According to the report, as a business opportunity, the market for fintech aimed at 50+ consumers is forecast to reach $563 million in 2018, rising to $830 million by 2021. Where new fintech innovation can help most is in these five areas, according to AARP:

  1. Removing friction from the user experience
  2. Improving customer service
  3. Delivering personalized insight and service proactively
  4. Transforming financial anxiety into digital empowerment
  5. Influencing regulatory change and financial policy

Some 41% of 50+ consumers are currently retired and another 46% planning to retire eventually. About 15% plan to retire within the next five years. Some further data points:

  • Only 26% say they are highly confident they’ll even be able to meet their financial needs over the next five years.
  • Despite saving for an average of 25 years, they have amassed less than half of their individual retirement savings goals, and 40% say they cannot feasibly retire until they meet this goal.
  • 45% say they spend more time and effort managing their finances than they did five years ago, and they anticipate that need will increase over the coming five years.
  • Nearly half are confident that they are best qualified to manage their own money, meaning that they are ripe for using new self-help options enabled by digital tools.

One word of caution about fintech innovation, however. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently published a report on small business financing. Online lenders like LendingClub, OnDeck and PayPal Working Capital generally have easier application processes and make lending decisions more quickly. They are also somewhat less transparent than traditional banks — large and small — and the online lenders charge higher interest and have worse repayment terms.

While financing a small business is considerably different from saving for retirement, 50+ consumers need to pay particular attention to transparency issues and to the fees that fintech innovators might charge. Innovation may promise less friction, but that typically comes by adding grease. If you catch our drift.