Study Indicates Financial Performance Declines for Older Adults

A new study suggests individuals make the most effective financial decisions in middle age.

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College analyzed 10 different financial transactions among various age cohorts and found middle-age adults make fewer financial mistakes than younger or older adults. For each transaction studied, the Center estimated the point in the life span at which financial mistakes are minimized, and the mean age was 53.3 years.  

In an Issue Brief the Center said its findings raise a potential concern as the retirement system has shifted more decisions to individuals. It suggested a range of possible policy responses to help older individuals more effectively manage their finances from improved disclosure of financial products to stricter regulatory review.  

However, the researchers said they are skeptical that improved disclosure will be effective in improving financial choices. The study found that even for cognitively healthy popula tions, additional disclosure and consumer educa tion make surprisingly little difference in financial choices.  

The Brief suggested that instead of primarily targeting individual investors, regulations could instead target the financial prod ucts themselves. One such regime would mimic the regulatory model currently used for nutritional supplements: new financial products would be al lowed in the market without specific formal approval in advance but would be monitored for adverse ef fects. An alternative approach would require that new financial products obtain explicit regulatory approval before being marketed.  

The Issue Brief is here.