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Worldwide, Financial Comfort Grows More Important With Age

Worldwide, Financial Comfort Grows More Important With Age

by Cynthia English and Steve Crabtree

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Worldwide, financial comfort becomes a better determinant of life evaluation with age. Among adults surveyed in 125 countries who say they are "living comfortably" on their current incomes, those aged 55 and older rate their lives higher than those who are younger. However, among adults who are "finding it very difficult" to live on their current incomes, the opposite is true -- older respondents have lower life evaluation.

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These findings reflect data collected across all global regions in 2009 and 2010, with results weighted according to key demographics and the population size of each country. All respondents were asked to rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. The results offer evidence that the importance of financial comfort in relation to overall life evaluation increases as people grow older.

Future Outlook Also Depends on Financial Comfort

Unlike present life ratings, older respondents at all financial comfort levels are more negative about their lives five years in the future than are younger respondents. However, underscoring the increasing importance of "living comfortably" over one's life, expectations about the future deteriorate twice as rapidly among adults who are "finding it very difficult" as do ratings among those who are financially comfortable.

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Bottom Line

Aging and financial comfort clearly influence current life evaluation and optimism about the future. As health declines and other needs of aging arise, the ability to meet these growing financial demands becomes increasingly important. Unfortunately for many, their present income is simply not enough to sustain their life evaluation and optimism about the future as they grow older. On the flip side, those older adults who are able to live comfortably on their incomes are even more likely to rate their current lives well than their younger counterparts who say they same. The upshot for life evaluation worldwide is that financial comfort becomes more important with age.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in 120 countries, 2,000 adults in Russia, 6,000 adults in India, 4,150 adults in China, and 750 adults in New Zealand and Hong Kong, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2009 and 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error in 2009 ranged from a low of ±1.7 percentage points in India to a high of ±5.7 percentage points in Slovenia. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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