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Old vs. Young: Wealth Gap Grows

Friday, August 14, 2015

By Cheryl Russell, New Strategist Press

The old are wealthier than the young, a pattern that has long been true. But the gap is growing, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, researchers compared median wealth in 1989 and 2013 for households in three broad age groups. Here are the trends (in 2013 dollars).

Old (aged 62+): +40%

Median wealth in 2013: $209,590

Median wealth in 1989: $149,728

Middle-aged (aged 40-61): -31%

Median wealth in 2013: $106,094

Median wealth in 1989: $153,759

Young (under age 40): -28%

Median wealth in 2013: $14,220

Median wealth in 1989: $19,830

The old are doing better, and the middle-aged and young are falling behind. There's more bad news: “Baby boomers, who are now retiring in droves, are likely to be less well-off than their 'old' counterparts in the two previous generations,” the Fed researchers conclude. “And it looks as if members of the next two generations – Generation X and Generation Y (the Millennials) – might also end up less wealthy than the generation before them.”

Changes in Living Arrangements

The living arrangements of adults have changed dramatically in nearly every age group over the past half-century. A new set of tables available from the Census Bureau allows you to see at a glance the changes since 1967.

Living with Mom and Dad (18 to 24): Surprisingly, men in this age group are no more likely to live with their parents today (57 percent) than their counterparts were in 1967 (58 percent). Women, however, are more likely to live with Mom and Dad as they postpone marriage. The 51 percent majority were living in their parents' home in 2014, up from 42 percent in 1967.

Staying single (25 to 34): Men and women in this age group are much less likely to be married and living with a spouse today than in 1967. For women, the married share fell from 83 to 47 percent between 1967 and 2014. For men the figure plummeted from 83 to 38 percent.

Stability, sort of (35 to 64): This is the age group with the most stability in living arrangements. Nevertheless, between 1967 and 2014 the married share fell substantially among both men (from 86 to 65 percent) and women (from 77 to 62 percent).

More couples (65 to 74): The married share of women in this age group climbed from 45 to 57 percent between 1967 and 2014, while men's married share barely changed (falling from 79 to 75 percent). Behind the change for women is increasing life expectancy, delaying widowhood.

Living alone (75-plus): Men and women who have been widowed are now more likely to live alone than with other relatives (mostly adult children). In 1967, the reverse was true.

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