America’s affluent retirees are sitting on piles of cash that they don’t want to spend. A new survey points out that many people who are in their 80s today have more wealth than they did in their 60s and 70s, and that’s because they steadily reduce their spending each year. Further probing found that the lack of spending is because these retirees fear what might happen in the future and want to have substantial cash reserves.
The cash hoarding is considered to have a negative effect on the economy, because this group isn’t buying as much as anticipated. The behavior also indicates that the individuals didn’t have retirement plans or ignored them once they retired. A written retirement plan should indicate that they are able to spend more, even in a worst-case economic scenario. The result is that they aren’t enjoying the standard of living they could.
Researchers looked at all the logical reasons why affluent retirees might be so tight-fisted, including the desire to leave an inheritance or worries about future medical needs. The big motivator turned out to be some version of fear they would run out of cash too early.
“We found that even in a worst-case scenario, they could have spent more,” said Texas Tech University Professor Christopher Browning, one of the study’s authors. “There have to be other explanations,” he said–reasons that aren’t rational.One of those irrational reasons may be simple habit. Something strange happens when people retire, Browning says. All of a sudden, they’re not getting a regular paycheck, and that makes them scared to spend. Goals set before retirement are abandoned, along with pre-determined spending plans, because retirees are terrified see the balances on their retirement accounts drop even a tiny bit.