Baby Boomers spend a high percentage of their income on education and on their adult children and not on their retirement accounts, according to a new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis.
“How are Baby Boomers Spending their Money?” used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey to compare the preretirement spending habits of today’s middle aged workers and today’s older workers (those over age 55) to the spending habits of those groups 20 years ago.
What the report’s authors found is that real incomes for these groups hasn’t changed much in two decades, but the portion of disposable income households spend on certain categories of goods and services has increased.
Boomers spend more on education. From 1990 to 2010, education expenditures increased by 80 percent for 45 to 54-year-olds and 22 percent for 55 to 64-year-olds. As with health care, the cost of a college education has grown faster than income for decades, so one-third of the nation’s student loan debt is held by individuals over the age of 40.
Most of those education expenses is going toward children's educations, the report said.
Boomers also are spending a great deal on their adult children. A recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that more than half of parents are helping to support their adult children. Among parents of 18-to-39-year-old children, 59 percent are providing financial support to adult children who are no longer in school. That includes living expenses, transportation costs, spending money, medical bills and paying back loans.
Another survey found that two out of five parents have paid off debt for their adult children, including 29 percent who paid off their student loans.
Housing is the biggest expense for Boomers, with three quarters of middle-aged and older households holding mortgages.
From 1990 to 2010, the portion of money going toward housing increased by about 25 percent. For 55 to 64-year-olds, nearly half of this increase was due to an increase in the interest portion of their house payments.
According to the study, Baby Boomers have not increased their spending on entertainment. On food purchases, including restaurants, Boomers between age 45 and 54 years old spent 18 percent less from 1990 to 2010. Those 55 to 64 spent 20 percent less. Household furnishings fell nearly one-third for 45 to 54-year-olds and one-fourth for 55 to 64-year-olds. Clothing expenses showed the steepest decline, falling 42 percent for 45 to 54-year-olds and 70 percent for 55 to 64-year-olds.