Decision-Making Declines As Birthdays Increase

We ask older Americans to make complicated financial decisions about Social Security, Medicare, retirement distributions and more—just when they are losing their fastball. Regardless of gender or education level, Americans become considerably less literate about all things money after age 60, according to a new study.

Why do many of the most difficult decisions we face come later in life? I guess it’s just fact of life. Unfortunately, we’re not always at the top of our game when those decisions must be made. Therefore, it’s essential to make proper plans earlier, rather than later.

According to a recent study, reported on here by the Wall Street Journal, the decline starts around age 60. The scores on a test measuring knowledge of investments, insurance, credit and money basics fell about 2% each year starting after age 60. In fact, they fell from about 59% correct for those in their 60s to a dismal 30% for those 80 and older. What’s almost as bad is that these very people actually grew more confident in their decisions and knowledge.

Problem: These are the very same people who are attempting to sift through the messy and confusing programs like Medicare and Social Security, at the very same time they are undergoing this dramatic change in their mental agility. These also are the people who will want to take care of their loved ones in their estate plans in an era of constantly changing laws and regulations.

If you are the adult child of older parents, this is something to bear in mind when seeking to help them, perhaps especially when your assistance is unwanted. Likewise, as a parent, fact of life will necessitate a bit of self-understanding. And for everyone, this means that proper estate planning should be done earlier, rather than later.

You can learn more about elder law planning  on our website. Be sure to sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter to stay abreast of issues like these that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning. 

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (October 30, 2011) “Financial Acumen Declines After 60

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