Spain’s older generation: what are their financial habits?


On 1 October we celebrated Financial Education DayAbre en ventana nueva to make people aware of the importance of being financially literate. This year’s edition was devoted especially to the elderly; but what do we know about the financial habits of Spain’s older generation?

The recent Survey of Financial Competences (ECF)Abre en ventana nuevajointly conducted by the Banco de España and the CNMV using a representative sample of adults (aged 18-79) in Spain, may shed some light if we focus on the replies by survey respondents in the 65-79-year-old group.

The (individual or joint) holding of financial products by the over-65s is similar to that of the population as a whole (41% vs 43%), although the financial instruments they use differ. The holding of savings accounts is similar for both groups (26%), but a lower proportion of the elderly has pension schemes (11% vs 21%). Conversely, the proportion of the elderly with investment funds and shares is higher than that of the Spanish population as a whole (13% and 19%, respectively, for the elderly compared with 8% and 13% for the population as a whole). In the case of credit cards, mortgages and personal loans, the proportions fall among the elderly (44%, 13% and 10% against 56%, 32% and 18% for the total population).

If we focus on the acquisition of financial products, we find that those aged between 65 and 79 are the group that has acquired fewest saving, debt and insurance financial products in the past two years (for instance, only 25% of them have done so against 38% for the Spanish population as a whole).

And what does the ECF tell us about the older generation’s saving and dissaving decisions?

Concerning saving, the proportion of the “elderly living in households that save” is below the figure for the population as a whole: thus, according to the ECF, 45% of the over-64s have been saving in the past 12 months, when in the case of the total population this percentage is 61%.

Among those that do save, the elderly are notable for doing so chiefly through their current account (72% as opposed to 63% for the population as a whole). 14% of them save through savings accounts, a similar percentage to that for the rest of the population. By contrast, while 38% of the Spanish population as a whole also saves holding onto cash, the elderly save in this way in a smaller proportion (26%).

Other means of saving to which the elderly resort are investment funds (8% compared with 5% for the total population) and, to a lesser extent than the population as a whole, pension schemes (solely 3% against 11% for the total population), possibly because they are already reaping the benefits of such schemes.

Looking at the opposite decisions to saving, the ECF finds that 21% of the elderly live in households with dissaving (i.e. in households whose expenditure has outstripped their revenue in the past 12 months), a somewhat lower percentage than that for the Spanish population as a whole (28%). 

The over-65s are a very substantial group in our population; accordingly, greater knowledge of their relationship to financial markets is needed. The ECF data are a first step towards understanding our older generation’s financial decisions, as they enable the behaviour of this 65-79-year-old group to be compared with that of the rest of the population.

Source: Bover, O., L. Hospido and E. Villanueva (2018), Survey of Financial Competences (ECF) 2016: Main Results. Directorate General Economics, Statistics and Research. Banco de España

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