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Reaching old age once meant slowing down and playing safe. But today’s “silver generation” is prepared to take on much greater risk in its investments than younger age groups, Financial Times research has found.

Flouting the conventional wisdom that investors should move into low-risk assets as they grow older, 27 per cent of over-60s who responded to an FT online survey said they were willing to put more than half of their portfolio into equities, compared with 13 per cent of 25 to 40-year-olds.


Proportion of over-60s ready to weight portfolios towards stocks

The image of the cautious older investor was among several “grey” stereotypes to be challenged by the answers 4,200 FT readers gave to a survey on their attitudes towards ageing and retirement.

The research caps an in-depth series on the Silver Economy, which spelt out the changes being wrought on industries as they respond to a generation that is wealthier, living longer and more active than their parents. From seat belts that detect an oncoming heart attack and homes for downsizing baby boomers to erotic products aimed at sexually active septuagenarians, new products are being invented that seek to tap the potential and wallets of older consumers.


Number of people expected to take up a second career after retiring

The structure of the workforce will come under pressure as the population ages, with people looking to work much longer into retirement. More than half of the survey respondents – 54 per cent – expected to take up a second career after retiring, with same proportion expecting to work beyond 70.

This will be a big shift from current practice: in the UK, 90 per cent of over-65s are economically inactive, according to data from the 2011 Census.

Commenting on the results, Ros Altmann, the UK government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, said: “For too long the social norm has been about early retirement rather than seeing how much work people are capable of doing as they grow older. Retirement should be a process, not something that happens in one day.”

While some companies are innovating to capture more of the “grey pound”, many are missing the target by a wide margin. In separate research for the FT by Silversurfers website, 82 per cent of retirees said they felt businesses and brands did not understand their lifestyle and 69 per cent thought advertising aimed at the elderly was patronising.

Ms Altmann said the opportunity to market to older consumers was like “buried treasure” for astute companies. “There’s a whole new phase of life up for grabs which nobody’s catered for. The over-60s are looking to spend their money and they don’t want to be sold products that would suit their grandparents.”

Sports gear manufacturers will find fertile ground among the retirement generation, the survey suggests. Of the near two-thirds of respondents who said they were taking steps to reduce the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s, 60 per cent said they were doing so by exercising more.

But brewers and wine merchants have less to fear from the drive to better health. Only 9 per cent of those said they would reduce their alcohol intake as a way of staving off a decline in faculties.

While the over-65s have more money than past generations, their offspring should not necessarily expect it to outlast them: 22 per cent of survey respondents said they would leave nothing to their children.

Results of Silver Economy global survey

Chart: 'Do you think there is age discrimination? (% of respondents)
Chart: Do you expect to be working - or are you working - beyond the age of 70 (% of respondents)
Chart on results of survey: Are you taking steps to reduce dementia or Alzheimer's?
Chart on results of survey: Steps taken to reduce dementia or Alzheimer's
Chart on results of survey: Do you expect to take up a second career after retirement?
Chart: How much do you expect your income to go down in retirement?
Chart on results of survey: How much do you intend to leave to your children?


Letter in response to this article:

Lucky old codgers living off assets can tolerate more beta / From Paul Bloustein

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