PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

Baby Boomer Shoppers Set New Spending Priorities

Baby Boomers Spend More on Essentials, Less on Nice-to-Haves

For older consumers, shopping is more about meeting basic needs than splurging on nonessential products to make them feel good.

For the April edition of the “New Reality Check: The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report” series, PYMNTS Intelligence surveyed more than 3,400 U.S. consumers in March about their financial lifestyles. The report revealed that baby boomers and seniors spend more of their personal income shopping for essentials than other generations but less of their personal income on nice-to-have retail purchases.

Specifically, the study found that consumers in this generation said they expected to spend 23% of their personal income on groceries and household essentials in the next month — a greater share than any other age bracket. Generation Z, for instance, only expected to spend 18% on these items.

Conversely, baby boomers and seniors said they only expected to spend 5.7% on clothing, accessories and personal care items — the smallest share of any generation. Gen Z said they expected to spend nearly twice that.

The study also found that baby boomers and seniors were the least likely to have already incurred expenses related to clothing and personal care in the previous year but the likeliest to incur car or other vehicle-related expenses.

Among consumers living paycheck to paycheck, baby boomers and seniors were the least likely of all to cite splurges as the reason for their financial instability. They were less than half as likely as Generation X, less than a third as likely as millennials and approximately a fifth as likely as Gen Z to list this as the top reason for their lack of financial safety net.

These older shoppers are the likeliest of all to own their home, the study found, so rent is not as much of a concern. Rather, their top financial priority is saving for retirement and/or repaying debt.

This age bracket represents a larger share of the population than any other, so bearing in mind their financial priorities is key for businesses looking to access their collective spending power.

These shoppers tend to want to stick with more traditional shopping and payment methods. Research from the PYMNTS Intelligence report “Tracking the Digital Payments Takeover: Monetizing Social Media” found that only 16% of shoppers in this generation looked for or bought goods or services via social media versus 43% of consumers overall.

Plus, the “Can New Use Cases Drive Consumer Use of Digital Wallets?” edition of the report found that only 1 in 4 baby boomers and seniors use digital wallets versus 49% of the population overall. These consumers are also the least likely to be at all interested in using additional digital wallet features.

The financial behaviors and priorities of baby boomers and seniors illustrate a unique focus on essential spending, driven by the need to manage their resources carefully as they approach or enjoy retirement. This generation’s conservative spending habits, prioritization of necessities, and preference for traditional shopping methods provide insights for businesses aiming to tap into their purchasing power.

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