How Does Household Expenditure Change With Age for Older Americans?

20 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2014  

Sudipto Banerjee

Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

Date Written: September 2014

Abstract

Retirement saving involves a lot of unknowns, the most important being not knowing how much money will be needed in retirement. Although it is impossible to predict the retirement expenses of any particular household, the average amounts spent by current retirees can serve as important benchmarks for individual savers as well as for industry experts and policymakers. This paper examines the expenditure pattern of the older segment of the U.S. population. The majority of the households studied here have either reached retirement age or are on the cusp of retirement. The data come from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the Consumption and Activities Mail Survey (CAMS), which is a supplement of the HRS. CAMS contains detailed spending information on 26 nondurable and six durable categories, and it follows the same group of people over time. Using this information coupled with the income information available in the HRS, this study summarizes the consumption behavior of the American elderly. The primary goal is to examine how overall spending and spending in different categories change with age. Home and home-related expenses is the largest spending category for every age group. Health expenses increase steadily with age. In 2011, households with at least one member between ages 50 and 64 spent 8 percent of their total budget on health items, compared with 19 percent for those age 85 or over. Health-related expenses occupy the second-largest share of total expenditure for those ages 75 or older. The two components of household expenditures that show a declining pattern across age groups are transportation expenses and entertainment expenses. Food and clothing expenses (as a share of total expenditure) remain more or less flat across the different age groups. There is a large increase in spending at the 95th percentile for those ages 90 or older, which can be attributed to very high health care expenses.

The PDF for the above title, published in the September 2014 issue of EBRI Notes, also contains the fulltext of another September 2014 EBRI Notes article abstracted on SSRN: “2014 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey: Most Workers Continue to be Satisfied With Their Own Health Plan, but Growing Number Give Low Ratings to Health Care System.”

Keywords: Aged, Consumption, Health care costs, Household expenditure, Household income, Retirement, Spending

JEL Classification: D12, D31, E21, J14, J26

Suggested Citation

Banerjee, Sudipto, How Does Household Expenditure Change With Age for Older Americans? (September 2014). EBRI Notes, Vol. 35, No. 9 (September 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2498185

Sudipto Banerjee (Contact Author)

Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) ( email )

1100 13th Street, NW
Suite 878
Washington, DC 20005-4204
United States
202-775-6306 (Phone)
202-775-6312 (Fax)

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