What financial wellbeing means to young vs. old people

Financial well-being – i.e. our feelings of security and control of our personal finances – is getting more and more attention in society. Even though it’s being more researched, there is still more to discover, for instance how it differs between age groups. But luckily a newly published study has been able to give us some more answers.

In the study the researchers conducted exploratory qualitative research to investigate perceived FWB and its components. They performed three studies each of which used in-depth semi-structured interviews.

The first key finding is that youth perceive FWB to contain three aspects: 1) keeping the current lifestyle and making ends meet; 2) achieving desired lifestyle and; 3) achieving financial freedom. Older people, in contrast, distinguish only two: keeping and achieving the lifestyle now and in the future. The second finding the researchers made was that the meaning of financial freedom differs between ages. Among young people, the aim is to become financially independent, middle-aged people are focused on supporting their children, and older people want to avoid becoming a financial burden. 

What unites the age groups however, is that many do not plan, save or invest for securing their financial well-being.1 

What does this mean?

In efforts to increase people’s FWB, companies and initiatives in the financial sector should first of all consider segmenting target groups based on age as they view financial wellbeing a bit differently. Secondly, these insights are valuable for how companies in the financial sector frame messages towards people, depending on where they are in their life cycle.

Even though FWB has gotten significantly increased interest in policy and research in the past years, studies like this one represents a much-needed addition to existing scientific literature on the topic. As this study shows, people – no matter the age – could improve their financial management and engage in more sound financial behaviors – like saving, investing and planning. This reminds us that FWB is a lifelong work, i.e. something that people need to maintain throughout their whole life.1 This conclusion becomes even more significant considering the fact that a growing body of research supports the notion that FWB has a key effect on overall subjective well-being.2

To help people feel more secure and less anxious around their money, science plays a crucial role in giving us the insights we need to create purposeful and impactful solutions that can increase people's FWB in their different life stages.


1 Riitsalu, L., Sulg, R., Lindal, H. et al. (2023)From Security to Freedom – The Meaning of Financial Well-being Changes with Age.J Fam Econ Iss. doi: 10.1007/s10834-023-09886-z

2 Schomburgk, L. & Hoffman, A. (2022). How mindfulness reduces BNPL usage and how that relates to overall well-being. European Journal of Marketing, 57(2), 325–359. doi: 10.1108/EJM-11-2021-0923