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  • Donald P McKenna

Does our perception of money change as we age?


Does our perception of money change as we age? It’s an interesting question. I’m not sure how many people would actually have thought about it. And if you have, what conclusion have you reached?

As a financial adviser, it’s something I am very conscious of. Age really does have an impact on our perception of and indeed how we use money. I do see this on a regular basis in interactions with clients and the type of products and advice they are seeking from me.

In many cases, foresight would be beneficial in understanding common shifts in attitude to money as you grow older. Life can be broken down into various stages, here’s an idea of what to expect at each stage.


Once children start understanding the concept of money, it tends to be the wished for gift. Whether in cash form or the slightly less appealing gift voucher, all monetary gifts are greatly appreciated. It’s a great time to start encouraging a savings habit. From selecting their own gifts to purchases of make-up and gadgets, cash is a valued commodity to facilitate this stage of life.


Around 17 – 19 years of age, socialising is the focus for spending. Eating out and trips with friends are priorities and the future is a long time away. Many in this age group have started earning a little of their own money. With debit cards used widely, cash is often not seen so it becomes a little immaterial.

THE 20s

At this stage, a little more value is often placed on money. This is the age when many start their first “real” jobs and start focussing on their career path. It can be a time when people get into debt. A regular salary allows for a credit card and possible overspending. Previous peers can be at very different stages and there can at times be a pressure to spend what you don’t have.


Perceptions of money start becoming much more serious towards the late 20s and into the 30s. Circumstances are changing and maturity has set in. Home purchase, marriage, first babies feature. There is a greater awareness of the value of money and an interest in making finances work to provide for a lifestyle. It’s a time when people often start earning more but also start running up larger debts.


Peak earning capacity is often reach in the late 30s and 40s and people tend to be more settled. Financial mistakes have been made and there is an interest in finances and future planning. Homes have been bought and children are in school, some in college. While you may not be debt free, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Health and retirement are starting to become the themes.


From 40 into 50, used to be the time when debts were starting to lesson. But with home purchase and starting families all happening later in life, there often isn’t any improvement in finances until well into the 50s. This can mean pension planning is put on the long finger. For others, this is a time that they hit a different level of success and need careful wealth management. There’s also the question of legacy.


Many people continue to work, even part-time long past the traditional retirement age. It can be extremely positive for mental and physical health. Financial worries are often now about healthcare costs. Children and grandchildren are top of mind when there is disposable income. Finances focus on providing for lifestyle and holidays when working less.


Age very much affects your perception of money. It also hugely dictates the life stage you are at and the type of financial product you may need at any point in your life. I’ll look at the different life stages and which financial products can support you at them in another blog.

In the meantime, if you need to talk to us about your financial planning and advice please just get in touch.

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