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Opinion: Don't Underestimate the Market Power of 50-Plus Consumers

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People over age 50 are responsible for more than half the consumer spending in the United States

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Marketers planning their next campaign should turn their attention to the enduring strength of consumers age 50 and older, who have maintained their financial stability throughout the pandemic. While many consumers have reported very negative and extreme impacts on their financial well-being, a relatively small segment of this demographic has reported this degree of hardship.

Since the onset of the pandemic, household finances across all ages have been propped up by relief benefits and unemployment assistance, but consumers 50 and older continue to maintain their relative position of financial strength. Only 7% reported that their income has declined “a lot” since the start of the pandemic and just 1 in 10 are receiving financial assistance from family and friends. (AARP Media Solutions COVID-19 Tracking Study, January 2021).

As these findings confirm, this age group's influence over consumer markets remains important to businesses and to the health of the overall U.S. economy. Here are seven compelling facts about this resilient demographic:

They have strong earnings

Compared to full-time workers age 18 to 49, who earn a median of $55K a year, workers 50 and older earn $65K. Greater earnings and less debt provide an opportunity for investing, which explains why this demographic owns 62% of all investment portfolio value and has an average net worth that is 52% higher than that of adults age 18 to 49. (MRI-Simmons Spring 2020, Fall 2020)

They spend more

The average head of household age is now 51.6 years old. Compared to roughly 61 million households headed by individuals ages 18 to 49, consumers 50 and over lead 71 million households. They account for 53% of all consumer expenditures, including more than 70% of spending on prescription drugs and medical supplies, 61% of spending on household supplies and 51% of food. (U.S. Consumer Expenditures Survey)

They love tech

A love for tech gadgets or smartphones isn’t limited by age: 98% of adults 50 and older own a cellphone, and among them, 91% own a smartphone (Source: MRI-Simmons Fall 2020). They are also responsible for more than half of all spending on audio-visual equipment, small and large appliances and entertainment. (U.S. Consumer Expenditures Survey)

They spend more on vehicles

Consumers age 50 and older make up more than half of total expenditures (56%) on new vehicles. Their spending outpaces that of other demographics in a variety of other auto-related categories, including auto insurance and vehicle repairs. (U.S. Consumer Expenditures Survey)

They’re avid content consumers

This demographic can’t get enough media, regardless of the channel: 95% watch TV, 90% are online, 81% read magazines, and 76% listen to the radio. (MRI-Simmons Fall 2020)

They shop online

Even before stay-at-home orders and self-quarantining, they were active online shoppers. Among the online 50-plus population, 75% went online to do research and make purchases. This group accounted for 41% of all e-commerce spending, and since the pandemic began, their online shopping has been on the rise. (MRI-Simmons Spring 2020, Fall 2020)

They’re connected

Think you can’t target over-50 audiences on social media? Think again. Among those who are online, 74% use social media and 73% use instant messaging. (MRI-Simmons Fall 2020)

The bottom line: These powerful facts are a wake-up call for marketers planning their next campaign. Even during COVID-19, 50-plus households remain engaged, active and financially strong consumers. It’s clear that they mean business.

This article originally appeared in AdAge.