Market Losses Hit Older Americans Hard

December 17, 2002 ( - Seventy-seven percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 70 report that they have lost money in stocks over the past two years, with many expecting their retirement lifestyles will now be affected, according to a study conducted by AARP.

The losses, reported by one in four to have been more than 25% but less than 50% of the money in their retirement accounts, have 60% anticipating an impact on their expected retirement lifestyle.  

Those impacts include 43% that think they will be less comfortable in retirement than previously expected, 40% anticipating fewer vacations in retirement than expected, 35% who will not be able to do things they expected to do in retirement and 20% expecting difficulty paying for health care and prescription drugs in retirement.

Additionally, 67% report the losses have cut into their current lifestyles, with many reporting a change in the current spending.   Among those changes:

  • 59% – budgeting money more carefully
  • 34% – taking fewer vacations
  • 30% – postponing major purchases

Returning to Work

Another impact due to stock market losses is the postponement of retirement altogether, with 21% saying their stock market losses have made them postpone retirement and 10% say they have returned to, or are still looking for, work.   

Of the individuals who have already postponed retirement, 72% had at one time expected to retire before the age of 65. As a result of their stock market losses, only 31% now expect to retire before the age of 65 and about 22% now expects to retire after the age of 69.

However, 38% of those reporting losses are current retirees.   Of those, 33% have returned to the workforce due to the losses and 28% are still working.

Conducted by International Communications Research (ICR), the national survey conducted the telephone survey polled 1,013 individuals between the ages of 50 and 70 who indicated owning stocks.