Frugality: What’s age got to do with it?

I was shocked to see an item on The One Show the other night about scam artists deliberately targeting older people. This wasn’t some hi-tech internet scam but very much an old economy one. Somebody would receive a letter through the post (remember that?) telling them that they had won a prize, but to get their hands on the money they would have to pay an upfront fee. Now, savvy users of this blog will know to throw these letters into the shredder, but many elderly recipients take them at face value and have lost tens of thousands as a result.

I was taken aback. These scams were appalling – elderly and vulnerable people were deluged with up to 30 letters a day from con artists all over the world once they’d replied to the first letter, yet were almost addicted to responding and sending off the fees, believing that eventually some day they would win the money. But, if I’m honest with you, it wasn’t simply that fact that shocked me. I have no idea why, but it made me realise I have been labouring under the illusion that older people are more frugal and canny with their money than other generations. In reality I’m sure that this is a completely inaccurate and prejudiced view, but I suppose it’s because of the idea that many of our elderly relatives lived through the war years and learned to make do and mend.

My generation are the spendthrifts, or so I was told. Surely it’s us that have been corrupted by the availability of credit – as many credit cards as you like and endless marketing letters from banks suggesting we take out humungous loans to ‘treat ourselves’? Some of my friends took advantage of these loans and now owe thousands of pounds which they may never be able to pay back. Strangely enough, I haven’t received one of those letters for a while. It’s funny the difference a recession can make to your correspondence.

In contrast, my grandmother never threw anything away and could somehow make a roast chicken generate meals for six people for an entire week. My mother, her daughter, hates owing money to anybody and has inherited the frugal gene, too. It’s her I have to thank for my ingrained habits of filling the shampoo and washing up liquid bottles with water when they’ve finished but there’s still that annoying bit left at the bottom. Nature tells me I can’t be bothered and should just recycle them, but nurture insists I have to get that last bit of detergent out if it kills me.

But does age or experience in fact have anything to do with how frugal we are as individuals? Is it learned behaviour or instinct? While my grandmother was thrifty, my grandfather was not in the least. Even when he was in his eighties, he believed that the whole point of the existence of overdrafts was to have one and use it. Maybe you could try to argue, then, that frugality is a gender issue – that because women ran the home and had to manage the shopping budget they had a keener grasp of the household finances, but I think this would be wildly inaccurate too. I know plenty of women and men who are hopeless at managing their money and others of both sexes who are extremely capable.

Perhaps, then, it’s down to our own life experiences and the subsequent attitudes we form towards money. It’s possible that the experience of making do during the war years could have had the opposite effect on some people in the long term and made them crave luxury. They might have dreamt for years of a letter dropping through the door informing them that they’d won millions and thought that, at last, that moment had arrived, not realising that some evil scammer somewhere was simply trying to steal from them.

Do you think age has any bearing on how we manage our money? Are older people thriftier or do you think younger people are more aware of the best deals available on the internet, for example? Leave a message and let me know.

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8 Responses to Frugality: What’s age got to do with it?

  1. Clay says:

    The susceptibility of some older people to scams (legal and illegal) can sometimes be explained by loneliness and sometimes by incipient dementia. In general, though, I don\’t think thriftiness is linked to age – I think we learn values from our parents and apply them in our own way and in our own circumstances.

  2. Bill says:

    Hi there, piper!They should have made/broadcast that programme 50 years ago, & should still yet be "repeat" broadcasting, at least twice/week, simultaneously, on all channels. It would almost be worth the licence fee!The first 30 years after leaving home in \’65, I recieved only two Xmas cards, & a maximum two birthday cards each year,often late, due to so many changes of address, & 12 years under Section 5, Article 36, both facts being an "occupational hazard". I oft found several cards in one envelope, a great saving on postage!For 30 years, it was my only hope of post. My heat, light & water had always been inclusive in a fixed rent, at least 25 years thereof was deducted from my pay at source. No more than 5 years I had a private landlord visiting me every week, in person, to collect the all inclusive rent. Poll-tax had not yet been invented, therefore I was not on the Electoral Roll, & never had the Right to vote, just another "occupational hazard".Then, in \’95, I returned to Blighty, after at least 17 years in exile.The deluge of post began, not only \’phone bills, heat, light & water, all in ginormous measures. But also the council landlord, who never miss an opportunity to bury my doormat in a totally superfluous deluge. They all advertise/push direct debit, but then refuse to use it. Then we have the home office, with their own totally superfluous deluge.Of all the commercial scammers, the Reader\’s Digest are possibly the oldest, largest, & most persistent. They invest a small fortune in their illegal, unsolicited "mailshots" every week. This is illegal "doorstepping" at it\’s worst.The "computer generated" random winning numbers in every envelope, are identical for every recipient that week, or even month. On one occassion, I mistakenly recieved an envelope for a lady in a parralel street, almost 1 kilometer off. I opened the envelope by mistake, having read some of it, I then discovered my own. On opening it, I found the very same winning numbers!First I \’phoned the lady, to apologise, & organised a meet, at which I showed her my identical copy. She had been falling for the same scam, many times a week, for many years. When we attempted to \’phone the "firm" in question, we could not get past an extremely long winded, expensive "menu".Many of these "firms" appear to have head-offices in Belgium, Vienna, or Switzerland, rendering them "untouchable" in UK. Many appear to run their UK operatiions from a wharehouse, or at least a P.O. Box No. in Totham, Southhampton. They all have a return address (P.O. Box No.) in Southall, Uxbridge. Only £10, from 10,000 head/week, would yield them £5,000,000/annum gross, with no more than 10% expence.The Post Office should check these Box No. tenants far more closely, before allowing access to the service/system. Most of the scammers purchase our ID from the Post Office/Electoral Roll, completely "legal", @ no more than £0.15pence/head. If this is strictly legal, we need an urgent reform of the law.For so many years, many of us, due to "operating conditions", had the habit of directing our post, including our pay, to any vicarage, rectory, or even convent/monastery, of our own free choice, where we could collect our post, with adequate ID, at any reasonable hour. Extremely useful, when we could only collect our post/pay every two or three months, on occassions, some of our post was six months old, or even more, before we succeeded in collecting it.The courts are also selling the ID of defaulters, as also many other vulnerable "defendents", without their permission, or knowledge. Is it any wonder that some of us find the justice system so despicable?Those who are paid to uphold & defend our legal, civil, human & welfare Rights would appear to be the worst offenders.The "system" which is supposed to protect & defend us all, under Section 82, is being abused, at our expence, by the very personnel, in our pay, sworn not only to the Hippocratic Oath, but also, & equally to Section 5, Article 36 (securitie d\’la Poste).I would be in serious breach of the law, if I were to divulge the ID/address/\’phone no., to any "third-party", of any other third-party, without the express permission of the person/people involved. I would be in breach of Section 82, Section 5, Article 36, as also the Hippocratic Oath, as above!Another fantastic case of "double standards".

  3. Christine says:

    There wasn\’t anything to buy when the last war was on as there were shortages of everything. So it wasn\’t lack of money that taught people to make do and mend but necessity. Frugal was forced upon the nation. When "stuff" came back to buy I\’d say that the war generation wanted to buy things just the same as everyone else if they could earn enough money or save up for them. The only thing that I noticed with my parents was that they didn\’t use credit to buy things but used the saving up route. This is why they had money in the bank to pay for the funeral and to pass on to their children. If being careful with every day bills, switching off lights when not in use, making use of what you buy before replacing it and saving up to buy things is thrifty, then they were thrifty. Letters through the door telling you that you\’ve won some large prize for a draw you haven\’t entered will appeal to people of all ages with not a lot of money. Older people are more vulnerable to things that come through the door as they are used to letters as a way of communication and many of us still like to get letters. But I suspect that those who are more physically and mentally frail may well find it harder to work out that they can\’t have won a prize in a draw that they didn\’t enter.But remember that there have always been people who lived in hope of a big windfall as the way out of low income. Remember those who used to cash in the benefit cheque when bingo halls first came out and went down to spend the lot in the hopes of a big win but then had no money till the next cheque arrived? Seen plenty of that in my time. It\’s why people buy scratch cards and lottery tickets and enter raffles. If they just wanted to give to charity they would make a donation but buying a lottery or raffle ticket is living in hope that you get something for next to nothing.

  4. Rik says:

    As an extra to Bills\’ comments, somehow I don\’t see the post office (or royal mail or whatever they are now) taking too much care of who has a p.o. box as long as they get paid for it. As for selling on details, it\’s become a big business in it\’s own right, even the D.V.L.A. have done it and I\’m informed were in fact told to by the government to raise money! I\’m not sure if they still "officially" do it but would you bet against it? 😉

  5. piper says:

    It\’s a shame the Post Office deliver these items at all. Much better if they just gathered them all together and stuck them in a bonfire. And it\’s shameful about the DVLA selling our details. I remember years ago getting junk mail and contacting them to find out where they\’d got my details from. It turned out to be a photo company. I\’d had some photos developed and not noticed a tiny box I should have ticked on the envelope to prevent them from selling my details.

  6. Bill says:

    Hi again, piper!It has come back to me, as also from a recent 16 year old school leaver, that no school-child ever has, or ever will, recieved the necessary legal, or health education, to protect them from any such scam, either as a teenager, or later in life. We believe that such education should be compulsory for all. It would cost no more than a six hour day, only 0.5% of a years school-time, no more than 0.05% of the entire school life. It could even be repeated each of the final 5 school years.All civil service, including DVLA, HM court Service, Local Councils etc., & Post Office are strongly in breach of the law as they sell our ID to any Third Party, & should therefore be heavily rapped on the knuckles. Better yet, vote their "superiors" out, with no compo or pension!

  7. maji says:

    Teach Your Child the Value of SavingTeaching children the importance of saving money early on can provide them with a lesson in life that will become especially useful once they leave home. And since most schools do not teach young people about the importance of regular saving, the responsibility is often left with the parent.http://mgbfinance.blogspot.com/2009/06/teach-your-child-value-of-saving.html

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