It’s sunnier in Switzerland!

Posted on June 20, 2014 by Eleanor McKenzie
Man using a calculator

The Beatles singing “money can’t buy you love,” has become one of those well-used phrases that gets trotted out when people discuss the issue of finances and happiness. Well, it’s true that money can’t buy a sense of inner satisfaction, but as anyone without much spare cash will tell you, money goes a long way to making you at least feel secure. It also provides you with the means to follow your dreams, depending on whether your dreams and your finances match up.

The effects of financial insecurity

In out 50s, we’ve either established our financial security, or we’re concerned about how our later years are going to work out financially. According to a survey based on Understanding Society-the UK’s largest social survey-the relationship between healthy finances and good mental health can’t be over-emphasised enough, say experts in the fields of health and personal finance. Unfortunately, in recent years the over-50s have seen a sharp rise in both bankruptcy cases and debt. With the perception that there is less time to put things right again, the research findings come as little surprise.

But it isn’t all bad news

It is definitely not the case that the majority of over-50s are financially insecure. There are approximately 3.5 million in the 60+ age group sitting on £4 billion worth of property according to a report by think tank Demos. In addition to this, when it comes to financial satisfaction among the over-50s in different countries, the UK does pretty well. The results of the World Values Survey present levels of financial satisfaction among the over-50s in 56 countries on six continents.

Britain’s in the Top 10

Remarkable as it may seem to some of us, Britain’s over-50s responses to the research questionnaire put the country at fifth place on the financial satisfaction table. The International Longevity Centre in the UK in its analysis of the survey points out that the global average is 55% of over-50s are satisfied with their financial situation, but in the UK, 80% said they felt happy with their lot.

Who’s happier than us?

Switzerland is top of the league of financial happiness. Some 88% of Swiss over-50s are happy with their finances. They also have a lot of chocolate to keep them topped up with happiness hormones. Let’s face it, when it comes to finances, Switzerland isn’t a normal country anyway, so it’s not quite fair that it came top of the table. The only other countries happier than the Brits are Norway (85%), Sweden (84%) and Finland (83%). We can console ourselves with the thought that although they may be more financially secure than us, it’s cold and dark up there.

Who isn’t so happy?

I must admit I was surprised to see Australia with a satisfaction level of only 71% and Germany and France with only 61% and 65%. The USA doesn’t fare too well either, but then we know that there is a lot more financial hardship in America than the USA would care to admit.  At the bottom end of the table, the least satisfied people aged over 50 live in former Communist countries, with Georgia and Bulgaria coming right at the bottom. North African countries score higher satisfaction levels than Eastern Europe: Egypt and Morocco score 38% and 36% respectively.

And finally…the over-50s are generally happiest

Perhaps the most interesting statistics to come out of this research are the ones that show that the over 50s are happier than younger people. And that’s not just in the UK, that’s worldwide. On average only 52% of people worldwide aged 16 to 49 feel satisfied with their financial situation and, in the UK, only 66% of people in that age group feel happy with it, compared with the 80% of over-50s.

Are you happy with your financial situation? Are you one of the 80% who feels satisfied and able to look forward to the future with confidence?

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.