Behind Closed Doors: Older Couples and the Management of Household Money
Economic and Social Research Council
Feb 2008 to Aug 2010
Principle Investigator: Debora Price
Research Associates: Dr. Dinah Bisdee, Tom Daly, Dr. Lynne Livsey
View the Project Website: For Richer For Poorer
About the Research
How do older couples view, manage and negotiate about money? Knowing this is important for our understanding of social life in a number of spheres including how the lifecourse and the ageing process influence well being in later life, how household resources are shared and managed by older couples, how and why financial resources flow between generations, and the impact of government policies on social security, savings, debt and pensions policies on individuals within older households.
There is a large body of research concerning how couples of working age manage their money, but virtually no investigation of these issues for older people. Lifecourse transitions such as retirement, bereavement and re-partnering, ill-health and pension receipt are all potential triggers for changes in financial management and access to resources. Since cultural and social factors influence the uses, meanings and ownership of money, variation in arrangements for money management are also likely to be embedded in local and ethnic cultures, in different social class structures, and amongst different age groups, each with different financial status, monetary ideologies and partnering and inter-generational norms.
Greater knowledge about these issues for older people would lead to better understanding of peoples' experience over a lifetime and of household dynamics, as well as better social policy for older people. Policy concerns arise in the areas of consumption and debt, the use of financial services, financial education, mechanisms for the payment of benefits and the causes of poverty in later life. Much government policy in many of these spheres specifically or implicitly excludes older people or does not take their experience into account.
This research has three aims:
(i) to provide a detailed statistical analysis of the financial resources of older couples, with particular emphasis on inequalities within and between couples;
(ii) to investigate cultural, social and lifecourse influences on how older couples manage their money, and the implications for autonomy and well-being in later life;
(iii) to illuminate the policy implications of findings in the fields of pensions, benefits, savings, debt and financial services.
These aims have been met through statistical analysis of financial inequality in later life using the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA); through qualitative research in the form of focus groups and in-depth interviews; and analysis of the genesis, context, content and language and implications of relevant government policies.
For full details of the project, including publications and presentations, visit the project website: For Richer For Poorer