Balancing the checkbook isn’t as easy as it used to be? You can’t remember where you put the keys? OhmyGOODness, you say, I must be getting old.
The bad news is, age happens. The good news is, it does not necessarily bring a concurrent loss in cognitive ability. Get a new calculator, maybe one with a bigger keypad. Accept the fact that you’ve been misplacing the keys, occasionally, since you started driving. And take heart in a new study from Duke University indicating that, all things considered, age is not a determining feature in the ability to make sound economic decisions.
Just because your mother has turned 85, you shouldn’t assume you’ll have to take over her financial matters. She may be just as good or better than you at making quick, sound, money-making decisions, according to researchers at Duke University.
“It’s not age, it’s cognition that makes the difference in decision-making,” said Scott Huettel, PhD, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Duke Center for Neuroeconomic Studies. He recently led a laboratory study in which participants could gain or lose money based on their decisions.
“Once we accounted for cognitive abilities like memory and processing speed, age had nothing to do with predicting whether an individual would make the best economic decisions on the tasks we assigned,” Huettel said.
Working with 54 older adults between 66 and 76 years old, and 58 younger adults between 18 and 35, the Duke researchers assigned a variety of economic tasks that required different types of risky decisions, so that participants could gain or lose real money.
On a bell curve of performance, there was overlap between the younger and older groups. Many of the older subjects (aged 66 to 76) made similar decisions to many of the younger subjects (aged 18 to 35). “The stereotype of all older adults becoming more risk-averse is simply wrong,” Huettel said.
Getting to the heart — and brain — of the issue, PositScience blogger Ted Baxa says “this finding will come as no surprise to many. Legendary investor Warren Buffett, 79, continues to outperform fund managers half his age. The message to take from this article is that age by itself, as the saying goes, is just a number.”
When you finish with the checkbook, in other words, you might want to get busy on your brain exercises.