Older, middle-class and empty-nesting couples and singles in city neighborhoods
A quietly aging segment, Settled and Sensible consist of empty-nesting couples and singles close to retirement. Many live in older neighborhoods in Northeastern and Midwestern cities that thrived during the heyday of industrial manufacturing. Today the residents - and their modest homes - are getting on in years: a third of household heads are over 65 years old and retired. The remaining members, most with high-school educations, earn decent wages from jobs in retail, manufacturing and the trades. The money goes far in these communities, where many homeowners have already paid down their mortgages. Half the households have lived at the same house for more than two decades.
Settled and Sensible lead unassuming, home-based lifestyles. They like to spend their free time watching TV, reading books and newspapers, and managing their extensive collections of coins, figurines and other collectibles. Their idea of a date is going bowling, hitting a casino or taking in a dance at the union hall or veterans’ club. To escape from their sometimes dreary neighborhoods, they like to get away by train, RV or camper for a fishing trip.
Settled and Sensible are conservative consumers, loyal to favorite brands and comfortable styles and value-conscious as they seek out low-price stores like Kmart, Walmart and Dollar General. They’re fond of buying outdoor gear but skittish about consumer electronics, still sticking with small TV sets and desktop computers. When they need a car, they generally buy one of the older nameplates from Detroit’s glory years: Buick, Plymouth and Oldsmobile. That’s typical for this segment of consumers, who are sometimes uncomfortable with modern life’s complexities.
Politically, Settled and Sensible are middle-of-the-roaders, conservative on social issues and liberal on economic ones. They tend to vote Democratic, though they don’t always agree with their representatives’ view on issues. They’re far along in building their retirement nest egg, but they’re still concerned about going into debt. With many having been proud members of unions, military units or bowling leagues, Settled and Sensible still tend to be team players who want only peaceful, hassle-free lives for themselves and their friends.
To preserve their mellow lifestyles, Settled and Sensible turn to old-fashioned media. They still get a daily newspaper and read most of the pages every day. When they turn on the radio in their family room, they like to listen to country, golden oldies or rock. However, they mostly look to their TV sets for entertainment and catch the morning game shows and afternoon soaps. Weekends are for TV sports. Despite describing themselves as TV addicts, they admit that the commercials have to be entertaining for them to take notice.
Settled and Sensible consist of middle-class couples and single who have retired or are getting close to it. More than a third of household heads are over 65 years old; three-quarters are over 50 years old. Most have begun to empty nests; households typically contain married couples or widowed individuals, and ten percent include an aged parent - a rate double the national average. These adults are predominantly white with high-school educations, though more than a third went on to college. Their seniority has its benefits in the workplace: most earn mid-scale wages from skilled jobs in manufacturing, retail, public administration and the trades.
Settled and Sensible are found in mid-sized cities traditionally dependent on manufacturing and industry. Concentrated in the Rust Belt of the Northeast and Midwest - in places like Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., as well as Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. - they tend to own modest homes in older neighborhoods. Nearly half the housing stock was built before 1950, and the aging structures help explain their below-average value of $92,000. Still, with half the households having lived at the same address for over twenty years, many are close to paying off their mortgages.
Settled and Sensible have low-key lifestyles. They spend most of their leisure time at home, reading books, watching TV, listening to music and gardening. Many enjoy woodworking, needlework and playing card games. They are also into collectibles in a big way, managing collections of coins, porcelain figurines, miniature cars - you name it.
These households regularly go out on the town, but they prefer meeting friends and family at family-style restaurants including Friendly’s, Lone Star Steakhouse and Bob Evans. For an occasional splurge, they’ll head to a casino, dance performance or state fair. They’ve lost a lot of their passion for travel, though they do like an occasional trip by train or RV. Many are health- conscious, but they’re no longer engaged in strenuous athletic activities. They enjoy bowling, walking and pedaling a stationary bike; these outdoorsy individuals also like to camp, fish and hunt.
Settled and Sensible patronize a remarkably wide range of stores - everything from discounters like Kmart and Family Dollar to women’s chains like Fashion Bug and Dress Barn to specialty retailers such as Toys R Us and Sports Authority. They’re twice as likely to use mail-order catalogs as average Americans. With admittedly conservative tastes in clothes, they stick to their favorite brands, which are comfortable and durable. They no longer care about appealing to the opposite sex and maintain that they dress only to please themselves. Price-sensitive, they often clip coupons and admit that they’re swayed by discounts.
When it comes to technology, they’d never be mistaken for early adopters. Computers still confuse them. They’re still buying smaller TVs that typically cost less than $500 and their car tastes are just as retro. Although they would like to drive a new luxury vehicle, they typically settle for a mid-range sedan or used economy subcompact. Their favorite nameplates haven’t changed much over the years: Plymouth, Mercury, Pontiac and Buick.
Sunset City Blues are selective in their media tastes. Although they don’t really subscribe to magazines, they read daily newspapers from cover to cover, particularly enjoying the news, food and home sections. Their radio usage is a bit below average; they tune in to stations that play golden oldies, traditional country and classic rock. They’re among the top TV audiences, particularly daytime fare such as game shows, soap operas and how-to programs. These viewers like weekend sports, including car racing, major league baseball, and professional and college football. Although they go online for a variety of activities - news, gaming and social networking - they have relatively low use of the Internet and when it comes to online ads, they mostly ignore them altogether.
Settled and Sensible are proud, patriotic Americans with a centrist political streak. They buy American products and drive Detroit-made cars. Although they’re more likely to describe themselves as conservatives than liberals, they’re twice as likely to be registered Democrats. Therefore, it’s no surprise they’re the kind of Democrats who support conservative social values.
Much of their concern is focused on having good health and enough money to enjoy their lifestyles. They like spending time with their family and want to provide their children with luxuries they never had. They take vitamins, get regular check-ups and often take preventive medicine. At work, they have no illusions about the value of their careers and say that they’re doing their job just for the money. Even though they’re happy with their standard of living, they admit that they’re more pragmatists than optimists and try not to worry about the future.
Settled and Sensible tend to be team players who belong to unions and veterans’ clubs. Although they came of age when materialism was an almost universal preoccupation, they’re not particularly interested in pursuing new or novel goods. They’re not interesting in looking younger. They have no interest in wanting to stand out in a crowd. These older Americans believe that it’s more important to do your duty than to enjoy life. They feel that there’s little they can do to change their lives.
Settled and Sensible make a conservative but active financial market. Though some households are still in the workforce and earn about $50,000, most get by on a mix of pensions, savings and investments. Their 401(k)s are filled with company stock and low-risk savings bonds, CDs and tax-sheltered annuities, although their total balance for securities is often under $100,000. They represent a healthy credit market, carrying a number of platinum credit cards and paying off their balances each month. They’re also a receptive audience for a variety of health and life insurance products, appreciating the protection they provide, though typically carrying relatively low coverage levels. With the built-up equity of their homes, they tend to be frequent borrowers of money for home improvement, cars and personal use.
Settled and Sensible are comfortable using the Internet for a variety of activities. Joining chat forums, playing games and lotteries and following wrestling and motorsports are all popular in this segment. They’re also fans of news, information, health and social networking sites; among their favorites are nascar.com, healthcaresource.com, datehookup.com and pogo.com. Although they use high-speed cable and DSL as much as the average to access the Internet, they’re still confused by more advanced technology such as wireless and cell phone connections. When it comes to shopping, they still prefer brick-and-mortar stores or mail-order catalogs.