Upscale retirees and empty-nesters in comfortable communities
Silver Sophisticates are a mix of older and retired couples and singles living in suburban comfort. All but a small percentage of households are empty nests. Members of Silver Sophisticates live in upscale neighborhoods located near big cities and are highly educated. Typically, there is at least one retiree in the household, but those who are still in the workforce have well-paying technical and professional service jobs. They can afford to buy older, stylish homes worth upwards of half a million dollars.
With the luxury of both time and money, these households pursue leisure-intensive lifestyles. They like to dine out, go to plays and concerts and shop for decorative antiques. They travel often, both on cruises and flights abroad to experience other cultures. These are fitness-minded households whose members typically belong to health clubs where they can be found swimming, using cardio machines and pedaling stationary bicycles. Relaxation at home typically involves a book or needlepoint, often with a TV or radio on at the same time.
Silver Sophisticates describe themselves as brand loyal in the marketplace. They like to buy clothes and housewares in high-end stores as well as through catalogs and the Internet. They’re the kind of discriminating shoppers who read the ingredients of over-the-counter medicine. Acknowledging their technological anxiety, they rarely buy most consumer electronics. They do, however, like to buy premium cars, typically new imported models. Self-described “smart greens,” they also look for products that are made or packaged using recycled materials.
This is a segment where traditional media still reigns supreme. Silver Sophisticates are into news; they are avid newspaper readers and tune in to radio newscasts. They subscribe to specialty magazines that cover cooking or cars. They have an above-average interest in TV and are particularly fond of news broadcasts, history programs, movies and political commentary. They strongly dislike most advertising, though they will respond to email ads and sponsored Websites that help in their shopping excursions. The Internet is now the first place they turn for practical activities like travel planning, researching stocks and doing medical research. Just don’t ask them to send a tweet, update their status or play a video game.
Unlike other older segments, Silver Sophisticates are relatively liberal in their views. They support environmental causes, equal rights for women and other progressive social issues. They also are active in the community and see themselves as members of the global village. They worry about international issues and volunteer for community groups dealing with the arts and veterans. They also donate to a variety of charities involved with health, social services, education, politics, the environment, the arts and public broadcasting.
Silver Sophisticates can afford to be philanthropic. These folks have amassed large nest eggs from diversified portfolios. They have high rates for owning retirement accounts like IRAs and Keoghs. They carry a number of credit cards, in part to take advantage of the rewards programs. After all, they never know when they might come across the perfect offer for a cool restaurant or a hot ticket to a Broadway show.
Silver Sophisticates are older, married couples and widowed and divorced individuals living in upscale suburbs. Half the household heads are over 65 years old, and a majority of households have at least one resident who’s retired. Given this older population, less than 5 percent still have a child living at home. Nearly a third is widowed and divorced singles. This is a predominantly white and highly-educated segment, where nearly 40 percent have a graduate degree; more than three-quarters has at least some college education. Those still working hold lucrative positions in white-collar and technical professions.
Silver Sophisticates tend to live in single-family homes in the older, sought-after suburbs of a number of large cities: places like Berkeley, Calif., Bethesda, Md., and Lexington, Mass. Their elegant homes, most built between 1950 and 1980, are valued at more than $475,000. About a quarter own or rent a vacation home or timeshare. Silver Sophisticates tend to have deep roots in the established neighborhoods where they live. Nearly three-quarters has lived at the same place for over a decade.
Silver Sophisticates enjoy laid-back lifestyles that include dining out often, visiting museums, going antique shopping and attending classical music concerts. Many are first-class travelers who like to take Caribbean cruises or fly off to a culturally rich city, especially those in Italy, France, Canada and Mexico. At home, their hobbies include reading, needlework and painting.
Many in Silver Sophisticates are fitness-minded and like swimming, walking and using the cardio and bicycle machines at a local health club. They still enjoy playing tennis and, occasionally, downhill skiing. However, they also enjoy bird watching.
In the marketplace, Silver Sophisticates don’t mind paying extra for high-quality goods and brands they’ve known for decades. Their upscale incomes support their fondness for decorating their homes with purchases from Williams-Sonoma and Crate and Barrel. They’re also fond of buying a wide variety of items through catalogs: from books and gifts to crafts and gardening items. They like to drive hybrid, imported and premium cars, whether the model is an SUV, CUV, sports car or sedan. Many describe themselves as “smart greens” and “tech shy” - interested in buying ecologically friendly merchandise while avoiding the latest consumer electronics. Still, they tend to own large-screen TVs with DVRs.
Silver Sophisticates make a strong market for traditional media. Many are newshounds who like to read a newspaper and listen to radio newscasts every day. They’re above-average viewers of primetime TV, preferring movies, political commentators and history programs; their favorite cable networks include CNBC, TCM and The Military Channel. In fact, they dislike a lot of the programming and advertising on TV and change the channel when commercials come on. One-third has negative views of ads - 50 percent above the national average. They like to go to movies but dislike the advertisements before the films. They’re only average fans of magazines, preferring titles that cover business, cars, cooking and science. But many note that they’re reading less and going online for news and commerce.
Almost equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, Silver Sophisticates have a liberal to moderate political outlook. They’re much more likely than average Americans to describe their views as “liberal,” and they're not religious conservatives. They pursue an ecological lifestyle, taking steps to limit their impact on the environment, like recycling and buying products that use green packaging.
Describing themselves as optimistic and practical people, they are happy with their standard of living and have little financial concern regarding the future. They also express openness toward others and a penchant for connecting with other cultures. As global citizens, they believe problems in distant countries can have an impact on their lives. They also have a deep feeling of belonging to their community and join veterans' groups, art associations and church and temple boards.
These aging Americans also are committed to health, and eat a balanced diet, take vitamins and exercise weekly. They’ll go online or query their doctors to find out more information about their medicines and illnesses. With their deep pockets, they’re willing to pay extra for medicine not covered by insurance. These shoppers give weight to the brand name of a product and have favorite brands - usually ones that bespeak quality and convey status.
With a mix of high salaries and income-producing assets, Silver Sophisticates report upscale incomes in the low six figures. These older couples and retirees own conservative investments like CDs, savings bonds, tax-sheltered annuities and money market funds. However, many are still adventurous in their financial style and own a lot of stocks and mutual funds. These varied assets provide them with a sizable nest egg held in IRA and Keogh accounts.
Silver Sophisticates proudly carry a number of credit cards - Visa, American Express and MasterCard are all well used - and they like to wrangle the most rewards they can get from them. Only a middling market for most insurance products, they do have umbrella, homeowners', health and life insurance. They tend to carry high-balance coverage with their life and auto insurance policies. They try to avoid going into debt and usually possess only home equity loans. This is no place for selling insurance products online; they prefer meeting with agents. Their charitable donations are directed primarily to the arts, the environment and social welfare concerns.
The members of Silver Sophisticates are reluctant Internet users and typically only acquire new technology after it has proven its worth. They go online for travel planning, downloading podcasts, researching stocks and conducting medical research, as well as above-average rates for shopping online. They’re even somewhat receptive to online advertising, such as email ads and sponsored Websites. While they have a strong tendency to connect to the internet at libraries and hotels, a small but growing percentage have begun to access the Internet through their cell phones.
Without kids at home, there’s little interest in downloading games, listening to Internet radio stations or visiting social networking sites. However, the high concentration of households still containing workers makes telecommuting popular among this segment, and they buy computer peripherals like webcams, scanners and microphones. In addition, they own a variety of software to manage their home office, including anti-virus protection, personal finance and database management programs. While the Internet may be changing the way they research and shop for products, it hasn’t become an important source for entertainment or socializing.