Youthful Expenditure, Workplace Loyalty, Etc.

We know that young folks spend tons of money, but who’d have guessed they also save a good deal of it? New research by Harris Interactive finds Americans in the 8-21 age bracket saving $39 billion of the $211 billion coming their way this year. Of course, young consumers aren’t obsessive about saving, so their spending has risen this year vs. last even as their income has declined. As a Harris researcher dryly notes, the young are “willing to forgo savings in order to keep their spending levels consistent.” Kids 8-12 are spending this year at an annual per capita rate of $946; the figure is $3,309 for those in the 13-19 cohort and $7,389 for the 20-21s. Where do they get all this money? For the pre-teens, 87 percent comes from their parents. That figure drops to 37 percent for teens and to 7 percent for the 20-21s, who get the bulk of their income from paid work. Young folks do 15 percent of their spending online, with boys spending 1.7 times as much as girls via this channel.

Let us salute the heroes of American healthcare: the young adults (mainly male) who are insured but never go to the doctor. If they and their employers weren’t paying premiums for the medical service they don’t use, the whole system would collapse. One is reminded of this by a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the whole population, there were 314.4 doctor visits per 100 people in 2001. As you’d expect, the numbers are much higher for old folks: 624.9 visits in the 65-74 age bracket and 738.5 for the 75-and-olders. But they’re below average for people age 15-24 (168.7) and 24-44 (241.9). The real champions in doctor avoidance are men. There were 120.4 doctor visits per 100 males age 15-24, and 169.0 for the 25-44s. Among women, the figures were 217.5 for the 15-24s and 312.5 for the 25-44s.

Direct-to-consumer advertising is fine, but direct-to-the-consumer’s-wife advertising may be even better. In a study of the prescription-drug market, NFO Healthcare finds that nearly half of the patients surveyed took a “drug-related action”—starting to use a medication, switching to a new one, etc.—due to prodding by another person. Women (most often wives) are more likely than men to play this role. For patients not living with a spouse or partner, “daughters have the most influence on their healthcare decision-making.” Patients are more likely to seek a drug when an influencer initiates a discussion about their ills, so NFO suggests marketers would be wise to target these people in their ads.

University students are a lucrative market, but there’s always a prior claim on their funds: tuition. This year, marketers will find students have less discretionary money to toss around. An Associated Press article says four-year public colleges and universities in 49 states are imposing tuition hikes “that often hit the double digits.” These increases are especially dismaying to upperclasssmen who expected (however unwisely) that tuition would be flat throughout their college years.

Ready for Mozambique-chic? In a poll of travel agents by Travel + Leisure, respondents put Mozambique atop the list of “next great destinations in Africa and the Middle East,” trailed closely by Qatar and Rwanda. Croatia, Romania and Estonia led the roster of soon-to-be-hot European destinations. Myanmar, Indonesia (apart from Bali) and Laos paced the travel agents’ Asian list.

When consumers seek a healthy snack, some healthy attributes are more important than others. In a survey by Mintel, 24 percent of respondents picked “low fat” as the feature that matters most to them, putting it slightly ahead of “all natural” (21 percent). The only other trait scoring in double digits was “low cholesterol” (14 percent), though “vitamin and mineral fortified” was a near miss (9 percent). There were fewer adherents for “no additives or preservatives” (7 percent), “low sodium” (6 percent) and “added fiber” (5 percent).

Add this to the reasons why menopause isn’t fun: Doctors tend to “trivialize” their patients’ symptoms. That’s one finding of a survey fielded by J.D. Power and Associates for the National Consumers League. Among women age 45-59, 32 percent said doctors don’t take their symptoms seriously—and 43 percent of doctors agreed. Sixty-five percent of women said decisions on treatment are left up to them, although 76 percent wish it were a “collaborative effort” between doctor and patient. Elsewhere in the study, 17 percent of the women reported “severe” menopausal symptoms, while symptoms were “moderate” for 34 percent and “mild” for 49 percent.

Bound to their current jobs by a lack of alternatives, are workers seething with discontent? Actually, no. New research by Walker Information suggests Americans are more loyal to their employers than they were a couple of years ago, before the recession put the kibosh on job-hopping. As you can see by the chart, several key measures of employee loyalty have risen since 2001. At the same time, there has been a decline (from 37 percent to 31 percent) in the proportion of workers termed “trapped”—i.e., not very loyal to the company but still expecting to stay put for at least two more years. Even when not enamored of their employers, workers take pride in their own work: 81 percent “feel highly motivated to do good work”; 76 percent “do things at work above and beyond their normal job.” Women are more likely than men to express such positive opinions. For instance, 87 percent of women (vs. 75 percent of men) say they’re highly motivated; 71 percent of women (vs. 54 percent of men) say people at work “often ask how they are doing.”