In the next 30 to 35 years, the baby boomer generation is expected to pass away and bequeath roughly $59 trillion in wealth to their millennial children. The unprecedented event is often referred to as “the great wealth transfer.” But will that money actually get passed to their children? Perhaps. Many experts, however, say that millennials shouldn’t bank on it. This is why:
A giant inheritance is unlikely
Research has shown that the average millennial expects to inherit over $1 million. The fact is, however, that unless your family is incredibly wealthy, your inheritance isn’t going to be anywhere near that much. A study conducted by the Federal Reserve in 2013 showed that the average inheritance for the wealthiest five percent of U.S. households was $1.1 million. The bottom 50 percent received just $68,000. Today, those numbers aren’t much different. In addition, any anticipated inheritance could be reduced by funeral expenses, paying off the deceased’s debt, legal fees, estate taxes, and more.
Retirees are holding on to more of their wealth
According to CNBC, there are a few reasons you shouldn’t expect a huge windfall when your parents pass:
- People are living much longer than ever before — that means your parents may not pass away until they’re well into their 80s or even later. Part of a longer life span means they’ll have more time to spend their money and not have as much left over as generations in the past might have.
- Many baby boomers have a “you only live once” attitude and dip into their retirement savings to fund things like vacations, passion projects, and other experiences.
- Boomers are more likely than previous generations to invest their money in entrepreneurial pursuits, meaning they may or may not have the expendable income to pass on.
- Baby boomers spend nearly $400 billion annually on consumer goods — more than any other age group — in addition to $120 billion on leisure travel. All of these expenditures cut into any inheritance they may be able to leave behind.
- Many boomers spend money on their children and grandchildren NOW, rather than saving it for later. For instance, 51% of recent college graduates received help from their parents with either putting a down payment on a house or paying off student debt.
- Lastly, many boomers feel that leaving large sums of money to their heirs sets a bad precedent. Warren Buffet, for example, has said that he would leave his kids “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing,” which might amount to a few hundred thousand dollars.
Ask your parents about their plans
We know, talking about money can be uncomfortable. But if you’re planning on an inheritance to help fund your future, it might be helpful if you know what to expect. One option? Tactfully bring up the subject with your parents. Acknowledge that the conversation might be awkward, but that you are trying to responsibly plan for your future. You might be surprised by what your family has in mind. You may find that your parents plan to spend their money in retirement and leave nothing to you and your siblings. Or you may find that they’ve been scrimping and saving their entire lives so they could leave you a nice chunk of cash. Usually, it’s somewhere in the middle.
Take charge of your financial future
Many people today find themselves drowning in student debt, child-rearing expenses, and other financial obligations. Sometimes they have to work two or more jobs to make ends meet. They look forward to the day when a giant windfall of cash in the form of inheritance will rescue them and allow them to live comfortably. Bottom line? Don’t expect an inheritance to magically solve all of your financial problems. A monetary gift can make a big difference in allowing you to pay off some bills or save some extra money, but it’s not going to be a life-changing sum.