By J. DeVoy
A recent report published by U.S. Trust, Bank of America’s private wealth management wing, reveals the Baby Boomers’ disturbing and ahistorical views about leaving behind an inheritance for their survivors. From the report’s key findings section:
only about half (55 percent) of Baby Boomers think it is important to leave a financial inheritance to their children. Among those who don’t think it is important, one in three (31 percent) said they would rather leave money to charity than to their children.
In comparison, 73 percent of people 67+ said it is important to leave behind a financial inheritance for their heirs, and 76 percent of people aged 18 to 46 believed the same.
Baby boomers trailed individuals aged 67+ and 18-46 in explaining their motivation for leaving an inheritance as “to protect family wealth,” “to have influence on children after I am gone,” “family tradition,” “to express how I feel about children/heirs,” and “it is a moral obligation.” However, Boomers led the pack in explaining their motivation for leaving an inheritance as “a tax strategy.”
Rather than pass wealth down through the generations to help their children and grandchildren, almost a full third of Boomers indicated a preference to give everything away to charity. While 14% of people age 18-46 and 16% of those aged over 67 would not leave behind an inheritance on this basis, a full 31% of Boomers said they would. Yes, you read that correctly: Boomers would rather basically give their money to “Charity” – an undefined mass of hippies, effete slackers with useless advanced degrees, and inefficient intellectual property bullies – than their own flesh and blood.
In the past, extended and immediate families were more of an economic unit than one of emotions. Parents, children, siblings, cousins and uncles would work together to form a family business, or complementary businesses. Marriages were sealed with dowries and arranged in order to amass and protect fortunes and land. Now they’re basically a roulette table where the wealthier party places half of his or her assets on red. This decoupling of money and feelings has now reached inheritance, with Boomers leading the way in screwing over their progeny.
Ironically, the Boomers were born into near-tranquility and rode a wave of U.S. supremacy ignited by the destruction of Europe in WWII and sustained by the market distortions and trade embargoes of the Cold War. When that ended, they implemented policies such as NAFTA and gave nations such as China most-favored-nation status in trading, ensuring that a) goods were cheap to trade, and b) manufactured elsewhere.
While costs soared in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, and opportunities dwindled in the U.S. for another variety of reasons, young people patiently hung on for their parents to die so they would finally have some shot of accumulating wealth. Many held out hope for a hot cash transfer to finally kick off adulthood and a foothold on financial prosperity. It appears, however, that the boomers have screwed that up for young people too.
N.B. – The 642 respondents in the U.S. Trust research all had at least $3 million in investable assets, but a) that’s about 2 million people in America, so the sample size and population it drew from is statistically significant; and b) who cares about your attitudes toward inheritance if you don’t have anything to leave behind.