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Kids, Don’t Expect a Big Inheritance: Affluent Boomers

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“Don’t hold your breath on an inheritance, kids. We worked hard for our money. We deserve to enjoy it.”

That’s the message from nearly half the 457 high-net-worth boomers ($3 million-plus in assets) recently surveyed by wealth management firm U.S. Trust. Leaving an inheritance, they said, is not in their top three priorities.

The survey found that three-quarters of respondents believe their wealth came from their own focus and hard work, while half said they paid a steep personal price—limiting time off, neglecting their families, mishandling relationships. Maybe that’s why, as they approach retirement, they’re planning to spend more on themselves, traveling (64 percent) and having fun (36 percent).

Boomers surveyed also had doubts about their kids’ readiness to handle the family riches:

  • Only 31 percent of parents agree strongly that their children can handle an inheritance.
  • Only 36 percent believe the kids can work together to make decisions about the family wealth after they’re gone.
  • Fifteen percent have disclosed zilch to the kids, detail-wise, about their wealth. When asked why, the reasons included fear the kids would become lazy (24 percent), would make poor decisions (20 percent) or would squander the money (20 percent).

Of course, this raises the question of how much all parents—not just the millionaires—are actually doing to educate their progeny in all matters money. (Have you had “the talk”?) For their part, nearly 85 percent of the survey respondents said, sure, the kids would benefit from discussions with a financial professional. But how many have introduced their kids to their adviser? Only about 4 in 10.

U.S. Trust president Keith Banks says he sees an opportunity for U.S. Trust to help clients address both the gap in planning and education (not to mention issues of disinterest and entitlement). One of the things the company now offers clients: Money 101 sessions for their adult kids, covering everything from basic finance to philanthropy and starting a business.

U.S. Trust, a private bank that’s been managing high-net-worth trusts and estates since 1853, has undergone several ownership transitions since 2000, including Charles Schwab and now Bank of America. Asked how the most recent merger has affected U.S. Trust clients, Banks notes that attrition rates are at historic lows .

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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.