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Over the next two decades, up to a staggering $68 trillion dollars will pass hands from the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946-1964) down to their now-adult children in Generation X (those born between 1965-1980) and the millennial generation (those born between 1981-1996). In other words, we have officially entered the largest wealth transfer period in history. But before we delve into the impacts this Great Wealth Transfer will have on the world’s economy as we know it, we first need to understand exactly how this phenomenon came to be in the first place.
In a post-World War II world, the baby boomers’ working and living experiences were that of great prosperity. Their parents had already made sacrifices during the war years to give them a better life and had paid all the taxes necessary to keep university tuition low, which meant as young adults entering the workforce for the first time, boomers could graduate with little to no debt. At the same time, housing was plentiful post-war, and strong labor protections meant even high school graduates could afford to buy their first homes on a minimum hourly rate salary. These homes then continued to appreciate in value over time, and decades of economic growth followed for the boomers. So much so that by 2020, records show that the baby boomer generation held approximately 57% of all wealth and assets in the U.S economy. In comparison, millennials held just 3% of the country’s entire wealth.
This clearly shows just how drastically the Great Wealth Transfer will impact millennials in the next 10-20 years if this younger generation suddenly goes from holding a mere 3% to approximately 60% of the world’s entire wealth in the near future. So, now that the $68 trillion is starting to change hands, what does this mean for everyone else?
Read on to learn three key ways to prepare yourself for the Great Wealth Transfer, and ultimately, how you can improve your financial position, whether you’re due to receive an inheritance in this historic wealth transfer or not.
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1. Family financial conversations are crucial now more than ever
Research shows that when it comes to generational wealth, the vast majority of it is often lost by the time the wealth reaches the third generation. Couple this with the alarming statistic from a 2018 study conducted by the TIAA institute — that only 11% of millennials displayed a “relatively high” level of financial literacy — and you can see how the transfer of trillions of dollars to this younger generation could quickly become problematic if the majority of beneficiaries have no clear financial plan in place. As a solution, the Australian bank NAB encourages a “Talk early and talk often” approach amongst families when it comes to generational wealth, insisting that clarity and common ground between all intergenerational family members is key to ensuring the long-term growth of inherited wealth.
Yet, when dealing with multiple assets across multiple generations, sometimes an open communication approach is easier said than done. For most families, the subject of death and the future division of wealth is an unpleasant and uncomfortable topic of discussion, which is why family financial planning is usually put off or ignored entirely. But despite the sensitive nature of the conversation, often the sheer size of the undertakings makes it all the more crucial to achieve.
In particularly delicate family circumstances, seeking a structured third-party mediation or a trusted financial advisor who can provide unbiased expert advice prior to the time of transfer may be the solution your family needs to ensure a solid financial plan that protects the interests of all involved. After all, a clear plan of wealth transfer within your extended family now will have a ripple effect that will also play a significant role in the protection of wealth for your family’s future generations to come.
In other words, the financial planning of inherited wealth prior to it being passed down should not be taken lightly — which leads us to our second key way to prepare for the Great Wealth Transfer.
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2. Financial awareness and a solid understanding of the investment opportunities available to you is paramount now, not later
For many of us, moving through the day-to-day motions of our life is enough to leave us exhausted. With hefty student loans to pay off, coupled with the rising cost of living and interest rates, thinking of ways to grow our personal wealth isn’t always at the top of our to-do list (or even on the list at all). But as it turns out, it should be.
Having awareness of your current financial situation and an educated long-term plan to improve your own net worth, regardless of your family’s situation, is key to preparing for the transfer. Whether you’re due to receive an inheritance or not, the transfer is about to cause a number of changes to the global economy, and staying up to date with current investment trends throughout the transition period is bound to benefit your wealth in the long run.
While experts say there’s little way of knowing for sure where large sums may end up once it’s in the hands of Gen-Xers and millennials, one thing they are confident about is that significant change to the economy is coming.
A 2018 study from Bankrate.com shows that millennials are already less willing to invest their money in the stock market when compared to previous generations. Financial technology company Broadridge suggests this is largely due to millennials being more risk-averse, having come of age whilst watching their parents financially struggle during the 2008 global financial crisis. Leaving a lasting impact on their psyche, they are more disinclined to take on risks when compared to their parents. Combine this with millennials’ record levels of student loan debt and high housing prices, and it’s clear their circumstances have left them with less margin for error when it comes to their investing habits and growing their wealth. This has led to many millennials not entering the investing space at all or looking at alternative investment solutions that better suit their lifestyle.
As Broadridge further reports, millennials are more socially conscious and are often willing to sacrifice returns for social benefits. They are also more open to a wider range of investment options, with millennials more likely than their parents to consider alternative investment funds, Fintech firms and unconventional providers like Alibaba and Google. As a result, such insights could be signaling a larger long-term shift of wealth out of traditional markets and into other new-age investment areas.
Ultimately, while the specific impacts at this stage remain relatively unknown, it’s important to acknowledge that the Great Wealth Transfer won’t just be about passing down money to adult children. It’s clear the transfer will redefine many aspects of the economy. So, what can you do today to stay ahead of the economic changes coming?
Regularly monitoring the various sectors of the financial market and making it a priority to educate yourself on all key investing options available to you — whether that be within real estate, stock options or more non-traditional tech ventures — will provide you with the advantages needed to ensure your wealth grows during this transfer period. This leads us to our third and final way to prepare for this historical economic event.
Related: With Surge In First-Time Millennial Investors, Financial Education Becomes Imperative
3. It’s time to think of ways you can incorporate the Great Wealth Transfer into your business plans today
Finally, for entrepreneurs seeking investment for their startup ventures, capital raising opportunities may soon become plentiful with millennials who do receive an inheritance and are open to alternative investment opportunities for their newly inherited wealth. In fact, most studies suggest a whopping 80% or more of heirs will look for a new financial advisor after inheriting their parents’ wealth.
This means that even if you don’t directly inherit, if you’re savvy enough with your business planning, chances are, you can still be on the receiving end of wealth transferred during this historical period after all. Because of this, now is the perfect time to think about new career opportunities, investment approaches or entrepreneurial ideas that line up with the interests of millennials. The first step is ensuring that the new brand or business idea you’ve dreamt of creating is hyper-relevant when it comes to marketing to a more socially conscious and digitally reliant generation than ever before.
If unsure of how to kickstart your brainstorming session of millennial-worthy business ideas, learning from entrepreneurs who are already changing the game is definitely a great place to start. The key takeaway here is that in the coming years, a lot of money will transfer hands. While not everyone will directly receive an inheritance, there’s no denying that the impact of the Great Wealth Transfer will be felt far and wide. The only question left to ask yourself is: How do you plan to grow your wealth?
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