Millennials Will Benefit From $15 Trillion Wealth Transfer and Most Don't Know It


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The majority of wealthy Americans claim to be self-made, but the next generation will gain significant riches from inheritance as some $15 trillion in assets pass down family trees over the next 20 years. And the heirs may have little idea now regarding their future riches: Fewer than four in 10 (38%) of wealthy parents with children over the age of 25 have fully disclosed their substantial financial resources to their children, according to a U.S. Trust survey of high-net-worth individuals with $3 million or more in investable assets.

Financial advisors looking to help direct these assets may be in for a surprise. Most Millennial heirs (81%) either currently own or are interested in obtaining tangible assets such as land, real estate and timber.

But as anyone who has watched "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" knows, wealth does not preclude family drama – and women are making significant contributions to household wealth. According to the U.S. Trust research, more than half (52%) of women came into their marriage or relationship with financial assets equal to or greater than their spouse or partner, and one-third (33%) of women are now the primary income earner or contribute equally to household wealth.

And as for the emotional cliffhangers: Nearly half (46%) of the wealthy families surveyed reported experiencing a family disruption of one sort or the other, either through divorce, loss of a spouse or partner, or by remarriage and blending of families.

Fully six in 10 (59%) of high-net-worth families provide "substantial financial support" for adult relations struggling with adversity. The top five financial setbacks include divorce, addictions, untimely death or disability of a primary income earner, medical crises and squabbles over inheritance or distribution of family assets. However, only 3% of wealthy households have a financial plan in place for such contingencies.

In spite of their riches, just 40% of high-net-worth investors, especially men, reported feeling optimistic about the stock market -- the rest described themselves as fearful of losing money (12%), pessimistic (10%), opportunistic in down markets (12%), unsure but remaining hopeful (9%) and unsure which way the market is headed but following the herd (6%).

But that herd might have passed them by: One quarter of high-net-worth households say they missed out on the bull market rally. It's likely their defensive portfolio positions are at least one reason why -- fully one-in-five wealthy investors still hold more than 25% of their portfolio in cash.

— By Hal M. Bundrick

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