“Imagine no possessions,” John Lennon once sang. When it comes to legacy transfer, baby boomers’ heirs might not have to imagine that scenario. According to a new study, a majority of boomers and their parents place higher importance on passing down family history rather than the financial aspects of inheritance.
Eighty-six percent of boomers and 74 percent of their elders ages 72 and up agree that family stories are a more important part of their legacy, ahead of personal possessions (64 percent of boomers, 58 percent for the eldest seniors), according to Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America’s 2012 American Legacies Pulse Study.
The 2008 economic collapse, subsequent recession and collapse of the housing market have shaken the retirement planning landscape. The 2012 study, which was earlier conducted in 2005, finds that boomers and their parents are focused on “the emotional elements of legacy transfer.”
Both studies reinforce boomer and elder attitudes that inheritance is not owed. Four percent of boomers said they felt they were owed an inheritance, the same percentage as in 2005. The percentage of elders who feel they owe their children an inheritance decreased to 14 percent from 22 percent seven years ago (which perhaps reflects a concern that they will need to dip into their savings for living expenses, Allianz said).
Indeed, a first quarter Millionaire Corner study of Millionaire households found that19 percent of the youngest boomers ages 45-54 attributed their wealth to inheritance, far behind other factors including hard work (96 percent), education (87 percent), and smart investing (74 percent).
The eldest seniors might do well to take a page from the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young songbook and teach their children well about legacy transfer. They are revealed generally better prepared when it comes to legacy planning, the Allianz study found. Three-quarters of elders have obtained professional assistance, such as a lawyer, financial professional, accountant or estate planner in planning their inheritance and 79 percent have had some type of in-depth discussion with their children about legacy planning.
Boomers, though, who perhaps have taken a page from the Grassroots songbook and are living for today, are lagging behind, with less than half obtaining professional legacy planning assistance and nearly 50 percent never initiating a conversation with their own children about inheritance issues. Furthermore, one-in-four boomers have not planned their inheritance compared to one-in-twenty elders.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.