Baby Boomers, who have already received $2.4-trillion in inheritances, are poised to inherit another $8.4-trillion from their parents and grandparents, according to a study authored by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College for the MetLife Mature Market Institute.
The median inheritance per person is $64,000.
The study indicates that the wealthiest Boomers will be given an average of $1.5 million, while those at the other end of the income spectrum will be left $27,000, an amount that represents a larger percentage of the latter group’s overall wealth.
Two-thirds of all Boomers stand to receive some inheritance over their lifetime.
Additionally, the study reports that Boomers has or will receive a substantial sum from their parents while the older generation is still alive, thereby increasing the total intergenerational transfer of assets from $8.4 trillion to an estimated $11.6 trillion.
Total household wealth for Americans of all ages amounted to $65.9 trillion in 2007, making the Boomers’ inheritance a significant portion of total American wealth.
Baby Boomers are defined as that generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964.
However, Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, cautions that “regardless of the anticipated amount, any prospective inheritance is uncertain. Parents or
grandparents who expect to leave a bequest may revise their plans based on fluctuations in their asset values. Wealth may be consumed by medical and long-term care costs, or simply by virtue of long life.”
Timmerman adds that Boomer households “should not count on an anticipated inheritance and forego the need for increased financial planning and retirement saving.”
Alicia H. Munnell, a co-author of the study and director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, noted that “policymakers should recognize that inheritances are not a silver bullet to achieve retirement security. They should be developing policies and programs to boost Americans’ savings and promote longer work lives.”
Munnell recommends that Boomers should seriously discussi estate planning.
The study also revealed that most Boomers will receive their inheritances in late middle age, upon the death of the surviving parent. To date, the overwhelming majority of inheritances are passed from parents to children (63 percent of inheritances and 74 percent of dollars); grandparents are the second most common source. Few Boomers now have living grandparents, but a majority have at least one living parent.
Although only 17 percent of Boomers had received an inheritance by 2007, two-thirds will eventually receive one. The incidence of receipt increases with income, but 50 percent or more of households at all income levels will eventually receive an inheritance.
Although high-wealth households receive much larger inheritances in dollar terms, these amounts represent a smaller share of their wealth – 22 percent for those in the top tenth compared to 64 percent for those in the second-to-bottom tenth.