Ankle biters waiting for mom and dad to kick-the-bucket often gasp at the rate that state and federal governments in the U.S. will tax an inheritance. But their biggest worry should be whether they are even prepared to handle a small or large fortune, a new study of inheritance found.
One-third of people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years of receiving it, according to the study by economist Jay Zagorsky at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. “The vast majority of people blew through it quickly,” he said of findings in a study based on data from the Federal Reserve and a National Longitudinal Survey.
As millennials and Gen-Xers are poised to see a “wave of wealth” flow from the oldest generations in the coming decades, experts said benefactors should be prepared to smartly invest the money, pay down oppressive debts or shore up retirement savings accounts. Whether the inheritance is $50,000 or $500,000, it’s wise to step back and take stock of personal and family financial goals, Zagorsky said.
“Ask some big questions,” he said, according to a MarketWatch report published Thursday. “Sit down with your spouse and ask, what do we want to have happen with this?”
The inheritance can end up being smaller than most benefactors believe. Tax rates vary by state, but the federal estate tax rate can be as high as 40 percent, depending on the amount and the circumstances of the gift, according to a Forbes report.
The 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 57 percent of U.S. workers had less than $25,000 in savings and investments. This comes as a time when even $1 million in savings wouldn’t guarantee a couple’s comfortable retirement, according to MarketWatch.
Zagorsky and other experts said inheritance recipients should not make major financial decisions out of emotion or while they are grieving. First get a clear picture of your financial health, they advised. Tom Anderson, author of The Value of Debt in Retirement, said those without any emergency savings should set aside at least one month’s living expenses before using an inheritance to pay down debt.