From usnews.com, January 4th, 2016
By Kate Stalter
Baby boomers are expected to pass along $30 trillion in assets during the next 30 years.
At some point, many people begin considering how their assets, including investment portfolios, can be passed along to their children or grandchildren.
Often, part of that wealth transfer occurs while all parties are still alive, avoiding the old-fashioned movie scene of surviving family members gathered for the reading of the will.
According to 2012 research from consulting firm Accenture, the great wealth transfer from the so-called “greatest generation” to the baby boomers is ongoing. Accenture values this shift at $12 trillion, but says an even larger wealth transfer of $30 trillion will take place over the next 30 years, as boomers leave money to their children.
While many people would like to pass along assets to their families sooner rather than later, longer life expectancies could — and should, in many cases — put a damper on those plans. Accenture found that baby boomers turning 65 can expect to live, on average, another 18 years. In addition, boomers tend to be healthier and more socially active in retirement than their parents were.
That means parents and children may have to shift their views about inheritances. It’s one thing to expect an inheritance, but if parents live to a ripe old age, they may spend it down, leaving little or nothing for their family.
On the flip side, nobody wants to give their grown children a sizable amount of money and be around to see the kids blow it.
Pass it along. Financial advisors say it’s crucial to pass along financial knowledge with the money. The millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000, gets a bad rap for lacking knowledge about finance and economics. However, they’re more informed than baby boomers give them credit for, says John Michel, chief executive officer of CircleBlack, a financial technology firm in Princeton, New Jersey.”As a general statement, this generation is highly educated. However, the traditional American education does a poor job of educating people about the principles of investing and the benefits of various investments, such as funding a 401(k),” Michel says.
“This generation is interested in their money and what they can do with it, but are not looking to be told what to do. Whether advisors, parents or family members, it’s best to engage in a conversation. Providing information and knowledge that is personalized to their individual financial situation is a powerful way to begin,” he says.
There’s an added dimension when the parents’ financial advisor is part of the picture. According to a 2015 study by financial-industry trade publication Investment News, advisors identified several obstacles to working with current clients’ children. Those include:
— There is a lack of a relationship with clients’ children.
— Children spend the assets too fast.
— The inheritance is split among too many people.
— Clients are unwilling to include adult children in meetings with the advisor.
— The next generation doesn’t want the same advisor as their parents.
Thomas Mingone, founding and managing partner of Capital Management Group in New York, says it’s important for parents to talk with children about money from an early age.
“Most of our clients’ children are in their 20s and 30s, which is when we want to talk to them. By the time they get to their 40s, they’ll have habits and opinions already set, and it becomes more difficult to educate them. Bad habits get set in early,” he says. “Also, when they get their first jobs, we want to be involved early on to make sure that they are doing what is best right out of the gate.”
Challenges in wealth transfer. Mingone believes the biggest challenge for families is simply making the time to discuss the ins and outs of wealth transfers. “When you get closer and closer to living off of your money — or being retired — you spend more time thinking about it. At the beginning of your earning years, your focus is making money and meeting expenses on a month-to-month basis. During this time, it is incredibly difficult to have long-term conversations. When you are 25 years old, five years feels like an eternity; when you are 70, it goes by in the blink of an eye,” he says.
To get the millennials focused on the topic, it’s key to keep their attention, Mingone says. “Communicating with them in the way they want to be communicated with is also key. This is the biggest generation gap in history. We haven’t seen a tech innovation that has changed how we engage with one another and communicate since the advent of television.”
Michel says thoughtful use of technology may allow advisors to stay connected with clients and their families.
“One particularly innovative way that we have seen advisors use to connect with the next generation of investors is to give their current clients that have adult children CircleBlack logins for those children, even if they don’t have investments with the advisor. The adult children can aggregate assets from wherever they are held. They still get all the advisor’s branding and targeted content when they use the app. The net result is the advisor is seen as a modern and relevant choice for a deeper relationship,” Michel says.
Sharing data through technology is a component of being transparent about family finances. But that can also be accomplished through conversations and day-to-day actions that begin years before children are grown, Mingone says.
“A lot of parents are very secretive about money. They make it a taboo and secretive conversation. If the parents keep their finances private, their kids take the same approach to being opaque and then they may not seek out the advice they need. Open and honest conversations help the kids understand how important it is to plan and manage their finances,” he says.