Longevity’s Ripple Effect: Why Gen X Cannot Count on Inheritances for their Retirement

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As if Gen X (now age 40 – 55) didn’t have enough to think about in midlife, they also need to be careful about including any expected inheritance in their retirement planning.  While there is much talk about a great transfer of wealth in America in the coming 25 years, with estimates anywhere from $30 – $65 Trillion, this estimate and its timing is by no means a sure thing. Baby Boomers will have the last word on how they transfer their wealth; extended life expectancy along with spending patterns may diminish what flows to their children.

Here are a few trends that may point to delayed and reduced inheritances for Xers:

•              As of 2016, more than a quarter of inheritances go to people over age 61, and this has been increasing rapidly, up more than 10 years since 1989.

•              These later inheritances are most likely to affect the wealthier among us. Research published in The Journals of Gerontology last month found that wealthier men and women in the US and the UK had eight to nine more years of “disability-free” life after age 50 than those on the lowest end of the economic ladder.

•              In a recent U.S. Trust study, only 49% of millionaire Boomers said that it was important to leave an inheritance.

Plan on receiving later

These shifts mean that inheritances that used to come in during midlife with the benefit of alleviating the stress of a prime spending and saving time is now put off to far closer to retirement or even later.  With the growing inequity in longevity between the rich and poor in the United States, the wealthy can expect to wait even longer as their parents benefit from extended good health and longer lifespans. Access to medical care, better diets and less stress all contribute to longer healthy lives in higher economic groups.

Plan on receiving less

Not only will Gen Xers have to wait for their inheritances, they should not count on receiving as much money. The longer lives and well-being of Boomers also mean that they may spend down more of their wealth. Boomers will also be more inclined to make gifts to their children and grandchildren during their lifetimes to see them enjoy it. Overall, Boomers seem to have different attitudes toward leaving an inheritance than their own parents, with more feeling that providing for college and a down-payment on a home is enough help to get their children started.  While they may also help fund their grandchildren’s education, Boomers put their own retirement and care first.

Of course, all of this is great news in terms of family dynamics and having generations available to grandchildren and great grandchildren, even as average age of parenthood grows later. When it comes to Boomers’ generational transfer of wealth, Generation Xers cannot count on inheritance for their retirement.

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