A majority of high and ultra high net worth Baby Boomers who claim to have made their fortunes on their own don't think it's important to leave an inheritance to their children and -- even among those who don't intend to stiff their offspring -- many haven't even begun to organize their affairs for an efficient transfer of their wealth when they die.
Bank of America's U.S. Trust "Insight On Wealth and Worth" survey of 457 individuals with more than $3 million in investable assets found that almost half said their financial success came at the expense of their personal lives, relationships and their own health and now only 49% think it's "important" to leave a significant inheritance behind for their kids.
In fact, many children of these wealthy Boomers are completely in the dark when it comes to knowing exactly how wealthy their parents really are. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they haven't fully disclosed the full extent of their wealth to their kids and 15% haven't said a word about their personal fortunes for reasons ranging from concern that their children would become lazy (24%) or squander it (20%) or, most commonly, simply because they never thought to do it (31%).
Spending money to travel, however, was considered important by 70% of rich Boomers and 46% said they intend to start a new business or do some other work in their retirement and 55% plan to do some sort of volunteer work.
For financial planners and retirement specialists, the study implies the industry has to do a much better job over the next decade or two of promoting the benefits of its various estate and wealth transfer planning services to protect these investors' assets from unnecessary taxation, oversee what will be the largest generational transfer of wealth in U.S. history and educate Boomers and their kids about the best investment strategies and products to preserve and augment this wealth.
"There is an expectation about the wealthy that they have an implicit, sacred responsibility to pass down their fortune to the next generation, and this understanding has shaped expectations about the coming wave of intergenerational wealth transfer," Sallie Krawcheck, president of Bank of America's global wealth and investment management unit, said in the report. "Our research, however, uncovered a distinct generational mindset that reflects changing views about what retirement means and an evolving sense of what one generation owes the next."
"Wealth managers need to recognize these distinctions in order to connect meaningfully with both current and future clients," she added.
Indeed, only four in 10 respondents said they had sought professional advice about legacy planning or philanthropic strategies and while 88% said they have some sort of estate plan in place, 39% said they know their current wealth transfer plan isn't comprehensive enough to properly manage the eventual disbursement of their assets to charities or their heirs.
Forty-eight percent said they have yet to establish a revocable trust, 72% don't have an irrevocable trust and 78% have failed to create a life insurance trust.
This general lack of foresight or interest in end-of-life financial preparations comes at time when the number of rich and super rich investors with a net worth in excess of $1 million increased increased" target="_blank">more than 8% in 2010 to more than 8.4 million U.S. households.
One in 10 wealthy Boomers admitted he or she had never discussed tax planning with a financial advisor but roughly 30% said they think their investment portfolio is structured to minimize their tax liabilities.
Worse, some of these rich people don't even know how rich they really are.
Fifty-six percent haven't even documented all their personal property and 51% have failed to legally document how they wish their assets to be distributed among their kids and charities when they die.
"We have found a significant dichotomy between clients we talk with, who tell us that intergenerational wealth transfer is the single most important issue on their minds, and a large segment of high net worth population we surveyed, who are not taking action and therefore leaving the legacy of their life's work to chance," U.S. Trust President Keith Banks said in the report.
This procrastination could cost many of these wealthy Boomers and their families a sizeable chunk of their inheritance and, perhaps as concerning, leave those who receive their fortunes woefully unprepared to manage this sudden wealth.
Only 34% of respondents "strongly agree" their kids will be able to handle any inheritance they plan to leave them while 45% their kids won't be financially mature enough to handle this inheritance until they're at least 35 years old.
Maybe this lack of confidence is understandable considering 59% of rich Boomers have never introduced their children to the people managing their money even though 84% of them believe they could definitely benefit from discussions with a financial professional.