Heilmann of U.S. Trust said survey respondents ranked having fun as one of the most important uses of wealth.
"Baby boomers are choosing to prioritize their personal enjoyment over the financial legacy they will eventually leave," claimed Peter Hubbell, founder and CEO of BoomAgers, an advertising and marketing company focused on boomers.
"They are using retirement as a catalyst to redefine their lives," he said. "They are traveling, starting businesses and pursuing the dreams and goals they have always wanted to pursue."
This is a priority for Denise Marchese, a 62-year-old retiree living in Lakeland, Florida, and her husband. "We have worked hard, and for a long time, to enjoy this part of our lives," she said. "We just purchased a house on a large piece of land in our dream location and travel quite frequently. Our children may inherit some money if, at the end of both of our lives, there is some left."
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Marty L. Oblasser, an estate-planning attorney with Corthell and King in Laramie, Wyoming, said boomers are forced to balance the considerations of charitable giving, the potential for long-term care, spending their resources on hobbies and interests and leaving their estates to their respective heirs.
"Most baby boomers are concerned with leaving their children an inheritance. It just may not be as large of a distribution as the child may expect," he said.
It's too soon to tell precisely how much boomers will pass on to their heirs, since it will be another 15 years before this group starts to die en masse, said Laurence Kotlikoff, a professor of economics at Boston University. But his research shows that though boomers have accumulated less than their parents, they seem determined to spend what they have and not leave it to their children.
Mitchell adds that the Gen X- and Gen Yers, already burdened by college debt and a fragile economy, "will have to face an era of diminished expectations" when it comes to getting a big chunk of money from Mom and Dad.
What they hopefully do inherit from their parents—and will likely need—is the same thing Buffett has said all along: a strong work ethic.
—By Julie Halpert, special to CNBC.com