Money

A third of 'affluent' Americans say their financial stability depends on inheriting money

ABC's "Modern Family."
Eric Liebowitz | ABC | Getty Images
ABC's "Modern Family."

Even wealthy Americans are relying on family members to stay rich.

That's according to new data from Merrill Edge, which found that a third of "mass affluent" Americans are waiting on an inheritance to achieve financial stability. The study includes responses from 1,000 participants and defines the "mass affluent" as those with investable assets between $50,000 and $250,000.

Despite those assets, "when it comes to financial freedom, Americans may not be as independent as they think they are," the report says.

Younger generations seem to be the most reliant on family and friends for financial stability. Although 87 percent of Generation Z (ages 18 to 22) say they take a do-it-yourself approach to money, 63 percent say that they're also waiting on an inheritance. Almost a third of millennials (ages 23 to 40) say they're waiting to be left money as well.

Even older generations are dependent on family wealth coming to them, with 20 percent of boomers (ages 54 to 72) counting on an inheritance.

Younger generations aren't just waiting to inherit — they're also turning to family for day-to-day help. In fact, nearly 25 percent of millennials have mom and dad helping to pay their bills, according to a recent survey by Instamotor.com.

The most common bill is for cellphones, with 53 percent of survey respondents admitting that their parents pick up the tab. Car insurance came in second (31 percent report getting help) and car payments third (30 percent).

Many young people also turn to their families for bigger expenses. About 40 percent of all 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds get significant assistance from their parents, much of which goes towards housing and start-up capital, according to an Institute for Social Research Transition into Adulthood study, the results of which were analyzed by assistant professor Patrick Wightman and written about in The New York Times.

And while it's not uncommon for young people to get help from their parents, many don't admit it to their friends. Again, they claim a do-it-yourself approach to money, while still accepting outside help.

Younger generations are coping with a steep increase in the overall cost of living: Although wages have stagnated, for example, rents continue to rise. As of June 2016, the annual rise in rental prices was nearly four times the overall inflation rate.

It also costs more than ever to buy a home. In 1940, the median home value in the U.S. was $2,938. In 1980, it was $47,200, and by 2000, it had risen to $119,600. Even adjusted for inflation, the median home price in 1940 would only have been $30,600 in 2000 dollars.

The cost of college has drastically increased as well, leaving many students in debt. Those at public four-year institutions paid an average of $3,190 in tuition for the 1987-1988 school year, with prices adjusted to reflect 2017 dollars. That average has risen to $9,970 for the 2017-2018 school year, an increase of 213 percent.

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