There are two explanations for their stinginess.
The kind explanation is that today’s boomers want their kids to grow up with the same middle-class values they had. They want their offspring to learn struggle and hard work and failure and the joys of earned success and all the other lessons that helped the boomers become successful (those, along with 30 years of bull markets and strong economic growth).
As Warren Buffett said, he wants leave his kids enough to do anything they want, but not so much that they can do nothing.
Aligned with this benevolent explanation is their commitment to charity and the broader world.
The second and perhaps more realistic explanation is that boomers don’t think their kids can handle all that money. Only 32 percent of baby boomers are confident their children will be prepared emotionally and financially to receive a financial legacy.
Granted, not all generations feel this way. Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers, along with the generation older than the baby boomers, are more disposed to leave money to their kids. More than two thirds of those aged 18 to 46 and those over 67 say it’s important to leave a financial inheritance to their children.
“Our survey points to a shift in generational behavior and outlook, most likely shaped by personal experience and societal responses to economic realities,” said Keith Banks, president of U.S. Trust. “The next generation has not experienced the consistently strong economic growth or investment returns that baby boomers experienced during the longest bull market in history.”
And there may be a third explanation: the baby boomers plan to spend most of their money. Given the low investment returns in today’s markets, their long lifespan and their famously non-apologetic lifestyles, the boomers are probably burning through their fortunes at a rate that won’t leave much for the next generation.