This post was authored by Adem Tumerkan, Dunham's Content Writer. If you have questions concerning today's topic, please call us at (858) 964 - 0500. Hold us to higher standards.

Are you familiar with the “Great Wealth Transfer”?

As a financial advisor, I am sure you are. But in short, the Great Wealth Transfer refers to the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation transferring the bulk of their wealth to younger family members – such as Millennials and Generation X.

Now, this isn’t exactly a new process with one generation passing down wealth to the next.

But what makes this time interesting is the sheer magnitude of that wealth being passed down. . .

For instance, Visual Capitalist reports1 that as of 2023 Americans hold approximately $156 trillion in assets, with half of this wealth, $78.1 trillion, owned by baby boomers. The remaining portion is distributed among Generation X, the Silent Generation, and Millennials.

A graph of blue pie chart

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

See, the baby boom generation (1946-64) came about during a time of post-WWII economic prosperity.

And with asset prices destroyed from the great depression – the boomers were able to build wealth primarily through investments in real estate and the stock market.

·         To put this into perspective, since 1964, the S&P 500 has risen roughly sevenfold since 1965 (not even including re-invested dividends) – and the median home price has increased 22-fold.

Now, while this has significant repercussions for the economy – which I believe has been disregarded by the media - let’s just focus here on why this all matters for a financial advisor like you.

According to Cerulli and Associates projections2, this nearing "great wealth transfer" will see approximately $84 trillion in assets inherited by beneficiaries around 2043. And of this amount, $72.6 trillion is earmarked for direct heirs, with $11.9 trillion slated for charitable causes - occurring through gifts and charitable donations during the donors' lifetimes - and through bequests after their passing.

The implications of all this extend beyond individual families - but impact philanthropic endeavors, inheritance laws, and the broader economic landscape.

In fact, this transfer of wealth is expected to influence investment decisions, business ventures, and the funding of charitable initiatives - potentially reshaping industries and society in the process.

But, most importantly, such a hefty transfer of wealth across generations stands as one of the most pivotal factors facing the high-net-worth (HNW) and ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) segments.

Further, it may prove critical for financial advisors to establish connections with the younger generations to keep assets under management (AUM).

·         A big hurdle is dealing with clients who pass away and leave their wealth to family members who want to liquidate or change wealth management services.

For example, the different preferences of younger generations will significantly shape their approach to wealth management and investment decisions. Research shows that Millennials and Gen-Z prioritize investments in environmentally and socially responsible companies. And as they inherit wealth, many may seek out new financial advisors aligned with their values.

Meanwhile, the traditional method of purchasing stocks has transformed - with a growing preference for “robo-advisors” and other fintech solutions over traditional wealth management services.

Thus, financial advisors who can maintain their position at the forefront of estate planning, wealth structuring strategies, and building trust will be preferred by clients.

Women Are Set to See the Bulk of This Great Wealth Transfer

An interesting dynamic of the great wealth transfer is how it will impact women.

For instance, a recent article in The Washington Post highlights3 that $30 trillion of the Baby Boomer wealth will be inherited by women by the end of this decade - an amount almost equivalent to the annual U.S. GDP.

·         This is more than triple what women control ($10 trillion — of total U.S. household assets) according to McKinsey.

A big reason for this transfer of wealth is that men, statistically speaking, continue to serve as the primary financial decision-makers in two-thirds of affluent households - defined as those holding $100,000 to $10 million in personal investable assets.

Thus, their assets are likely to be inherited by their wives first.

Why? Well - according to recent research published in JAMA Internal Medicine - women are typically younger than their husbands and have an average of six more years ahead of them.

“Statistically and historically, women outlive men,” says4 Nora Garvey, senior vice president and regional trust advisor at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “If a woman [is married to a man] and outlives her spouse, the transfer may go directly to her when he passes. In that instance, she's in control of how the assets are managed and then transferred to the next generation.”

Thus, understanding how to handle women’s financial affairs and spending will become a more prevalent topic for financial advisors.

Beware of getting left behind on this trend.

The Role of Financial Advisors in Maximizing Inherited Wealth

So, we know a significant wealth transfer is on the horizon.

Now the question is, “How will this $80 trillion wealth transfer happen?”

Well, there are many ways. But for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, the transition of assets typically occurs through trusts or offshore accounts.

However, most Americans with substantially fewer assets might not even know what options they have.

Some of these include:

·         Grantor trusts – allows the grantor to manage the assets while potentially offering tax advantages to the heirs.

·         Spousal lifetime access trusts - an irrevocable trust type enabling one spouse to make gifts to the other.

·         Strategic gifting - enabling families to pass on wealth while minimizing tax implications.

These three options play a significant role in estate planning – and are at the front of HNW minds.

For instance, in the same Cerulli report I cited earlier, data shows that grantor trusts emerge as the overwhelmingly favored (77%) method among HNW groups for enhancing the tax efficiency of wealth transfer endeavors. This is then followed by spousal lifetime access trusts (54%) and strategic gifting (46%).

This is why having a financial advisor is important – it’s essential when building an estate plan that protects clients and their families to help ensure they get the most out of what’s passed on from one generation to the next.

Wrapping It Up

As the great wealth transfer amplifies in the coming decades, it's crucial to grasp the intricacies of estate planning to ensure that families can fully benefit.

Keep in mind I only highlighted a few points regarding this transfer of wealth and its potential repercussions. I plan on writing more about this in the Saturday Morning Pour to discuss the economic impacts of everything I’ve shared.

But for now, it’s clear that financial advisors may play a pivotal role in guiding families through this unique period and how understanding complex estate planning will be essential as the great wealth transfer unfolds over the coming decades - ensuring families can fully benefit from their hard-earned assets.

Do you have strategies to reach the next generation? Our dedicated Business Development Team is here to assist you. Reach out to us via email or at
(858) 964 – 0500.







This communication is general in nature and provided for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be considered or relied upon as legal, tax or investment advice or an investment recommendation, or as a substitute for legal or tax counsel. Any investment products or services named herein are for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered an offer to buy or sell, or an investment recommendation for, any specific security, strategy or investment product or service. Always consult a qualified professional or your own independent financial professional for personalized advice or investment recommendations tailored to your specific goals, individual situation, and risk tolerance. All examples are hypothetical and are for illustrative purposes only.

Information contained in the materials included is believed to be from reliable sources, but no representations or guarantees are made as to the accuracy or completeness of information.  This document is provided for information purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice.

Dunham & Associates Investment Counsel, Inc. is a Registered Investment Adviser and Broker/Dealer. Member FINRA / SIPC. Advisory services and securities offered through Dunham & Associates Investment Counsel, Inc.

Trust services offered through Dunham Trust Company, an affiliated Nevada Trust Company.