A large proportion of high net-worth (HNW) women wield control — solely or jointly — over their family’s finances, including investments, according to an international survey by RBC Wealth Management (U.S.), published Wednesday. But when it comes to sketching out a wealth-transfer strategy, only a thin slice of this demographic (22%) have a plan in place.
That’s in contrast to about 30% of men who say they’ve developed a plan, the survey report says. With American seniors poised to leave US$3.2 trillion in wealth to the next generation in the coming years, there’s a growing need for a “solid wealth transfer plan,” particularly among women who, on average, are expected to live longer than men, says Angie O’Leary, head of wealth planning at RBC Wealth Management.
“Women are becoming an economic powerhouse in the U.S.,” O’Leary said in a statement, adding that more discussions about the transfer of wealth need to be held with benefactors. “A growing number [of women] are moving into the corporate ranks while others are starting their own businesses.”
Of the 1,752 HNW women surveyed in the U.S., Canada and the U.K, 84% said they have joint or full responsibility for the family’s investments. Even as women are exercising more control of the family’s finances, few are taking the necessary measures to address how they plan to hand off their assets.
This lack of preparedness, in part, may be attributed to anxieties that women have about not having enough money to fund a lengthy retirement. Only 27% intend to pass on their wealth during their lifetime. Among this group, 27% say they prefer to hold on to their wealth until they die — as opposed to a gradual transfer — because they don’t feel they have enough to give away.
The survey also found that few members of the younger generation are receiving enough guidance on how to manage their inheritance. For example, just 29% of female inheritors surveyed say they’ve had support in determining how to use their assets, vs 37% of males.
Still, as unprepared for the wealth transfer as many women may be, the subsequent generation may fare better in handling its inheritance. Among the women surveyed, 92% are making or intend to make the effort to educate their children on financial issues.
Millennial women, the survey suggests, are starting to see the impact of those efforts, with slightly more than half (51%) saying they feel confident in their financial literacy.
The study, which was conducted from June to August 2016, surveyed women with an average of US$4.4 million in assets.
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