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The world has 2,153 billionaires with a combined net worth of US$8.7 trillion according to Forbes’ most recent accounting of the super-rich. That’s nearly triple the 793 billionaires from a decade ago.
But while individuals at the top are accumulating wealth faster and more prodigiously than any time in history, the generation, accumulation and transfer of wealth has massive implications for most facets of the economy.
Those changes will be discussed at the The Future of Wealth, the next edition of EnsembleCo’s speaker series, Sept. 24 at the WE Global Learning Centre in Toronto. Among the featured speakers is Dan Coates, a Canadian who is now president of the New York firm YPulse, which conducts extensive research into Gen Z and millennials, including their attitudes towards personal finance.
In short, says Coates, the future of wealth is collaborative, female and socially conscious. “Generally speaking, the antiquated way that people have made money and risen up the wealth ranks in the past is not the way it’s going to happen in the future,” he says.
1. The future of wealth will be unevenly distributed
The wealth gap in Canada is widening, says Coates. While incomes for the bottom 10% of earners increased by 35.8% between 1995 and 2017 (from $10,600 to $14,400) according to an StatsCan, income for the top 10 of earners increased by 52.5% (from $81,200 to $123,800) in the same period.
The recent RBC Wealth Transfer Report, meanwhile, stated that an astounding $4 trillion in wealth will be transferred in Canada, the U.S. and U.K. within a generation. Combined with better coaching around financial literacy and training within wealthy families, that will perpetuate wealth legacies for generations to come, says Coates.
However, inheritors have a different idea about what they want to do with that money than the people they’re inheriting it from (see point number three).
The recession of 2008-09 was “absolutely” a demarcation point in terms of outcomes and consumer attitudes towards personal finances, says Coates.
The Canadian economy weathered the 2008-09 recession better than the U.S., although it had a marked impact on millennials who graduated into the workforce around that time. Research suggests that graduating into a poor economy versus a good economy results in an average 7% lower starting salary, a situation that can persist for up to a decade. “If the economy’s hurting when you graduate, it has a longstanding impact on your personal prospects,” says Coates.
2. It will be increasingly female
Females have accounted for 60% of North American college attendance since 1995, which Coates predicts will eventually lead to women out-earning men and wealth becoming more evenly balanced—and potentially even dominated by women.
“Financial institutions should be hiring females at all levels to ensure that they are supporting this rebalancing,” he says.
YPulse’s research also finds distinct differences in attitudes towards money by the sexes, with males prioritizing long-term goals like retirement and investing, and females worried about current debt and bills. While nearly two-thirds of males 19-37 say they are confident about how they’re managing their personal finances, that number drops to 34% among females.
“They’re earning more, but they’re having to deal with this debt issue more,” says Coates. “They’re feeling less well-equipped in terms of education and understanding. We’re not doing a great job of making sure females feel properly equipped when it comes to financial strategy and planning.”
3. It will be collaborative and socially conscious
Coates says that aligning personal values is essential as boomers prepare to leave behind a vast amount of wealth to their offspring.
Boomers tend to want their inheritors to respect the values that generated their wealth, while their children tend to want to use the transferred funds in a way that aligns with their core values and reflects their own personal goals.
“You’d have a tough time talking a millennial into investing in [firearms manufacturers] Sturm, Ruger & Co. or Smith & Wesson, regardless of the potential for returns,” he says.
Coates says the fact that 93% of inheritors fire their financial advisor within a year of the will being settled is a clear indication that the financial services industry needs to develop strategies to begin the inter-generational conversation long before the funeral, says Coates.