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A lot has changed in the nearly 40 years since the term ‘Sandwich Generation’ was first coined. More women are nearing retirement, their aging parents are living longer, their adult children are staying home longer and they may now have grandchildren to help care for as well.

Research shows an increasing number of women have become entrepreneurs, self-made millionaires, and joined the ranks of the high net worth. And whether they created the wealth themselves or are beneficiaries, they're increasingly afforded a seat at the table and becoming much more active in the financial decision making process - a shift wealth management professionals say has been particularly notable over the last 10 years.

The independence and power women have gained from their wealth have helped relieve some of the burden that comes with being part of the 'Sandwich Generation,' even as the responsibilities of that generation appear to have increased.

Commissioned by RBC Wealth Management, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) undertook a study of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) from March to May, 2018. The survey covered 1,051 individuals (502 women and 549 men) in Canada, the United States, United Kingdom and parts of Asia (mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore). The new face of wealth & legacy survey explores how the meanings of legacy and wealth are being redefined across regions, genders and generations.

For one RBC Wealth Management client, having to suddenly care for her elderly mother in addition to raising her own teenage children was a wake-up call to figure out how she was eventually going to pass along her wealth. Succession planning was a door the client had previously kept firmly shut.

“Before this life event happened, she wouldn't touch this issue,” says Oliver Saiman, a relationship management director at RBC Wealth Management in London. Part of the client's push-back was driven by the fact that she was growing her second business, working hard, and doing well.

“We don't like to think about what happens after our death, but it's a prudent thing to do,” says Saiman, while also acknowledging that it can be an incredibly difficult - even taboo - subject to raise with certain clients.

The new face of wealth & legacy survey shows 62 percent of respondents globally say their relationships with family are important in their definition of legacy. There's also an overwhelming importance of using professional financial resources. According to The EIU research, 78 percent of respondents agree financial services are more important to personal wealth planning now, than in previous generations.

Being sandwiched between two different generations can be a daunting position, but for the growing class of HNW women, their wealth at least affords them some benefits in choosing a caregiving plan and paying for the help they need.

“Of course, with that ... 'power' - also comes much responsibility. And whether you call it the 'guilt' gene - I don't think it goes away however much money you've got," says Fiona Lucas, managing director of sales and relationship management in London with RBC Wealth Management.

“People I've dealt with, they tend to be perfectionists, so they want to be the greatest moms, the greatest employees, and the greatest boss. They're unrealistic goals to have all at the same time, and that can cause a lot of stress."

Filial piety and responsibility

Those in Asia may feel a particular responsibility to care for their elderly parents. The EIU research shows, for example, 47 percent of respondents in Singapore are caring for aging parents, a figure dramatically higher than the 15 percent of Americans and 17 percent of UK residents in the same position.

“Elderly care is something the Western world is particularly poor at," says Saiman.

Lucas' own experience in Asia saw her working with more women in senior positions than anywhere else in her 25-year career, but at the same time, she saw how families lived more communally - different generations of a family residing under the same roof - than in Europe or North America.

The multi-generational responsibilities that come with this kind of living arrangement can be a burden from a financial and caregiving perspective, but also a benefit due to the built-in family support system, says Lucas. Practical considerations like housing can make economic sense, and for those above a certain economic threshold in Asia, domestic staff is also quite common.

Along with seeing a growing number of women becoming high-income earners and decision makers, wealth management professionals like Lucas and Saiman are also seeing more female spousal beneficiaries and adult children being included in family wealth planning conversations from an early stage.

There is still a long way to go, but it's happening significantly more today than even 10 years ago, says Saiman, adding that RBC Wealth Management tries to connect and foster unique relationships across multiple generations within a family.

Whether it's due to the experiences of the 'Sandwich Generation' or not, women in decision-making roles also want a better understanding of the ethical, social and economic impact of their businesses and investments. When they look at the legacy they'll leave in the world, “they want to be sure their footprint is appropriate," says Lucas.

And in fact, that sentiment is supported in The EIU research, where half of female respondents globally say the ability to create change with their business through corporate giving is more important now, than two generations ago. That's in comparison to 40 percent of men who agreed with the sentiment.

Financial independence and building legacies

Lucas and Saiman offer some essential tips to help ease some of the pressure on women new to the wealth planning space, who find themselves in both the role of family caregiver and wealth caretaker.

  1. Start the conversation early

Don't wait until a “wealth creation event" - such as the sale of a business -  to begin thinking about succession and legacy planning. Speak with your adviser and have discussions with your family.

  1. Don't rush into big decisions

Take the time to figure out what's best for you and your loved ones.

  1. Understand what you want for your children

This answer could take time and involve many intense conversations with your partner or fact-finding discussions with your peers to figure out what's best for your family.

  1. Involve your children early

Include your children as early as possible in the conversation. Introducing them to philanthropy could help set the stage for later conversations around legacy. The average age in which children inherit wealth is 29, says Saiman, but the average age in which conversations about inheritances start is 27. Two years is very little time to lay important groundwork with your heirs. And in an age where so much personal information is readily available with a Google search, it's smart to get ahead of the conversation with your children.

  1. Practice financial transparency

Know in advance where the accounts and important documents are, such as a will, their contents and how to access them. Ensure your will is up-to-date and educate yourself about the family bills and how to pay them.

“It's amazing how many people forget those things," says Lucas, who has frequently seen HNW clients struggle with simple financial tasks following the death of a partner, who had previously handled the family finances. “You're starting from a very basic level … when tragedy strikes, people don't necessarily have the emotional capacity to handle the practical things like ‘how much do I have to live on? How do I pay the bills?’"

While women have increasingly become part of the family wealth decision-making process, they still tend to be less tuned in to the day-to-day tasks. Being aware of even the small details of running the home is just as important, says Lucas.

According to The EIU research, 42 percent of females globally say they are the secondary decision maker when it comes to financial planning, compared to just 29 percent of men.

Don't be afraid to ask what may seem like basic questions. “This is about being in control of your destiny," says Lucas. “Knowing where things are and how things work enables you to make better decisions."


The minimum investable wealth of respondents is US$1 million. The margin of error on the total sample is 3.0 percent with a 95 percent confidence level.

This publication has been issued by Royal Bank of Canada on behalf of certain RBC ® companies that form part of the international network of RBC Wealth Management. You should carefully read any risk warnings or regulatory disclosures in this publication or in any other literature accompanying this publication or transmitted to you by Royal Bank of Canada, its affiliates or subsidiaries.

The information contained in this report has been compiled by Royal Bank of Canada and/or its affiliates from sources believed to be reliable, but no representation or warranty, express or implied is made to its accuracy, completeness or correctness. All opinions and estimates contained in this report are judgements as of the date of this report, are subject to change without notice and are provided in good faith but without legal responsibility. This report is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities. Past performance is not a guide to future performance, future returns are not guaranteed, and a loss of original capital may occur. Every province in Canada, state in the U.S. and most countries throughout the world have their own laws regulating the types of securities and other investment products which may be offered to their residents, as well as the process for doing so. As a result, any securities discussed in this report may not be eligible for sale in some jurisdictions. This report is not, and under no circumstances should be construed as, a solicitation to act as a securities broker or dealer in any jurisdiction by any person or company that is not legally permitted to carry on the business of a securities broker or dealer in that jurisdiction. Nothing in this report constitutes legal, accounting or tax advice or individually tailored investment advice.

This material is prepared for general circulation to clients, including clients who are affiliates of Royal Bank of Canada, and does not have regard to the particular circumstances or needs of any specific person who may read it. The investments or services contained in this report may not be suitable for you and it is recommended that you consult an independent investment advisor if you are in doubt about the suitability of such investments or services. To the full extent permitted by law neither Royal Bank of Canada nor any of its affiliates, nor any other person, accepts any liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this report or the information contained herein. No matter contained in this document may be reproduced or copied by any means without the prior consent of Royal Bank of Canada.

Clients of United Kingdom companies may be entitled to compensation from the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme if any of these entities cannot meet its obligations. This depends on the type of business and the circumstances of the claim. Most types of investment business are covered for up to a total of £50,000. The Channel Island subsidiaries are not covered by the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme; the offices of Royal Bank of Canada (Channel Islands) Limited in Guernsey and Jersey are covered by the respective compensation schemes in these jurisdictions for deposit taking business only.

This publication has been issued by Royal Bank of Canada on behalf of certain RBC ® companies that form part of the international network of RBC Wealth Management. You should carefully read any risk warnings or regulatory disclosures in this publication or in any other literature accompanying this publication or transmitted to you by Royal Bank of Canada, its affiliates or subsidiaries.

The information contained in this report has been compiled by Royal Bank of Canada and/or its affiliates from sources believed to be reliable, but no representation or warranty, express or implied is made to its accuracy, completeness or correctness. All opinions and estimates contained in this report are judgments as of the date of this report, are subject to change without notice and are provided in good faith but without legal responsibility. This report is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities. Past performance is not a guide to future performance, future returns are not guaranteed, and a loss of original capital may occur. Every province in Canada, state in the U.S. and most countries throughout the world have their own laws regulating the types of securities and other investment products which may be offered to their residents, as well as the process for doing so. As a result, any securities discussed in this report may not be eligible for sale in some jurisdictions. This report is not, and under no circumstances should be construed as, a solicitation to act as a securities broker or dealer in any jurisdiction by any person or company that is not legally permitted to carry on the business of a securities broker or dealer in that jurisdiction. Nothing in this report constitutes legal, accounting or tax advice or individually tailored investment advice.

This material is prepared for general circulation to clients, including clients who are affiliates of Royal Bank of Canada, and does not have regard to the particular circumstances or needs of any specific person who may read it. The investments or services contained in this report may not be suitable for you and it is recommended that you consult an independent investment advisor if you are in doubt about the suitability of such investments or services. To the full extent permitted by law neither Royal Bank of Canada nor any of its affiliates, nor any other person, accepts any liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this report or the information contained herein. No matter contained in this document may be reproduced or copied by any means without the prior consent of Royal Bank of Canada.

Clients of United Kingdom companies may be entitled to compensation from the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme if any of these entities cannot meet its obligations. This depends on the type of business and the circumstances of the claim. Most types of investment business are covered for up to a total of £85,000. The Channel Island subsidiaries are not covered by the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme; the offices of Royal Bank of Canada (Channel Islands) Limited in Guernsey and Jersey are covered by the respective compensation schemes in these jurisdictions for deposit taking business only.


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