Wealth Transfer

Insights into giving and inheriting wealth across generations

Within a generation, over $3.2 trillion is expected to be passed down to inheritors in the United States. How are American families preparing for one of the largest transfers of wealth in history? And will inheritors be ready? We surveyed more than 1,200 Americans to find out.

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Personal journeys of learning

At what age do you think people should start learning about wealth and money?


is the average age to start

But respondents who began before 18 are more confident in their knowledge of wealth and money.

0 10 20 30 40 50

How do people learn about wealth and money? You may be surprised. We surveyed 1,235 Americans with average investable assets of $4.3 million. Our research reveals that, while financial lessons typically begin with family, most people learn about money matters on their own.

Key findings:
  • Financial guidance begins later than you might expect, at age 28
  • 55% of respondents conduct their own research to improve their financial literacy
  • Financial education is guided by family, but it’s not the most effective method
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The inheritance experience

Receiving an inheritance can be a challenging time. Most inheritors say they were largely unprepared, unsupported and uninformed about the inheritance process.

Key findings:
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Are you ready to receive an inheritance?


Even inheritors who’ve had discussions with their benefactors feel unprepared

of respondents knew how much they would inherit, but little else.

“No child or teenager really wants to listen to their parents discussing this stuff. Generally when money conversations happen between parents and children, it focuses on their allowance, but having some kind of formal process would be helpful. Nothing other than a strong education can prepare you.”

- Alexandra, a US-based entrepreneur

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Wealth transfer on hold

Are you prepared to pass on your wealth?




Almost 1 in 3 people are fully prepared

But 30% of respondents have done nothing at all to prepare.

Many people have a will in place — but a will is just the beginning. Our research reveals that many benefactors have taken the first step, but have not completed their wealth transfer planning.

Key findings:
  • 54% of respondents have a will, but only 30% have a full wealth transfer plan
  • Those who have previously inherited are better prepared to pass on their wealth
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Educating the next generation

Do you rely on family members to educate your children on wealth and money?


Family members


Financial advisors / private bankers






Independent advisors



48% of respondents rely on family but our research shows that a blend of informal and formal learning is best.

Rely primarily on
family guidance

Rely primarily on
professional advice

People want their inheritors to be better informed and more prepared than they were. But despite their good intentions, benefactors tend to repeat established patterns of behavior, leaving the next generation relatively unprepared.

Key findings:
  • Benefactors are worried the next generation won’t preserve family wealth
  • 48% of respondents rely on family members to educate their children
  • Informal learning from family is not the most effective way to build financial literacy
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Most people want to preserve and grow their wealth so that future generations can carry on their values, give back to their communities, and build lasting legacies. That’s why our research explores their intentions and actions when it comes to transferring wealth to the next generation.

We surveyed 3,105 people in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States with an average net worth of US$4.5 million, and supplemented the data with one-on-one interviews. These individuals included men and women, professionals and entrepreneurs, business owners and retirees, givers and inheritors. We discovered that people are concerned that their heirs will not have the financial knowledge to preserve and grow family wealth. Our research underscores the critical importance of advance preparation and effective knowledge transfer in creating legacies that last.

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More insights you may also be interested in...


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A generation poised for responsible wealth transfer

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Business owners and wealth transfer

Applying the lessons learned in business to wealth transfer

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Women and wealth transfer

The influence of women on building the family legacy

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Investment and insurance products offered through RBC Wealth Management are not insured by the FDIC or any other federal government agency, are not deposits or other obligations of, or guaranteed by, a bank or any bank affiliate, and are subject to investment risks, including possible loss of the principal amount invested.

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