How Important Are Intergenerational Transfers for Baby Boomers?

Alicia H. MunnellAnthony WebbZhenya Karamcheva Andrew D. Eschtruth

WP#2011-1

Abstract

Due to a changing retirement landscape, many baby boomers are likely to have insufficient resources for a secure retirement. One potential source that could improve their situation is inheritances. Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances and the Health and Retirement Study, this study quantifies how much boomers can expect to inherit. Our best estimate is that boomers’ will inherit $8.4 trillion. Of this amount, $2.4 trillion has already been received, while the remaining $6.0 trillion is anticipated. We estimate that two-thirds of boomer households will receive some inheritance over their lifetime, with a median amount of $64,000. The estimates are based on data obtained before the economic crisis, so our analysis explores how the collapse in the stock and housing markets might affect the picture. Evidence from the previous economic crisis in the early 2000s suggests only a temporary reduction in prospective inheritances, which will be reversed as the economy recovers…