Opinion

How 'great wealth transfer' from baby boomers to millennials will shape our planet's future

While many of the younger generation are under intense pressure trying to make ends meet, the next 10-20 years could change their situation considerably

Best known as ‘the great wealth transfer’, a massive volume of financial assets is set to pass between what we call ‘baby boomers’ and the current millennial and Gen Z cohort, what I like to call ‘Zennials’, in the next decade. In the US, this is estimated to amount to $84 trillion and in the UK, £5.5 trillion. 

Cross-generational wealth transfers happen all the time, but what makes this different and significant this time around is its scale. This will be the largest flow of generational capital ever seen in the history of humanity. 

And this event will not happen in isolation. It will also create a ripple effect on the economy, technology and culture. What these changes will look like is up to the new generation. 

Zennials are made up of millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Zs (born between 1997 and 2013). In contrast to the boomer generation, Zennials’ financial activities are mainly motivated and influenced by sustainability and social justice, and they have demonstrated that they uphold a value-driven society. 

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We cannot blame Zennials for their built-in mistrust of the financial system. Having grown up and lived through some of the toughest economic conditions, from the 2008 financial crisis to Covid to the cost of living crisis, and facing the very real scenario of climate change, this is a generation that is primed to take charge and enact positive change, movement by movement. 

But tearing down systems without a viable alternative only serves to cause immense harm. A new way of working is needed, a way we can ensure that the wealth transfer from boomers to Zennials happens harmoniously. 

My advice is for everyone, Gen Z, millennials and boomers, to work together. We need to be aware of each other’s needs, challenges, viewpoints, strengths, weaknesses and use them to their best advantage. With collaboration, compassion and community between all generations and at all levels, I hope we can productively create a nuanced, inclusive and socially energised capitalism. 

Zennials have strong ethics when it comes to the future of business and the financial system, something that, like with every generation, has been shaped by the environment they grew up in. 

We can already see the impact of Zennials’ principle-driven ethos as business and markets shift to cater for their preferences. It has been revealed that Zennials place high expectations on their employers and businesses in general, believing that business leaders have the power and responsibility to address environmental and social issues. Less than half of Zennials (44% of millennials, 48% of Gen Z) think businesses are currently making a positive impact on society.  

Surveys in the US show that the ways companies and brands address, or neglect, social issues directly affect Zennials’ decision whether or not to use their services or buy their products. This also extends to their careers. 44% of millennials and 49% of Gen Z have said they have made and will make choices about organisations they would be willing to work for based on their personal values. 

The same cohort have also expressed that they would like to be more involved in investing, especially in ethical companies and funds. Technology has somewhat levelled the playing field, due to the easy accessibility of financial information and an influx of investing apps and cryptocurrencies. 

We cannot ignore the ability of technology, from the internet to blockchain, to democratise finance and it is certainly here to stay. Not only has it provided access in the case of investing, it has also empowered this generation to make an impact. 

Never achieved at such a scale, the ideas and voices of Zennials are being heard at all levels of the economy and society, far and wide across the globe. The extent of their influence is directly linked to the exponential growth in technology over the last two decades and their own ability to deftly master new forms of technology as ‘digital natives’, with no signs of slowing down. 

Zennials will inherit resources of capital, power and influence, and technology will be the tool they use to enact their philosophy. 

What I hope, is for Zennials to achieve a stable, prosperous financial future, and I believe it is essential for us boomers to help realise this. Ideas from all sides of the table must be heard. Zennials will lead the way with their insight, combined with the hindsight of boomers to create the foresight essential to make this real. 

There are older people listening and ready to team up with you. So let your voice be heard, let that voice be encouraging and constructive. We want to help you succeed and are ready to find a solution. 

Good Money Week runs from 2-8 October

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

The 100 Trillion Dollar Wealth Transfer cover

Ken Costa is a mentor, coach, author and investor in next generation ventures. His book, The 100 Trillion Dollar Wealth Transfer: How the Handover from Boomers to Gen Z Will Revolutionize Capitalism is out now (Bloomsbury, £20).

You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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