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Starkly shifting attitudes amid a historic wealth transfer

What our 2022 Study of Wealthy Americans revealed about differences between generations

A photograph showing three people sitting on the dock putting their bare feet in a lake in the daytime. There is a middle-aged couple smiling at each other, and an older man, implied to be the smiling woman’s dad, looking with a smile toward his feet in the water. Behind them is an elegant home.

The next gen is expected to inherit $73 trillion in the coming years, and they could be poised to make very different decisions with their money than previous generations.

In our recent report on wealth, we found stark differences in the ways that older and younger generations look at some questions related to wealth – matters of philanthropy, of investment choices, of legacy and estate planning, and even art. In the context of the historic wealth transfer on the horizon, these differences suggest major shifts to come as younger generations take the reins on decision making for household wealth.

Viewpoints are not just shaped by age, however. We also found that in certain topic areas, attitudes are strongly affected by other markers – including gender, racial identity and wealth “journey,” which captures the distinct experiences of legacy wealth, self-made wealth and those in-between.

Key trends from the 2022 Study of Wealthy Americans


1. Skeptical of traditional investments, the next gen is drawn to alternatives.

2. Sustainable investing is the norm, for the younger cohort.

3. Most younger people want to establish their own philanthropic identity.

4. The youngest are especially active in art markets.

5. Estate-planning decisions present complexities for many families.

6. Satisfaction with advisors is high, but there are conversation gaps to be addressed.


More change ahead

Though America becomes more diverse with every generation, that diversity has not fully reached the wealthy population included in this study, yet. Still, a very American form of diversity is well-represented among the older cohort – a share of the wealthy population that is fully or mostly self-made. Among baby boomers and the silent generation, there are as many self-made wealthy as there are legacy wealth, according to our analysis.

The younger respondents included in this study primarily represent legacy wealth, as the self-made among that cohort are early on the path toward building their wealth. As younger self-made people join the wealthy population, they are likely to bring even more diversity, both demographically and in terms of viewpoints. The shifting attitudes among the younger generation will impact the ways that families invest, give and pass on wealth in the decades to come.

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A profile of wealth in America

This research was conducted by Bank of America Private Bank in partnership with research firm Escalent. The findings reflect the responses of 1,052 people aged 21 or older, with household investable assets over $3 million. It was designed to be a statistically representative sample of the population in the U.S. that meets these two criteria.

A pie chart showing the breakdown of survey respondents by generation. 1% are Gen Z, 9% are millennials, 20% are Gen X, 62% are baby boomer, and 9% are silent generation.
A pie chart showing the breakdown of survey respondents by gender. 33% of respondents are female and 67% are male.
A pie chart showing the breakdown of survey respondents by race. 90% of respondents are white and 10% are people of color.
A pie chart showing the breakdown of survey respondents by investable assets. 71% of respondents have three to five million dollars in investable assets. 14% of respondents have five to ten million dollars in investable assets. 14% of respondents have over ten million dollars in investable assets.

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