Wealthy Americans are increasingly thinking about the effects of their money throughout their lives and beyond, according to a recent survey commissioned by RBC Wealth Management.
The poll found that high-net-worth Gen Xers and millennials are in the vanguard leading to a notion of American legacy influenced both by socially responsible spending and investing and by charitable giving.
“Americans have witnessed vast social and economic change in recent decades, and as a result they are thinking critically about deploying their assets in ways that will make the greatest impact,” Ann Senne, head of the U.S. advice and solutions group at RBC Wealth Management, said in a statement.
“Increasingly, they are turning to their advisors to help build a wealth plan that aligns with their values throughout their lives and sets the tone for the legacy they leave behind.”
The findings were based on a survey The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted this spring among 1,051 high-net-worth individuals, including 365 respondents in the U.S., with minimum investable wealth of $1 million.
EIU researchers asked the American respondents how they defined “legacy.” Sixty-eight percent named relationships with family, six percentage points ahead of the global average. Only 42% of the Americans cited what they were able to do for their families financially.
The American sample more than twice as often considered social impact on the world to be an important part of their legacy as opposed to financial impact on the world. Other key components of their vision of legacy were relationships with friends, for 33%; professional accomplishments, for 27%; and both relationships with and financial impact on their local community, for 12% and 9%.
A recent study found that a growing number of high-net-worth American investors are basing investment decisions on companies’ environmental, social and governance track records.
Even as wealthy Americans in the EIU survey prioritized personal relationships over material assets, 61% recognized that wealth was the chief enabler of their legacy.
They were fairly optimistic about wealth building, with 90% expecting to acquire more wealth than their parents over the course of their lifetime. At the same time, only 51% expected the next generation to accumulate even more wealth than they will.
The survey found that the concept of wealth carries personal and complex meanings. Seventy-two percent of the American respondents defined it as financial security and independence, compared with 62% for the global average.
Fifty-five percent of the Americans said wealth was a measure of total financial asset value, about on par with the global sample.
According to the survey, 61% of Americans considered investments as the main factor that allows people to generate wealth. Fifty-six percent said it was better education, 55% new technologies and 52% greater access to information.