Like it or not, women will control a huge chuck of the money over the next 40 years. According to the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, women will inherit 70% of the $41 trillion of the intergenerational wealth that will change hands over the next four decades. Women outlive their men and currently make most of the purchases in the United States, which means that a women’s ability to manage her wealth have implications for society at large.
Intergenerational wealth transfer is a huge topic near and dear to my heart because I’ve seen the effects of wealth on successive generations. When I was a student at Yale University, some of my fellow classmates had access to opportunities and experiences because of their family’s wealth.
At the time, we called them “the rich kids with silver spoons” who didn’t know a hard day’s work. Now, some of them did live up to the snobby stereotype that usually comes along with this characterization, but most did not. Many students from wealthy families appreciated hard work, as evidenced by the fact that they worked their way to Yale. But, their road seemed a bit easier, a little less cumbersome.
Well, these students also had a super high degree of cultural capital, which comes as a result of being exposed to a diverse set of experiences albeit art, culture, world travel, or non-traditional learning environments. They’ve tasted the fruits of success first-hand because of the environment around them. Basically, they’ve had access to experiences by the age of 18 that most people do not have over a lifetime.
Cultural capital allows you to think differently about the world. You tend to imagine yourself as the business owner, not the employee. You are confident that you your education will always provide you with a path foward. You dream big because those around you do; you do not know how to think small. You, or your parents, can easily tap into a network to achieve your goals. You are not confined by the current circumstance because you believe that you can always create a new one. You truly believe that you can change the world.
My parents, in their infinite wisdom, sent me to Yale for this very reason. They had already laid a great foundation for my brother and I by exposing us to a world beyond Long Island, but they knew what I didn’t – I (and the entire family) would come out with a new level of cultural capital that they didn’t have at 22-years-old. Of course, cultural capital isn't everything, but it changes you. I had an amazing childhood, but they wanted me to have something even more as I entered adulthood. This was their type of wealth transfer to me. Thank God for parents!
Now, this is not a discussion on the virtues of the Ivies or higher education, but I do want to suggest that cultural capital matters, however it is obtained. I am confident that wealth creation is a vehicle to cultural capital, and when you can transfer wealth from one generation to another, society benefits.
As a result, creating wealth that can pass from generation to generation is an important objective to maintain a way of thinking and operating in the world. And, if women are going to receive a lot of the generational wealth transfer, then they must be equipped to preserve their wealth and grow it even more.
So, what are you doing to equip women with the tools to manage their wealth, pass it down to the next generation successfully, and thus make our society better?
I will share my views on this very question next week.