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Research reveals huge uncertainty over legacy giving


Generations have different priorities driven by economic worries

Economic uncertainty is delaying legacy giving, a new report has found.

Research conducted by Legacy Foresight highlights the opportunities and challenges charities will face as Gen X instead of boomers become the focus for engagement.

The analysis found that uncertainty around the economy was driving short-term thinking. Respondents from both generations felt in limbo and were putting off making important decisions, as they didn’t know what the future would hold or what their families might need.

This also translated into will-making behaviours — with people delaying making a will, reporting that things seemed too uncertain at the moment to make commitments for the future.  

Gen X (born 1965-1980) are feeling the squeeze more than their boomer counterparts (born 1945-1964) and are more pessimistic about economic prospects.

counterparts and are more pessimistic about economic prospects. With many having dependent children at home, Gen X are more likely to be thinking carefully about how they spend their money. Their main aim was to try to hold on to what they had and to save planning for the future for when things feel more certain.  

However the research found the boomer generation have significantly more wealth than previous generations - 50% more than war babies at their age.

And the wealth of Gen X reveals a more optimistic picture than the media presents, with Gen Xers aged 50-54 appearing to be similarly wealthy to boomers when they were the same age, although with a profile towards more pensions and less property.

However there is greater polarisation of wealth among Gen X, with the top quarter of Gen X households owning 70% of wealth compared to 65% for boomers.

While not good for wider society, this is positive for legacies, as it shows Gen X holds significant wealth and increased wealth increases the chance of a charitable gift left in a will.  

Being child-free is a key driver of legacy giving across all generations with 14% of core boomer females (now aged 65-75) being child free versus 18% of Gen X females.

This will lead to an increase in child-free deaths from mid 2020s — an important consideration for charities whose supporters won’t all have automatic beneficiaries and may be seeking ways in which their legacy can live on.  

There is also a different religious makeup among Gen X, with a lower percentage identifying as Christian (46% of Gen X versus 67% of core boomers), and a higher percentage describing themselves as Muslim (6.1% Gen X versus 2.1% of core boomers) or of no religion (37% Gen X vs 22% of core boomers).   

Gen X are also considerably more ethnically diverse, with almost one in five Gen Xers belonging to a black, Asian, mixed or other ethnic group according to the 2021 census data. This is an increase of 130% from the oldest boomers, with just one in 12 core boomers identifying as belonging to a non-white ethnic group.   

CEO of Legacy Futures, Ashley Rowthorn, said: “While economic uncertainty seems to be delaying legacy decision making, the good news is that donors don’t seem to be removing charities from their wills all together. 

“There is still a strong desire to give to causes that matter in life, as well as to family and friends, and charities need to use this moment of pause to deepen and strengthen relationships through good stewardship.  

“As time moves on, charities also need to understand the changing generations and make sure they are engaging them on their terms. This latest research helps charities develop long-term programmes, including how to tailor their messaging, develop their storytelling and demonstrate impact.  

“The research shows why charities cannot take the same approach with all supporters, bearing in mind the vast differences in attitudes and behaviours. Understanding generational differences aids charities in formulating their communication messaging and content choices, leading to more positive outcomes for all.” 



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