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MarketWatch 25 Years: ‘We’re likely to see one of the greatest transfers of intergenerational wealth,’ as $68 trillion set to ‘reshape economy,’ says head of TIAA


For 25 years, we at MarketWatch have made retirement one of our core coverage areas. We have tried to help our readers navigate the fraught and often confusing issues surrounding saving, investing and preparing for this post-career period of their lives. 

On our 25th anniversary, we wanted to ask one of our favorite retirement experts what she thinks we will be reporting on over the next five years when it comes to retirement. As CEO of TIAA, Thasunda Brown Duckett oversees a massive retirement account manager that has $1.2 trillion of assets under management. It handles retirement accounts for healthcare systems, colleges and nonprofits. 

Here’s what Duckett had to say:

What big issues will we be reading about in MarketWatch when it comes to retirement?

First, in the next five years we’re likely to see one of the greatest transfers of intergenerational wealth. It’s estimated that upon their deaths, the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers will transfer somewhere between $30 trillion to $68 trillion to their adult children. This will put younger generations in the driver’s seat and has the potential to reshape our economy. Millennials and Gen Z should be prepared for this shift in wealth by making sure they’re working on their financial literacy, considering if they will need to meet with a financial advisor, and thinking about their long-term investment strategies.

What will the younger generation do once they are in the driver’s seat?

I think we’ll continue to see younger generations drive growth in responsible investing, choosing to fill their financial portfolios with companies that align with their beliefs. This is almost certain to become less of a trend and more of the “norm” as we see the immediate effects of climate change and as younger investors begin planning for their financial futures.

What are the obstacles we will be reading about when it comes to younger Americans saving for retirement?

Even with the pending shift in intergenerational wealth, I think we’ll be reading about younger generations facing new headwinds when it comes to saving for retirement. Compared with their parents and grandparents, younger generations have fewer options to save for retirement. Older workers may have had access to employer sponsored defined benefits (DB) or pension plans which helped set them up for financial success and provided greater access to lifetime income options. Today, few employers offer these types of plans, opting instead for defined contribution (DC) plans, if they’re offering a retirement plan at all. In fact, one-third of Americans today say they don’t have access at all to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Despite this significant access gap, half of Millennials and Gen Z still expect all of their retirement income to come from a 401(k) or 403(b) plan. The delta between what younger generations have access to and where they think their retirement income will come from could have serious long-term consequences. That’s why we’re working with policymakers and employers to increase access to retirement savings plans, educating workers about lifetime income options like annuities, and engaging with younger generations to teach them about savings vehicles outside of their employers, like IRAs.

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