To Give or Not to Give: The Pros and Cons of Leaving an Inheritance

03/09/2020 - Retirement

Successful retirement planning is as much about your goals for your golden years as it is about the legacy you want to leave behind.

I ask my clients a whole slew of questions as part of the retirement planning process, from how much money they believe they would need to feel financially secure, to what they would like to accomplish in retirement, and what they would do after their last working day if money were no object. Another crucial question: “Do you want to leave an inheritance?”

I get a broad range of answers to most questions I ask, and this one is no different. Some clients respond that they have already provided their children with so much—putting them through private school, a host of expensive extracurricular activities, and the best colleges. “I’ve already given them everything,” they say. “The rest is up to them.”

They are certainly not alone. Even Warren Buffett has said he is not leaving his kids jaw-dropping inheritances. Though I’m confident they’ll never be uncomfortable, he is insistent that they do something meaningful with their lives—on their own terms.

But leaving an inheritance doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be encouraging your beneficiaries to live below their potential or to be irresponsible. Many people do it prudently, which, for many, is key—because they still have lives to live.

For most people, the amount they want to leave behind directly affects how much they can spend in retirement. For example, I have a retired client who is 50 years old, and takes 5 percent a year. She could live to 100 and be just fine. But if her goal were to leave each of her kids a half a million bucks, we’d be doing things very differently.

What if she wanted to leave her wealth to a cause she believed in, like a local animal shelter or a charity that provides families with clean water in developing countries? That plan would shift again, and we would address her spending with her legacy in mind.

When it comes to inheritance planning, there are so many things to consider, and my book, You’re Retired, Now What? can help you identify them, so that you can fulfill your goals in life—and beyond.

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