There is no doubt that boomer parents are torn between leaving their children and grandchildren an inheritance versus maintaining their own quality of life on expenses such as travel or other avocations in retirement. Those boomers who are less inclined to leave an inheritance aren't as selfish as you think, and many planning to leave inheritances are distinctly uncomfortable about it.
The Hearts & Wallets report, Funding Life After Work: Impact of Parenthood & Wealth Transfer on Retirement Solutions for Baby Boomers, reveals that roughly 40% of those surveyed plan to leave inheritances. About 30% expect to spend all their money, and the other 30% aren't sure. There's one item that the majority of the parents had in common: they're afraid of running out of money. And those who plan to leave inheritances are extremely terrified of running out of money!
Interestingly, ultra-wealthy parents appear to be more apt to give their kids inheritances, according to a US trust survey of high net worth individuals with at least $3 million in investable assets. Some 57% of the respondents think it's important to leave a financial inheritance to the next generation—which is somewhat less than the 66% of Gen X'ers and 74% of Millennials who felt this way. However, only 27% of the parents surveyed have told their children how much they are likely to inherit. One reason for this is that only 20% strongly agreed that their children will be prepared to handle the wealth they'll receive. Reading this, I can’t help but think that it begs the question of how will they leave this wealth so that this money can be managed appropriately – the answer is a trust, of course!
Many boomer parents who won't leave inheritances aren't stingy with their cash—they're just giving their children and grandchildren money while they're still around to watch them use the cash to fulfill their dreams (and also watch to be sure it's used wisely). Some call this phenomenon "investing in their children while they are growing."
Those who do plan to leave inheritances see this generosity as "the ultimate insurance policy against ever running out of money" and earmark some of their assets for their children. They'll only tap in retirement for the amount they'll have beyond that. Yet these parents are afraid that they may have to tap into their principal one day.
These inheritance parents are taking an active role in discussing family finances with their kids. That conversation may prove to be very useful after one or both parents die.
Reference: Forbes (January 21, 2016) "How Boomer Parents Feel About Leaving Inheritances"