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Wealth Transfer

center on wealth and philanthropy

"Abundant Future"
Mukul Verma. Currents Magazine. Published October 2007.
Details a conversation with Paul G. Schervish about the transfer of $41 trillion in wealth, and why you can’t tell Donald Trump to give it up for good.

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"A Golden Age of Philanthropy Still Beckons:  National Wealth Transfer and Potential for Philanthropy"

(Release Date 5.28.14)

Our research on wealth transfer and charitable giving revealed that an estimated $59 trillion - divided among heirs, charities, estate taxes and estate closing closts - will be transferred from 116 million American households from 2007 to 2061 in the greatest wealth transfer in U.S. history.  Read full report here.

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Press Release  5.28.14

"The Golden Age of Philanthropy?"
Estimates of the much anticipated "wealth transfer" in this country have been a topic of conversation in the nonprofit and financial worlds for years--and the numbers are staggering. By the year 2055 some $41 trillion will change hands as Americans pass their accumulated assets from one generation to the next. What kind of impact will this great wealth transfer have on the Greater Boston area? How might it affect the area's philanthropic and nonprofit sectors? Is there a way to prepare for this phenomenon that will enhance the potential for personal satisfaction on the part of wealth holders--and benefit the community as a whole? Learn more by following the links below.

The Boston Foundation Press Release: A Golden Age of Philanthropy?

A Golden Age of Philanthropy? The Impact of the Great Wealth Transfer on Greater Boston

Technical Report: Wealth Transfer Estimates: 2001-2055 Boston Metropolitan Area

"How do People Leave Bequests: Family or Philanthropic Organizations?." Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens. In Alicia Munnell and Annika Sunden, (eds.), Death and Dollars, forthcoming Brookings Press.
This paper presents an alternative paradigm to economic models of transfers, one which we have developed from our extensive ethnographic and survey research on charitable giving and which we call the identification theory. The identification theory suggests that it is self-identification with others and with the needs of others, (rather than selflessness) that motivates transfers to individuals and to philanthropic organizations and that leads givers to derive satisfaction from fulfilling those needs. The allocation of transfers to family and philanthropy, we have found, is not so much a division between individuals and philanthropic organizations, as it is an allocation of transfers across an array of perceived needs, which combines both the needs of individuals, including family and friends, and needs served by philanthropic organizations. Moreover, the allocation is less a single conscious decision than a process imbedded in daily life experiences.

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"Millionaires and the Millennium: New Estimates of the Forthcoming Wealth Transfer and the Prospects for a Golden Age of Philanthropy."
John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish. New estimates showing forthcoming wealth transfer over the 55-year period from 1998 to 2052 will be at least $41 trillion and possibly as high as $136 trillion. October 19, 1999.

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"North Dakota Wealth Transfer Study."Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens, Center on Wealth and Philanthropy. November 16, 2005.
The authors of this study have used a version of their Wealth Transfer Microsimulation Model (WTMM) specially calibrated to the state of North Dakota to derive findings concerning the level and distribution of household wealth, the amount and distribution of wealth transfer, and the amount and distribution of charitable giving in North Dakota.

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"St. Louis Metropolitan Area Wealth Transfer Estimates: 2001-2055."
Issued by the Gateway to Giving Coalition and based on a study prepared John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish. November, 2004.

The Center on Wealth and Philanthropy has developed and tested a new methodology that enables the estimation of the transfer of personal wealth from 2001 through 2055 for states and large metropolitan areas. Analogous to its national estimate of $41 trillion of wealth transfer, the state and metropolitan area estimates are developed by microsimulation for 2% low growth, 3% medium growth, and 4% high growth scenarios. Like their national counterpart, the state and metropolitan area estimates are derived from an expanded and updated 2004 Wealth Transfer Microsimulation Model (WTMM) developed and housed at the Center. Using 10-year intervals the expanded model estimates the number and value of final estates (i.e., estates without a surviving spouse) and their distribution among estate fees, charitable bequests, estate taxes, and heirs - all cross-tabulated by categories of net worth of the final estates. The expanded model also estimates the number of millionaires spawned from the 2001 population and the value of their wealth at the end of each reporting decade. At the invitation of the St. Louis Metropolitan Association for Philanthropy, the Center recently applied this localized method to the St. Louis area. The technical background and published reports are available for download.

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"Washington, DC Wealth Transfer Study."
Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens. The Center on Wealth and Philanthropy. Released July 26, 2006.
The authors of this study have used a version of their Wealth Transfer Microsimulation Model (WTMM) specially calibrated to the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area to derive findings concerning the level and distribution of household wealth, the amount and distribution of wealth transfer, and the amount and distribution of charitable giving in Washington, DC. 

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"Wealth Transfer and Potential for Philanthropy in the Boston Metropolitan Area Technical Report."
John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish. March 2013.

Our research on wealth transfer and charitable giving in the Boston Area revealed that although the Great Recession of 2007-2011 will resonate for years to come in the philanthropic sector, Greater Boston Households and estates could give between $600 billion to well over $1 trillion to charities between now and 2061 depending on growth rates of the economy. This technical report presents the findings and describes in detail methodology and data contained within the updated wealth transfer model used for this Bosotn Area wealth study.

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Download The Boston Foundation Report on Wealth Transfer

"Wealth Transfer Estimates for African Americans Households."
John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish. October 21, 2004

This study presents new information on wealth and wealth transfer within the African-American community. The first section presents an overview of the findings. The second section presents selected statistical patterns and trends in income, wealth, and philanthropic giving among African-American households. This section includes estimates of the amount and distribution of wealth among African American households. It provides an essential context for understanding the estimates of wealth transfer presented in the third section. The third section deals with the capacity of African American households to make charitable gifts and to leave charitable bequests in the 55 year period from 2001 to 2055. Using an expanded and updated version of the CWP's Wealth Transfer Microsimulation Model (WTMM), the report presents the first estimates of wealth transfer among African American households.

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“Wealth Transfer in an Age of Affluence: An Interview with Paul Schervish.”
Interviewed by Pamela Gerloff. More Than Money Journal. Spring 2003. pp. 5-10.
MTM: You have written elsewhere that, “The leading cultural and spiritual question of the current era is how to make wise decisions in an age of affluence.” Is that what you’re suggesting—that people in our society now have so many choices that wisdom is needed in making them?
Schervish: Aristotle understood that the goal of life is happiness—you could also say love, unity with the divine presence, or a whole range of things, but let’s just say that his term is one working definition of the goal of life. Happiness is achieved if you can close the gap between where you and those with whom you identify and care about are and where you and they would like to be.

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"Wealth Transfer and Philanthropy: An Interview with Paul G. Schervish, PhD, and John J. Havens."As published in Investments & Wealth Monitor. September/October 2009.
Wealthy individuals contribute to philanthropic causes for a variety of reasons. In June 2009, Investments & Wealth Monitor asked Paul G. Schervish, PhD, and John J. Havens to describe the primary motivators behind wealth transfers.
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"Why the $41 Trillion Wealth Transfer is Still Valid: A Review of Challenges and Questions." John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish. Published in The National Committee on Planned Giving's The Journal of Gift Planning. Vol. 7, no. 1, 1st Quarter 2003. pp. 11-15, 47-50.
Despite the economic downturn and the fall of the equity markets, the nationally noted projection that a wealth transfer of at least $41-trillion will take place in the United States by the year 2052 remains valid, according to researchers at the Boston College Social Welfare Research Institute (SWRI), which issued the original projection in 1999.

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Download Summary (120KB)
Download Press Release (23KB)