By: Rob Carrick


The Globe and Mail


Quoted like scripture in the financial industry is a report from years ago that projected a $1-trillion transfer of wealth between 2016 and 2026.

A recent survey conducted through the Carrick on Money newsletter suggests there’s a lot more where that came from.

Almost 81 per cent of the 1,633 participants anticipate an inheritance of money from parents, with a majority expecting six-figure amounts. One in four said they know plenty of people who have already received money, and another 38 per cent said inheritances get mentioned sometimes in their circle of friends and acquaintances.

This inheritance money is real – we’ve seen billions of it already flowing from parental savings into home down-payment money for adult children. But there are reasons to be cautious in estimating how much more there is to come. Boomers are a generation with the potential to live a long life that brings costly health challenges later on.

Among the people who participated in the Carrick on Money survey, just 12 per cent said they did not expect to receive an inheritance and 7.3 per cent said they weren’t sure. It’s possible these results reflect a bias to avoiding the survey among those who do not expect parental money.

Regardless, there are some big-time expectations about money being passed down from parents. Here are some reasons why actual inheritances may not live up to these expectations:


Numbers from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development show a 65-year-old woman in this country can expect to live an additional 22.3 years on average, while a man of the same age can expect 19.5 more years. But longer lifespans than that are increasingly common.

For example, Statistics Canada has reported that the number of people aged 95 to 99 rose 65 per cent between 2013 and 2023 to 77,404. There were 11,705 people aged 100 and up in 2023.

Living longer increases the chance of health issues that require help from outside the public health care system. One participant in the inheritance survey left a comment about a parent who will have $2.5-million in liquid assets after selling a Toronto home, while also receiving care that now costs $200,000 a year.

Another issue related to longevity is the timing of inheritances. A boomer dying at 90 or older could end up leaving money to offspring who have already retired.

Non-optimal financial planning and investing

Most retirees would benefit from financial planning that helps them draw down on their savings in a way that is tax-efficient and preserves as much capital as possible for their own use, or to pass on.

A question I’m hearing more often these days from seniors is how they can find someone to offer this kind of assistance, and to manage or provide oversight of their investments as they age. The underlying concern is that cognitive issues will affect decision-making.

Spending habits

Baby boomers are a wealthy generation on the whole and they’ve managed to maintain spending amid high living costs more than other demographic groups. A message that came across over and over in the survey is that adult children want parents to enjoy their money and live as well as possible. Don’t worry – a lot of parents will do just that.


A consumer insolvency specialist’s newsletter recently catalogued the many ways debt levels among seniors are increasing. One example that stands out is that 14 per cent of senior households have mortgage debt and 37 per cent have other debts. Servicing debt may require seniors to draw down on their retirement savings faster.

Family discord

Any estates lawyer will tell you that inheritances can be a wedge that divides families. Parents may arrange their estate in a way that seems perfectly logical to them, but feels unfair to one or more children. Legal costs to settle these disputes can eat away at the amount of inheritance money received in the end.

Grey divorce

The number of married people aged 50 and up who divorce jumped 26 per cent between 1991 and 2006 (from 4.2 to 5.3 per 1,000) and has been fairly stable since then, Statistics Canada says. Divorce is a wealth-destroyer.

Sign up for the Carrick on Money Newsletter.

Protect your money with Rob Carrick’s proven personal finance advice on saving and investing.