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With great wealth comes a great divide in social consciousness

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Impact investing — putting money to use with an eye not just on financial returns but on bringing about social or environmental change — is a hot topic. It may also be a divisive topic among different generations of wealth, according to a new report.

The survey, commissioned by RBC Wealth Management, reached 1,051 individuals around the world with at least U.S. $1 million in assets; 365 were in the U.S. It asked how strongly respondents agreed or disagreed with the statement: “I feel a personal responsibility for my wealth to benefit broader society.”

While only 8% of U.S. millionaires 64 and older strongly agreed, more than three times as many Gen X and millennial millionaires did — 27%. Only 9% of younger millionaires chose “strongly disagree,” compared with 21% of older millionaires.

Members of Gen X and millennials also seem to work harder to put their money where their mouths are.

When asked how they worked charitable giving into wealth planning, 29% agreed with the statement that “I align my investments with my giving goals (e.g., through impact investing)” and 39% agreed that “Where relevant, my spending aligns with the causes important to me (e.g., buying sustainable products).”

Just 12% of older millionaires chose the impact investing answer and 32% said their spending is in line with the causes that matter to them.

Gen X and millennials also felt stronger about passing on their values to a younger generation, at 43% to the older generation’s 25%. Younger millionaires in the RBC survey also felt more strongly about passing wealth on to the next generation (28% to 12%).

Other highlights from the survey:

An inheritance from parents was cited by 22% of Americans as a source of wealth and 10% cited an inheritance from other family members. Good old financial investments such as stocks and bonds were cited by 90% of U.S. high-net worth individuals as one of the top three ways they accumulated wealth.

Such assets as real estate and artwork were the next most common answer at 41%. Ninety-three percent of older high-net-worth Americans said they would amass more wealth than their parents. They weren’t so sanguine about that prospect for the next generation and 48% disagreed with the statement that “I believe the next generation will accumulate more wealth than I have.”

Close to half of younger millionaires said they planned to give away or spend their wealth mostly while they are alive, compared with 22% of their older counterparts.

Bloomberg News