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With great wealth comes a great divide in social consciousness

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.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) signage is displayed at the Royal Bank Plaza in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Royal Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer David McKay said U.S. moves to normalize relations with Cuba present an opportunity for the lender to return to the Caribbean nation. Photographer: Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg

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.