Generation Z, or those born after 1997 according to Pew Research, are among those least likely to have a will in place. And before any of you Millennials cast a look down your noses at those lowly Gen Z kids, be careful about throwing stones in a glass house. Together, about 25% of those under 50 have a will, and the number decreases every year (Gallup).
With more information than ever before at the tips of their fingers, the younger generations lag behind their older peers in thinking about the future. This is not too hard to understand – many young people might not even think they have any assets to leave behind.
A study by the Urban Institute in 2015 indicated that only 32% of Millennials, 18-34, owned homes, compared to 60% of Gen X and 75% of Baby Boomers. According to Pew Research, “a home is one of the most commonly owned assets, and home equity is the single largest contributor to household wealth.” So Millennials are far less likely to have the most common asset that makes up most of a family unit or individual’s wealth. Thus, they are less likely to seek out ways to protect an asset they do not have.
In addition, high student debt may contribute to younger generations’ beliefs that they do not have any assets to leave behind. Millennials and Gen Z-ers are more educated than any previous generation by a wide margin, but this comes with an average debt per borrower of around $33,330.00 for those under 50.
On top of all of that, the average life expectancy in the US is about 77 years (CDC). It is quite easy to procrastinate wills and estate planning when the end of life seems so far away.
But these generations just lived through and are dealing with the aftermath of a global pandemic that took the lives of many loved ones far before their time. It changed the outlook many had towards health and appreciating the moments we have here on Earth with our family and those we deeply cherish.
Perhaps this experience will encourage Gen Z-ers and Millennials to start planning earlier. House or not, student loans or not, estate planning is about more than debts and assets – it is about those we care about most having peace of mind when we are gone.
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Bryce Griffin is a third-year J.D. student at Baylor University School of Law, and completed his undergraduate in Philosophy and Political Science at Baylor University. He is looking forward to entering the estate planning legal field upon graduation and passing the Bar.