What ever happened to the Boston College/Havens-Schervish Wealth Transfer predictions?

I probably owe some part of my career in planned giving to the so-called “Wealth Transfer” predictions by John Havens and Paul Schervish in the late 90’s.  They created an incredible amount of publicity with bold predictions of “Trillions” of dollars heading to nonprofits via planned giving/bequests.  Every few years, I like to revisit their predictions and see how close we are 🙂

Here is my updated slide looking at Schervish and Havens’ minimum (I mean minimum!) wealth transfer to nonprofits:

Wealth Transfer Prophecy

Oops.  So they were off target by more than a $Trillion on their first prediction.

All kidding aside, and putting aside their ridiculous predictions (you make big predictions like theirs, you better at least be close), something is still coming.  But, the impact on planned giving (as a result of the aging of the baby boomers) won’t be felt for another 5 years – according to Dr. Russell James in his recent webinar (click here for a free viewing).

Dr. James’ reason for the 5-year period is simple:  that is when the oldest boomers will start reaching age 72 and  up.  In other words, planned giving won’t feel any Wealth Transfer uptic until boomers start passing away in noticeable numbers.

Maybe I need to  come up with realistic predictions for 2018 and beyond! It won’t be the tidal wave that my slide is showing but it will surely be a big jump from these relatively flat bequests years that we are currently in.

What is our takeaway from this dose of reality?  Nonprofits need to put aside the fantasy predictions (and their failure to materialize) and focus on the facts that we need to invest over the next five years in our planned giving programs to be ready for the real wave that is coming.  Not based on faulty predictions  but a reality that people get old and eventually pass away.  There are just more people in the baby boomer generation – so much more that it’s inevitable that the impact will reach nonprofits via planned giving.

Here are two other visuals from Dr. Russell James on the same issue – sorry Professors Schervish and Havens, your predictions look like duds 🙂

The prediction

The reality