Most people who know me would say that I’m a generalist. I’m good at a few things, but not great at any one thing, with one notable exception – music trivia from the 1980s. Friends and neighbors have tried to stump me, but I pretty much know the artist of every song from the top 40 charts in the ’80s, the decade that defines me and my generation.
You see, I’m a cons-ummate Gen Xer. I fit nearly every quality associated with Generation X – balancing career success with quality family life, committed to my community, independent and a little entitled, and most importantly, I want my life to make a difference.
Like most in my generation, I’ve spent my life watching the example set by the generation ahead of mine. Members of the baby boomer generation have left an indelible mark on many aspects of our society, from education and industry to the housing market, health care, and retail. And once again, my generation and those that will follow me are watching your example when it comes to your philanthropy.
That’s because your generation is about to make history. Like so many other history-making characteristics of the boomer generation, the opportunity to reshape the world of philanthropy may be the boomer’s crowning achievement. The Chronicle of Philanthropy estimates that $11 trillion will transfer generationally in the next 10 years across the U.S., with much of that wealth being handed down by baby boomers.
But what about here in Eastern Washington and North Idaho? In a recent study commissioned by Innovia Foundation, we learned that over $42 billion will transfer generationally in this region over the next 10 years. The 50-year transfer of wealth numbers are even more staggering: in Eastern Washington and North Idaho alone, $375 billion will transfer from the baby boomer generation. As boomers move toward the latter years of life and transfer their hard-earned wealth to the next generation, the societal impact could be staggering. And I want all of my baby boomer friends to know that once again, my generation will be watching the model that you set.
What impact do you want to have with the wealth that you’ve created during your lifetime? How do you want that wealth to be a part of an enduring legacy that carries on after you pass? Have you thought intentionally about how much you want to pass on to your children, your grandchildren, your church, or your alma mater? And what about your community? What about this place that you have lived in, built your business, raised your family and grown to love? Have you considered the impact that your wealth could have if it were intentionally transferred to charitable endowments to benefit nonprofits and local community endowments for generations to come?
These are questions that can also involve your heirs, as well. Talking to your children about estate planning or designating them as philanthropic advisers to guide your charitable intent in the years to come can establish a multigenerational legacy.
An example of this kind of thoughtful planning and charitable impact can be seen in the late Willard Hennings and his wife. Patricia. As long-time farmers in Ritzville, the Hennings’ passion for their community inspired them to give back to the place they had lived in and loved for decades.
The first fund they established was a beautification fund for the benefit of Ritzville. Additional planning, through their estate attorney, created an endowed fund in memory of their daughter, Tamara Hennings, to support a cancer research position at the Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
Finally, they planned future gifts to start a scholarship for students in Ritzville, Washtucna, Lind, Kahlotus, and Connell, as well as a fund to support graduate medical education to incentivize medical interns to establish their residencies in rural communities.
Imagine the impact if every boomer in our region followed the Hennings’ example and committed even just 5% back to the community as part of this legacy planning.
Not only would that create over $2 billion invested back into nonprofits and local charitable endowments over the next 10 years, but the example of your generosity would never be forgotten. It would leave an irrevocable mark in the hearts and minds of every member of my generation, and the generations to follow.
So to all you baby boomers who love Eastern Washington and North Idaho, I just want you to know that my generation admires you. We respect what you have accomplished. We’re a little bit jealous. Most importantly, we model how we live our lives in large part by your example. Would you inspire us once again with the way you plan intentionally to transfer your wealth to the things that matter most to you and your community? Imagine your impact.
Aaron McMurray is chief strategy officer for Spokane-based Innovia Foundation. He can be reached at 509.624.2606 or
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