Pandemic Prompted First-time Legacy Planning Conversations for 44.5 Million Americans, Edward Jones Finds

Monday, October 18th, 2021

According to a new study from financial services firm Edward Jones in partnership with Age Wave and Harris Poll, a third of U.S. adults (33%) report that the pandemic triggered conversations with close family members about their end-of-life plans and preferences. For 44.5 million Americans (18%), these were first-time discussions about topics such as finances, health and legal plans.

These conversations come at an opportune time, as 66% of Americans also reported that the pandemic has made them think more about the kind of legacy they want to leave to their families. Lasting memories from shared experiences (64%), life lessons and values (43%) and an inheritance (32%) are the most important things Americans 50+ wish to leave behind for loved ones.

"It's no surprise that the pandemic made Americans more acutely aware of the need for discussions around end-of-life planning," said Alison Carnie, CFP®, Principal at Edward Jones. "We are encouraged that these tough conversations are happening more frequently, especially for individuals who did not have plans in place pre-pandemic."

Intention versus Action

To set the stage, the impacts of the pandemic resulted in nearly 50 million Americans halting or reducing contributions to retirement savings. An additional 38 million withdrew money from retirement savings. Yet at the same time, retirement savings boosted for others as 59 million Americans began contributing more to their retirement savings.  

The study illuminated the gap between intention and action as a majority of Americans ages 50+ (71%) believe having a will in place is the most important action to take before someone dies, yet only 49% actually have a will. Further, only 19% of adults 50+ have all three essential end-of-life documents in place: a will, health care directive/living will and designated power of attorney.

In addition to these crucial documents, long-term care is one of the biggest considerations Americans are not prepared for. More than half of Americans 50+ (51%) do not have any long-term care plans in place, while one in 10 (10%) have arranged to live with a child or another close family member.

Family Connections

Surprisingly, 53 million Americans wish their parents and in-laws did a better job of managing their money. Millennials are the most concerned about the solvency of their parents' finances, with more than half (53%) worried that their parents and in-laws will become financially dependent on them one day, underscoring the need for transparent dialogue.

While 7 in 10 Americans (71%) say that the pandemic has brought their family closer together and 63% agree there are many benefits of involving different generations in important financial decisions, challenges still persist in having these conversations.

The Call for Advice

Three in five U.S. adults (60%) report that there are barriers when it comes to having family discussions about important financial topics. The top three roadblocks include avoiding family conflicts (22%), attempting to avoid burdening family members with their finances (20%) and being too uncomfortable to discuss these topics (18%).

To make these conversations easier and provide objective, trusted financial advice, an encouraging 22 million Americans began working with a financial advisor for the first time during the pandemic.

"A financial advisor can help facilitate these conversations making things a little easier as family members navigate financial concerns, intergenerational needs and end-of-life financial considerations," added Carnie. "To leave the legacy you desire, it's essential to have a strategy and seek out trusted advice from a financial professional." 

For more information on this research, visit The New Retirement | Edward Jones.