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The Great Wealth Transfer imminent– What it means for Namibia

August 23, 2022

While the exact amount is unknown, there is no doubt that millennials around the world will benefit by inheriting from their parents. The same can be said about Namibia.

A great wealth transfer is on the horizon, with millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) are set to inherit sizable sums from their Baby Boomer parents who are currently aged 57 to 75. In this Great Wealth Transfer it is estimated that millennials will inherit up to US$68 trillion from their Baby Boomer parents over the next three decades.

The US$68 trillion is not a fixed figure, as there is some uncertainty surrounding it, since a large portion of that wealth is tied to investments or homes. Future stock market performance, tax and estate regulations are thus expected to have a bearing on the wealth that millennials will inherit.

The Namibian wealth management industry is already undergoing a paradigm shift as a result of changing demographics and rapid digitalization, with more millennials jumping on the investing bandwagon, making investments that could soon be boosted using the inheritance from their Baby Boomer parents. For example, 52,5% of the Government Institutions Pension Fund's (GIPF) active members are set to retire in the next decade. 

GIPF is Namibia’s biggest pension fund and one of the few fully funded pension funds in Africa that has built up enough funds to cover its liabilities.

A report released in June by GIPF’s actuaries, Humanity Employee Benefits Co. (Pty) Ltd, states that its biggest member group are Baby Boomers well into their late 50s. GIPF owes N$33 billion to these members and N$32 billion to members in their 60s. 

This means that millennials whose parents are public servants in Namibia could inherit sizeable cash portions as parents opt to invest their respective lump sum payouts, settle home-loans or start new family businesses. In this way, creating future revenue earning streams and increasing inheritance pools appears more attainable.

This kind of inheritance will increase the wealth of millennials, some of whom already have high-paying jobs. Younger Namibians are graduates in fields such as medicine, law, chartered accounting, and financial services.  And with the rise of the ‘side-hustle’ they are also starting businesses.

The Generational Power Index

The Generational Power Index (GPI) 2021 [1], which aims to accurately depict the current environment of generational power, notes that each generation has its own historical context and cultural experiences, forming a shared worldview distinct from their elders.

Throughout their reign, the Baby Boomer generation played a significant role in shaping the governmental and financial systems that govern the rest of society. It is worth noting that 40% of Baby Boomers have already retired, and millions more are leaving the workforce every year.

The stakes are high and the passing of the torch is inevitable, but many uncertainties remain about how and when exactly the power vacuum left by Boomers will be filled. The GPI report highlights that this power vacuum is surrounded by many questions: Will Generation X (born 1965-1980 and now in its prime earning years) take the reins of power to reshape society in a way that suits the "MTV Generation?  Or will the tech-savvy millennials (born 1981-1996—and the children of Boomers) leapfrog over them due to their superiority in numbers?

But just when we are thinking that is the only issue, along comes the newest generation to enter the fray. The oldest among Gen Alpha will be 9 years old in 2022. Within the next decade, they’ll begin voting and entering the workforce, and are set to be the most digitally savvy yet. Technology—the great disruptor, fuelled by smartphones—allows nearly anyone to speak directly to billions of people, and decentralised finance is now reshaping traditional systems of wealth. But, like everyone else, the younger generations face an uphill climb.

Baby Boomers, born in the post-WWII era, worked in a relatively prosperous economy. By contrast, many millennials started their careers following the 2008 financial crisis. And today, millennials and Gen Z face a slew of financial challenges, with rising debt chief among them. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Z unemployment rates have been twice those of older generations and estimated as over 40% in Namibia.

Age is not the only factor in determining debt, but others such as issues of policy, economics and culture. These micro and macro changes will continue to shape the important trends in wealth management, namely, the increasing need for advice, for easy-to-use advisory platforms and for goal-based financial planning. We will be moving away from traditional asset classes, to a customer-centric approach, and there is already a strong appetite for environmental, social, and corporate governance and sustainability.

Outlier comparison

The age spectrum of ‘The Standard and Poor's 500’ CEOs is bookended by two well-known leaders: Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet. Although he was just 23 years old in 2007 when he became the youngest self-made billionaire in history, now 14 years later Zuckerberg is still the S&P 500's youngest CEO.

In contrast, American business tycoon and philanthropist Warren Buffett's career spans more than seven decades. In 1986, at the age of 56, Buffett made his first billion dollars, and because of the breadth and depth of his financial market knowledge is regarded as one of the most powerful and influential investors in the world.

In Africa, the concept of millennials inheriting money from Baby Boomers is based on the fact that 14 of Africa's wealthiest people are members of the Baby Boomer and Silent Generation. There is only one Gen Xer in the top 18 wealthiest Africans according to Forbes—Mohammed Dewji (47) with a net worth of US$1,5. All others belong to the Baby Boomer or Silent Generation categories. The wealthiest African, Aliko Dangote, is 65 years old and worth US$13.9 billion. Johann Rupert, (71) is the next wealthiest, with an estimated net worth of US$11 billion, whilst 76-year-old Nicky Oppenheimer has a net worth of US$8.7 billion.

A modern solution to wealth management

Although the industry is at the cusp of a transformation and most of the future trends are related to accessibility, technology, and customer-centricity, time-tested investing fundamentals remain unchanged and should be kept in mind when building and managing investment portfolios.

Nedbank long ago bade farewell to the one-product-fits-all strategy, moving towards a customised advisory based on the risk appetite, goals, and time horizon of the investors. The bank's private wealth offering provides a solution to a historic problem of viewing banking as separate from investments, insurance, estate planning, or philanthropic ambitions. This helps investors build better portfolios.

Gone are the days of rudimentary spreadsheets. We can now build sophisticated portfolios automatically with the help of algorithms and machine learning. The automation of time-consuming processes modernises infrastructure: old legacy systems are updated with more streamlined, automated ones.  As a result, paper-based processes are replaced with mobile transactions that can be done with the click of a button.

Local challenges are similar to experiences abroad

The solution to successfully transferring wealth remains complex. Concerns about whether inheriting generations and recipients will be competent and properly educated to handle riches are typical when discussing generational wealth transfer. And perhaps that’s where we need to start in Namibia, as Millennials seek to participate in the wealth-building game at an earlier age compared to previous generations.  It's imperative that these funds (from salaries, businesses, and inheritance) are applied soundly and effectively,

The effects could be far-reaching and could benefit everyone if we collectively think through how this seismic shift of capital could create new career opportunities, investment approaches, or entrepreneurial ventures for our country.

*Cornell Meeks, who heads the Private Wealth Division of Nedbank Namibia since its inception in 2018. She is a seasoned professional in financial services and an expert banker.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 24 August 2022 14:25