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Life in an inheritance society

The would-be heirs in the TV hit Succession. HBO/Shutterstock

Thanks to the second economic meltdown in 13 years, downwardly mobile younger generations are more than ever “living precariously off family wealth”, says Simon Kuper in the Financial Times. The result is an “inheritance society”, and our appetite for TV shows such as Succession and Years and Years shows how much the idea of inheritance resonates these days, as does our obsession with real-life dynastic dramas such as the Trump saga and Harry and Meghan. It’s not new: only in the first couple of decades after the Second World War did the vast bulk of wealth not come from inheritance. And there’s a lot at stake. Millennials in the UK can expect to inherit 16% of their lifetime income, and those in the US more than $68 trillion from their boomer parents by 2030 – “surely the biggest wealth transfer in history”.  

Yet today’s teachers and bank managers often find themselves living in their childhood bedrooms with parents “who control the pot of gold”. In Italy the average child leaves home at 30. So generations are left “clamped together in a perverse embrace”. As for siblings jostling for their share of a big family fortune, “the moment of inheritance often destroys the family”. Downward mobility can also transcend blood. Years and Years depicts the entire UK in freefall: “Add on the pandemic and climate change, and that’s currently our world.”

Read the full article here.