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Nearly $1 trillion in wealth expected to be transferred to future Nebraska generations

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Even a small share of $100 billion is a lot of money.

But a sliver of nearly $1 trillion?

That could make a huge difference in Nebraska communities.

Historic amounts of wealth will be transferred from one Nebraska generation to the next in the decades ahead, according to a study released this week by the Nebraska Community Foundation. And if families bequeath a small percentage to their communities, the effect could be transformational, according to the foundation.

Over the next 10 years, Nebraska families will transfer about $100 billion in assets from one generation to the next, said Jeff Yost president and CEO of the foundation. Over the next 50 years, the amount is estimated at more than $950 billion, he said. 

The wealth may be held in real estate, securities, retirement accounts and other assets, according to the foundation.

That's the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in Nebraska's history, Yost said. It's part of a nationwide tidal wave resulting from the passing of the baby boomers and their parents.

If those Nebraskans bequeath just 5% of their wealth to their hometowns, they could position the communities to thrive despite the uncertainties that lie ahead, he and others say.

To tap into this potential, the foundation has launched its Five to Thrive campaign, encouraging people to set aside 5% of their estates for their communities.

The foundation has been studying intergenerational wealth transfers since 2002, and this latest study produced astonishing results on the accumulated assets of Nebraska households, Yost said.

"It's massive; it's just an incredible amount," Yost said, adding that the figures don't include assets held by corporations. Wealth exists in all Nebraska communities, he said.

Just as important, Yost said, the timing is urgent because the older generations are passing away.

What makes this moment in time different from the past is the amount of wealth that has been accumulated and the fact that the younger generations who will inherit that wealth have moved away from their hometowns. Unless an effort is made to keep some of those assets in local communities, it most likely will migrate to larger cities or out of state and never return, Yost said.

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In 71 of Nebraska's 93 counties, the transfer of wealth is expected to peak within the next 25 years, he said.

Yost and others said Nebraska communities have already demonstrated that they can make good use of donations. Funds benefiting 271 communities in 83 Nebraska counties have been set up through the Nebraska Community Foundation.

Pender, for example, has built a $7 million community center.

According to the foundation's study, in Thurston County in northeast Nebraska, where Pender is located, an estimated $402 million in wealth will be transferred from one generation to the next in the decade ahead. If families set aside 5% for local groups, that would translate into about $20 million for community good, according to the foundation. 

The foundation has created a website explaining the asset potential in Nebraska. 

To find the value of wealth poised to be transferred in any Nebraska county, visit fivetothrivene.org or nebcommfound.org.

Additionally, Yost said the simple act of giving is transformative because it can encourage others.

"Communities are built when people act upon what they know," Yost said. "It's a powerful thing."

Kent Warneke, a retired editor of the Norfolk Daily News who is on the foundation's board, said people of all backgrounds can make a difference.

"It's not so much the amount as it is the intent," Warneke said. "You don't have to be wealthy to give a gift to your hometown. Any gift will be meaningful to those entities that receive it."

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