Boston Private 2021 “Why of Wealth” Study Reveals Generational Differences in Definition of Wealth

Study further examines the impact of Covid-19 on perceptions and uses of wealth

BOSTON--()--Boston Private, a leading provider of integrated wealth management, trust and banking services, today released its 2021 “Why of Wealth” study, a comprehensive report that delves into the emotional dimensions of wealth, a continuation of the same topics explored in the 2018 edition of the survey. Importantly, the survey examines how perceptions of wealth differ by generation, and how those perceptions shifted during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The “Why of Wealth” survey found that there are significant differences in the ways individuals across age groups understand and define wealth:

  • Millennials define wealth as: Happiness, success, and power and influence.
  • Generation X define wealth as: Success, happiness, and health.
  • Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation define wealth as: Peace of mind, financial capital, security, and independence.

Furthermore, 89% of Millennials (average age 36) surveyed reported that the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the way in which they define wealth, compared to 75% of Gen X (average age 46) and just 24% of Baby Boomers and Silent Generation (average age 66).

Overall, respondents associate wealth with positive outcomes and feelings – emphasizing that it gives them the freedom to live the life they want — despite experiencing a year marked by loss and curtailed freedoms. When examining the potential long-term influence of Covid-19 on perceptions of wealth, Millennials register the largest impact, with nearly 80% saying the pandemic changed how they will use their wealth in the future. Over half of all respondents say the pandemic has improved their donations and philanthropic commitment (52%). The same number also improved their saving levels (52%) and their relationship with their financial advisor (51%).

“The Why of Wealth report sheds light on our highly emotional relationship with wealth, and how those relationships are influenced by age, profession and our lived experience,” said Gerald Baker, Head of Trust & Fiduciary Services at Boston Private, and co-head of its Center for Wealth Planning Excellence. “Better understanding these emotional drivers helps advisors to be more responsive to the needs of our clients and support them in realizing the deeply meaningful goals they have for their families, businesses and communities.”

About the Survey

This is the second “Why of Wealth” study from Boston Private, produced in partnership with CoreData Research. The research was carried out via an online survey comprised of 27 questions to understand respondents’ perceptions of wealth and the influence of Covid-19. The survey was completed by 400 high-net-worth respondents with a minimum of $1 million in investable assets. Data was collected between March 22 and April 13, 2021.

About Boston Private

Boston Private is a leading provider of integrated wealth management, trust and banking services to high-net-worth individuals, families, businesses and nonprofits.

For more than 30 years, Boston Private has delivered comprehensive advice coupled with deep technical expertise to help clients simplify their lives and achieve their goals. The firm offers the capabilities of a large institution with the superior service of a boutique firm to clients across the United States.

Boston Private is the corporate brand of Boston Private Financial Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: BPFH). For more information, visit

Private banking and trust services are provided through Boston Private Bank & Trust Company, a Massachusetts chartered trust company. Wealth management services are provided through Boston Private Wealth LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boston Private Bank & Trust Company. Some Boston Private offices do not offer all services.

Investments are Not FDIC Insured, Not Guaranteed and May Lose Value.


Lucy Muscarella


Lucy Muscarella