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Cash gifts later in life

Part of the Life Well Spent Report 2023

Can giving loved ones big financial gifts in later life make us happier? We asked more than 2,000 over 50s to share their thoughts and experiences around big financial gifts to family in later life.

A quarter of over 50s have given a significant cash gift

23% of people over 50 have given substantial cash gifts to family members in the last five years, rising to 34% of over 70s. The average amount gifted is £15,978.

The most common reasons for cash gifts are:

  1. As a special birthday/Christmas gift (26%)
  2. To help them with the rising cost of living (21%)
  3. For a deposit on a house (20%)
  4. To help them repay debt (18%)
  5. To put towards a vehicle (18%)

Overall, 83% of gifters have given significant cash gifts to their children, 25% to their grandchildren (rising to 40% of over 70-year-olds), and 13% to someone else.

Aside from Christmas and birthday gifts, the most common reason for gifting cash to grandchildren is to put towards college or tuition funds. 43% of cash gifts given for this reason are to grandchildren.

Reasons for cash giftsAverage £ gifted (Change from 2022)% of gifters giving for this reason (Change from 2022)
Deposit on home purchase£29,616 (+11%)20% (-6%)
Early inheritance for tax purposes£9,611 (-60%)6% (-1%)
Early inheritance to enjoy the money£8,604 (-59%)15% (-4%)
To help repay debt*£6,062 (n/a)18% (n/a)
To put towards home renovations£6,050 (+19%)11% (-1%)
Tuition/college funds£6,007 (-46%)8% (0%)
To put towards a wedding£5,268 (+16%)15% (-3%)
To put towards a vehicle£4,276 (+36%)18% (-4%)
To help out because of lost job/reduced income£3,661 (-2%)11% (-12%)
Medical/care expenses£3,457 (-14%)3% (0%)
Following birth of a baby£1,732 (-14%)8% (-5%)
To put towards a holiday£1,690 (+6%)14% (-2%)
As a special birthday/Christmas gift*£1,688 (n/a)26% (n/a)
Help with rising cost of living*£1,610 (n/a)21% (n/a)

*New addition to the 2023 survey.

The biggest cash gifts are for house deposits

The biggest cash gifts given to loved ones were for house deposits. The average amount gifted for this reason by all people over 50 is £29,616, rising to £32,619 for over 55s.

The next largest gifts are for early inheritance. The average gift amount for early inheritance for tax purposes was £9,611, and the average amount for early inheritance just to see them enjoy the money was £8,604. Notably both these amounts are almost 60% lower than the 2022 averages, which were £23,745 and £20,778 respectively.

The biggest year-on-year increases in average gift size are seen in those to put towards a vehicle (+36%) and towards home renovations (+19%).

There is a significant year-on-year drop in the number of gifts given to help out because of a lost job or reduced income (-12%). But 21% of cash gifts are given to help family with the rising cost of living (a new category in 2023’s survey), with an average gift amount of £1,610.

Giving cash gifts to family makes us happier

The vast majority (81%) of over 50s who gave cash gifts to family found that doing so improved their overall happiness. The happiest group were those who gifted money to help with medical care, with 86% reporting an increase in happiness as a result – up from 2022, when it came in last at 53% (although it should be noted this is from a very small base).

Early inheritance to see them enjoy the money is also a big happiness booster, with 84% (-6%) reporting an increase in happiness, including 57% who said it significantly improved their happiness.

Unsurprisingly, helping out due to redundancy or debt repayment is the most likely to reduce happiness, but still over 3 in 5 are happy to have helped in this way.

How did spending on cash gifts improve happiness?

Most would like to leave an inheritance, but not if it means cutting back

Almost half of people over 50 would like their family to receive some inheritance when they’re gone (up from 39% in 2022). 11% (+1%) would even cut back on spending in retirement to ensure they could save enough to leave an inheritance.

However, 3 in 10 (+3%) would rather spend their money on enjoying retirement, even if it means there is nothing left to leave as inheritance. 21% (+2%) would also prefer their money to be spent during their lifetime, but by giving early inheritance to see their loved ones enjoy the money while they are still around.

11% are planning to give early inheritance in order to mitigate inheritance tax.

12% would like to leave a legacy to a charity in their will, despite almost 2 in 5 reporting having reduced their charitable giving in the last year.

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