Just because someone has a lot of money doesn't mean he isn't worried about holding on to it. In fact, almost 40 percent of affluent Americans say they worry about money all the time, and an additional 45 percent say they worry occasionally, according to a recent survey. Some, of course, have more to worry about than others: 58 percent of affluent consumers polled report that they are at least $100,000 in debt, and a majority of them (85 percent) wish they had a bigger financial safety cushion than they currently have. Perhaps, then, it isn't such a shock to learn that 37 percent also admit they think about money more often than they think about sex.
In an effort to better understand the monetary concerns and expectations of the country's most well-off consumers, Money magazine commissioned New York City-based research firm RoperASW to conduct a study, â€œAffluent Americans and their Money.â€? A nationally representative sample of 1,767 adults, who are the financial and/or investment decision makers in households with $75,000 or more in annual income were polled. The survey was conducted by mail, and results were collected between June 21, 2002, and August 7, 2002.
Affluent Americans, as defined in this study, are those living in households where the annual income is $75,000 or more. They have a median household income of $121,000 and a median net worth of $450,000. These individuals represent 22 percent of the total adult population and 24 percent of all households. Affluent Americans' average age is 47 and there are just as many affluent men as there are women. Most are married (88 percent) and work full-time (73 percent).
But beyond demographics, the answer to â€œwho is affluent?â€? really depends on whose eyes are doing the beholding. Case in point: Only 20 percent of affluent Americans in this survey say they consider themselves â€œaffluent.â€? The more money people have, the more they think it takes to be â€œrich.â€? More than three-quarters of respondents (77 percent) say they would need at least $1 million stashed away before they would consider themselves affluent. Twenty-six percent of affluent men, and 20 percent of affluent women, say they'd need at least $10 million.
Yet even if they hesitate to embrace being labeled affluent, this group admits it's good to be rich. While few affluent consumers (24 percent) go so far as to say that money represents happiness to them, 77 percent do readily agree that â€œThe more money I have, the fewer problems I have.â€? Almost half (45 percent) agree that â€œThe more money I make, the better I feel about myself.â€?
Still, money in the bank isn't the only way Americans define wealth. Almost half of those surveyed (45 percent) equate affluence with having a second home or a vacation home, while 36 percent consider taking vacations more than once a year an indicator of being truly well-off. Almost a third (29 percent) define affluence as being able to live in an exclusive neighborhood.
Wherever they live, though, the home is truly a castle to our affluent citizens. Fully 95 percent of them own their own home, condo or co-op, and a quarter say that buying a home was the smartest financial move they ever made. Three-quarters (76 percent) expect the value of their home to increase over the next year. In fact, investing in real estate is a hit with this crowd. When asked for advice on the best way to get rich in America today, the most common response was to buy real estate, mentioned by 1 in 5 (19 percent) affluent Americans.
Their more conservative investment tactics make sense, given this group's overall perception of itself. When asked to describe themselves from a list of 25 adjectives, very few respondents said they consider themselves â€œimpulsiveâ€? (17 percent), â€œa risk takerâ€? (18 percent) or even â€œentrepreneurialâ€? (24 percent). Rather, the greatest share of affluent Americans (65 percent) chose â€œindependentâ€? as a description. â€œWell-organizedâ€? (55 percent), â€œgoal-orientedâ€? (54 percent) and â€œconfidentâ€? (51 percent) also were high on the list.
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