Happiness Grows on Trees

By Published on .

America's filthiest rich beg to differ with an old adage.

Whoever said money can't buy happiness probably didn't have any. A full 86 percent of the most wealthy Americans — those 8.4 million ragamuffins with household incomes of $150,000 or more and asset values of $500,000 or more (not including primary residence) — rank financial success and security as being important to their overall happiness. In fact, 50 percent of them say it is “very� important, compared with 41 percent of the rest of us, according to a new comprehensive report from Newton, Massachusetts-based HNW Digital entitled “The Survey of Wealth and Values.�

While there are currently about 50 million adults residing in households with incomes of $75,000 or more, the classic definition of “wealthy,� this study focuses solely on the top 20 percent of that group. Since an overwhelming 62 percent of this segment say that “sustaining and increasing my wealth� is one of their top three financial concerns, compared with just 33 percent of the total population, these Richie Riches need, and perhaps deserve, a little more special attention.

“These consumers view their financial success as key to their security and happiness, more so than the general population,� says Julie Fenster, executive vice president of HNW Digital. “The opportunity is there for the financial service and banking industries to really deepen their relationships and develop ways to show them that there is someone on their side, there to help them maintain this happiness.�

The more money one has, in fact, the happier he or she is, according to those who live on top: 75 percent of the wealth market, compared with 39 percent of the total U.S. population, say that “as they have accumulated more money, they have become happier.� A resounding 64 percent of wealthy Americans believe that money is more likely to solve problems than to create them, compared with 38 percent of the total population. And it only gets better with age (and testosterone): 85 percent of wealthy folk aged 65 and older feel this way, as do 71 percent of all rich men. A full 90 percent of wealthy men rank financial success as important to their happiness, compared with 78 percent of well-off women.

Where the money came from doesn't have much bearing on the bliss factor: When it comes to money, honey, it's all good. However, those who either inherited their dough or married into it are the most likely to say their financial success and security is important to their overall happiness — 95 percent say so, compared with 86 percent of the total wealth market, and 76 percent of the total population.

But don't get these rich guys wrong; they haven't quit their day jobs, and don't plan to: 54 percent say they will continue working no matter how much money they have. In fact, the wealth market is more likely to be employed than the total population (75 percent compared with 68 percent) and more likely to be self-employed (20 percent compared with 11 percent). Only 7 percent of them are retired, compared with 17 percent of the total population.

Perhaps surprisingly, it seems to be the actual work, and not necessarily the bucks, which causes them perpetual cheer. Sixty-one percent of the wealthy say that working “provides me with a challenge I enjoy,� and 45 percent say that working “is a critical ingredient for a meaningful life,� compared with 38 percent of the total population on both measures. Perhaps that's why they work harder than the Average Joe. More than half of the wealth market works 50 or more hours per week and almost one-quarter works 60 or more hours per week, while in the total population, just 28 percent work 50 hours, and 13 percent work 60 or more hours per week.

Home life is also happier for those who have some green in their pockets. Eighty percent of wealthy Americans are married or living with a partner, compared with 62 percent of the total U.S. population. Only 5 percent are currently divorced or separated, whereas 14 percent of the general market are. While money is supposedly the root of all evil, the wealthy are much less likely to argue about money than most folks. Only 25 percent of those divorced or separated in the upper crust say that arguments about green contributed to their breakup, whereas a full 50 percent of divorced or separated people in the general market blame arguments about money for causing their trip to Splitsville.

For more information, visit www.hnwdigital.com or call (617) 243-9199.

Dough Boys

Some demographics of America's richest rich.*

Male 59% 49%
Female 41% 51%
21 to 34 16% 29%
35 to 44 35% 24%
45 to 54 28% 21%
55 to 64 13% 10%
65 and older 7% 17%
Occupation 67% 73%
Investments 47% 18%
Small business ownership/Entrepreneurship 20% 10%
Employee stock options 14% 8%
Inheritance/Trust fund 13% 10%
Marriage 3% 6%
Source: HNW Digital, Inc.
*The “wealth market� consists of Americans aged 21 and older with HH incomes of $150,000+ and asset values of $500,000+, not including primary residence. Categories may not add up to 100 as “other� is not included.
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