What's most important to the very rich? The 2015 annual survey from U.S. Trust answers those questions, along with giving us further insights into the concerns and beliefs of high net worth Americans. Sure, expect a bunch of stereotypical responses, but some of the answers may surprise you.
The top three priorities of the wealthy are probably the same as yours — health, family, and financial security, in that order. Perhaps the rich aren't really that different from the rest of us after all.
According to the introduction to the survey, there are certainly plenty of high net worth individuals to survey. Over 1.8 million U.S. households have $3 million or more in investable assets, the cutoff point in wealth for survey purposes. The 640 survey respondents were spread throughout the generations, with 16% millennials, 23% generation X, 47% baby boomers, and 13% aged 70 or greater. 55% had wealth in the range of $3 million to $5 million, and the gender split favored men by 57% to 43%.
While there are some generational and gender differences in the survey answers, all of the age groups agreed that they were well on their way to a "life well lived." This for survey purposes contains ten elements — the three listed above as priorities along with meaningful work, accomplishments, giving back to society, personal growth, pursuing passions, leaving a legacy and connecting with others.
Almost 70% of respondents cited at least one area of life in which they are falling short of their goal. Most of the perceived shortcomings are related to maintaining health. Only half of respondents feel prepared for a health crisis, while those with the highest income felt the least prepared. Nearly 44% would change their life goals/priorities when faced with a health crisis.
The findings about long-term care are even more surprising. Half of the respondents expect any long-term care to take place at home with family or private caregivers, and 25% expect to live out their golden years in a high-end assisted living facility — but only 40% of the combined group has made financial preparations for either option.
As you might expect, most (93%) of the respondents considered themselves to be financially secure, but the sense of financial security actually decreases with greater wealth.
With respect to family, respondents said that family is the greatest source of their enjoyment and their main motivator to maintain financial security. While a family legacy is an important component, respondents are less sure about how to approach that legacy.
Over three-quarters of respondents think it is important to provide a financial inheritance to their children, but only 20% believe that they will be well prepared to handle the inheritance. While millennials and those with the highest net worth were more likely to have concerns about negative impacts of wealth, most survey respondents (76%) believed that wealth's impact on their families was positive.
Much of the enjoyment of wealth is in giving back financially (78%) and through enabled volunteer efforts (66%). Over half (55%) support causes that matter the most in their perspective, while 43% cited the importance of setting a good example for their children regarding giving.
While there's nothing wrong with aspiring to wealth, note that financial security actually decreased with greater wealth. The respondents considered financial security essential because of the options and the freedom it allows, not merely to compile more wealth.
The real takeaway is that it's not all about the money; it's what you do with it that matters.
For more information and insights into the motivations of the wealthy, click here.