How the Wealthy are Spending Their Money This Year
Well, to start with, more than half (53%) are worried they could run out of money. Dr. Jim Taylor, vice chairman of Harrison Group, and Cara David, senior vice president of corporate marketing and integrated media of American Express Publishing spent approximately an hour display charts that showed the results of countless hours spent crunching the first-quarter responses of 1,300 Americans with discretionary incomes over $100,000 (that means income after tax, mortgage, home maintenance, and child education costs are subtracted).
This year there are 120,000 fewer households that fit in that range.
Of the 1,300 moderately-to-very wealthy Americans surveyed, 70% believe that the recession will last longer than a year, and 35% think this could be a long term depression. 78% report that the crisis has affected their sense of financial security.
So how does the spending look? "Luxury is not dead, there's simply a filter on risk," says Taylor. 77% said they are buying fewer "big ticket items" this year -- so it's a safe bet that they're buying brands they trust. There seems to be a trend among the wealthy of pride in their willingness to not buy things. This goes beyond the usual chatter of talking about great bargains you got; people are actually feeling an increase in their self-esteem related to their ability to take control of their own lives. Believe it or not, spending less is making people happier. People checking the "Very Happy" box went from 58% last year to 66% this year -- women up 10%, men up 4%.
Perhaps less money means less going out to dinner, more time at home with the family -- and perhaps that's why more people (57% this year, 45% last year) are taking advice from their kids on what brands to buy. Studies show that kids prefer brands that "really work," and do research into performance and reliability. Again, this makes good sense for families who are buying fewer big ticket items. It's truly a buyer's market right now, because buyers are willing to wait; they'll wait to find out which brand or item is the best -- and 80% say they wait for an item to go on sale.
That doesn't mean they're not spending big, though. People are willing to pay a lot of money for bells and whistles right now. "The angel is in the details," as they say, and people are less likely to expect a discount on an item they perceive as having "high performance details." This can mean anything from TVs with exceptional sound systems to designer handbags with specially designed features.
Many of the luxury brands we know today, like Louis Vuitton, first "exploded" in America during The Great Depression. "People look to brands in times of trouble to protect them from risk," says Jim.
In the art market, buyers for an artist's best pieces are up, where as buyers for lesser works are down -- collectors take note: it's a good time to buy the ugly ones.
So how are the wealthy spending their money this year? Very carefully. People are being wary of risk and waiting to buy; they're even booking vacations closer to the wire to "get a good deal." Still, a high percentage of respondents agreed -- "A few luxuries are important in tough times."