Inside Money

Business writer David Chaplin blogs on personal finance

Inside Money: That's a bit rich: why $4.99m is not enough

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

"What is 'wealthy'?" asks UBS US in the title of its 3Q (or as we would say, Q3) 2013 'Investor Watch' newsletter.

And the answer, according to UBS' survey of 4,450 well-to-do US investors, is a least $5 million in spare change.

By that benchmark most of those in the UBS survey would probably consider themselves failures; respondents needed at least $250,000 of "investable assets" to be deemed worth talking to and just half of those surveyed had $1 million to throw around.

On a conceptual level, the majority of those surveyed identified "having no financial constraints on what they do" as the standard definition of being wealthy - a goal that $5 million plus appears to achieve for a surprisingly slim majority of people.

Only 60 per cent of respondents with $5 million plus rated themselves as wealthy but the money/power ratio gets much worse for those unfortunates with a measly $1-5 million to hand.

A terrifying 28 per cent of millionaires who hadn't broken through the $5 million barrier did not consider themselves wealthy.

Even worse, just under 40 per cent in all categories of the nominally mega-wealthy did not feel confident of achieving their financial goals.

The main reason, of course, that such relatively high levels of wealth are not enough to blast individuals completely free from the gravity of down-to-earth financial concerns, is family.

"One of the most surprising findings is that four out of five investors are providing financial support for adult children or aging parents. And one in five is sharing a home with those adults," the report says. "The top two personal concerns for investors are long-term care and the financial situation of children and grandchildren."

There's other guff in the survey too, including why the rich like to sit on cash cushions of at least 20 per cent and how they put the remainder of their wealth in buckets.

Being wealthy, as the UBS survey shows, is a relative problem and no protection against misery or self-pity. Even the rich can sing along with feeling as BB King belts out 'Help the poor'.

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