September 30, 2010

Millionaire Watch: Where They Live, How Many There Are and What They Invest In

Though, in Canada, even that much money can't buy happiness

North America is where it's at, despite the current state of the economy, at least that's the case for world's millionaires, 31% of whom live there, according to a CapGemini/Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management study. The Asia/Pacific region has caught up with Europe, according to data released Wednesday, increasing by 25.8% to 3 million in 2009. The number of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals worldwide, by the way, rose to 19,600--a 36.7% increase.

But all is not rosy in millionaireland--at least not in Canada, where a study for Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Wealth Management, conducted by wealth marketing firm HNW, Inc., shows that the dismals do affect even those with more bucks than bruises in their wallets.

The study, conducted in July and August and released Thursday, says that less than half of Canada's millionaires get happier as their income rises. In fact, according to Anthony Maiorino, vice president and head of RBC Wealth Management Services, life can get "a lot more complicated" after the first million. Having more money can mean having more problems, said bank executives, and that seems to have been borne out by those respondents to the survey with more than $5 million in investable assets, who felt that having money "brings about as many problems as it solves."

"The interesting thing," said Maiorino, "is they often don't view themselves as wealthy. They view themselves as successful, but not necessarily being classified as a wealthy individual--even though they have attained what most Canadians would say is a wealthy amount of assets."

This would certainly seem to be borne out in the U.S., too, at least by the firestorm that erupted in the U.S. in the wake of law professor Todd Henderson's post about wealth on Sept. 15. That post took on a life of its own after the Henderson said that his family, though having an income that pegged them as "super rich" (according to the Obama proposal to reinstate Bush-era tax cuts only for families with incomes of under $250,000) and living conditions that many people would consider luxurious, was "just getting by."

Ah, well, as reported by the Toronto Star, "According to one unknown author: 'Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy you the kind of misery you prefer.'"

Perhaps that's the problem on the Jersey Shore with Snooki and all the others--millionaires. Or maybe the lack of them. Who knows? But New Jersey isn't short on them, that's for sure. Another study, conducted by the Phoenix Affluent Marketing Service, shows that, for the fifth year in a row, New Jersey has ranked in the top four on the list of states with the most millionaires per capita. Hawaii was first this year, followed by Maryland; Connecticut followed New Jersey. The same four states have been the top four, although alternating positions with one another, for five years.

Even as people across the country cope with unemployment, foreclosure, and bankruptcy, the number of millionaires in the United States has risen by 8% to 5.6 million--all in 2010. And the HNW are focusing on "passion investments"--the CapGemini/Merrill study shows that they "are approaching their passion investments as 'investor-collectors,' seeking out those items that are perceived to have tangible long-term value. The two categories that are most attractive to these 'investor-collectors' are Art and Other Collectibles such as coins, antiques or wines."

They are also looking at philanthropy, except in North America, where philanthropic activities have not recovered from the steep fall they took in 2008. And even though philanthropy is on the rise in the Asia/Pacific region, according to the study, such did not seem to be the case in China on Wednesday, when Warren Buffett and Bill Gates courted dozens of China's "super-rich" at a dinner focused on charity.

There were reports on The Associated Press that invitees were reluctant to attend the lavish event, held on the outskirts of Beijing at a mansion designed along the lines of the baroque 17th-century Chateau de Maisons-Laffitte in France, for fear they would be pressured to give up their immense wealth. Gates and Buffett have been campaigning to induce American billionaires to donate most of their fortunes to charitable causes, but said in a letter, "we do not know if it's the right path forward for China."

Read more about millionaires at AdvisorOne.com.

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