U.S. Millionaires Recognize Wealth Comes With Responsibility

PNC survey finds 59% feel they’re obligated to give back to society

A PNC survey finds that millionaires have embraced Warren Buffett's philosophy of giving back. (Photo: AP) A PNC survey finds that millionaires have embraced Warren Buffett's philosophy of giving back. (Photo: AP)

American millionaires feel an obligation to "give back" and few are concerned with their ability to do so, according to survey findings released Tuesday by PNC Wealth Management.

The research found that the number of millionaires who believe "I have an obligation to give back to my community" has remained stable despite today’s economic headwinds. This year, 59% agreed or strongly agreed, the same number as in 2008.

Meanwhile, the number of millionaires concerned about their ability to give to charities declined to 11% from 20% in 2008, according to the survey. Forty-six percent said they planned no change in their charitable giving, while 22% intended to cut back and 21% planned to increase their giving.

PNC’s eighth annual Wealth and Values Survey of 555 millionaires, entitled "Responsibility and Money: How the Wealthy View Their Role in Society," was conducted online by Artemis Strategy Group from Sept. 15 to Oct. 11.

The survey asked about Warren Buffett's call on wealthy individuals to pay more in taxes and give more to charitable causes. Nearly half of respondents said they agreed with Buffett but did not believe they "are in the same league" as he is, while more than one-fifth agreed that they were able to help in the way Buffett has suggested.

Eighty-three percent of the millionaires surveyed said "those who have attained the kind of financial position I have" should continue to invest in private business and industry as the most efficient engine of societal improvement. At the same time, 70% said they had a special responsibility in society to help the less fortunate, and 64% said they should give substantial sums to charities to improve society.

The survey also indicated a doubling in the number of those who donated between $25,000 and $999,000 to charity in 2010: 24% in this year's survey versus just 12% in 2008.

Other findings in the Wealth and Values Survey:

  • Thirty-one percent of millionaires said that the single best idea for a better economy was to "reduce taxes on individuals and businesses," while 20% supported raising taxes on wealthy individuals.
  • Sixty-four percent of millionaires said they "want to be left alone by politicians" to enjoy their earned wealth however they choose, and 80% viewed reinvestment as key to improving society.
  • Seventy-six percent felt that the U.S. government had serious flaws in how it functioned, and just 1% said it worked well. However, 85% said the U.S. political system had serious flaws, while 47% believed the U.S. financial system was flawed.
  • If taxes increase, nearly four in 10 millionaires would change their investment strategy and one in four would reduce philanthropy. Thirteen percent would work less, 7% would work harder, while 41% would not change anything.
  • Seventy-one percent of millionaires believed they were "much better off compared to parents at this same age." However, only 10% believed their children would be better off when they reach the same age.
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