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Fear Fuels Millionaires’ Drive for More Wealth, UBS Survey Finds

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“Enough” is not in the financial vocabulary of many well-off investors, UBS Wealth Management Americas reported Tuesday.

U.S. millionaires in a survey said they felt compelled to strive for more, even as they recognized their good fortune.

They were ambitious, they wanted to protect their lifestyle and, not least, they feared losing everything.

UBS surveyed 2,215 U.S. millionaires in mid-March, and conducted follow-up interviews with 90 of them. Investors surveyed had at least $1 million in net worth, and 610 had at least $5 million in net worth.

According to the report, 77% of millionaires said they had grown up middle class or below, and many had aspired to become wealthy.

Sixty-one percent said they had consciously aimed to become millionaires, and 65% considered reaching the $1 million mark are milestone in their lives.

Three-quarters felt they had succeeded, and most attributed this to their hard work. Indeed, 44% said hard work was the linchpin for becoming a millionaire.

The report found that net worth influenced overall life satisfaction. Seventy-three percent of respondents with $1 million to $2 million were “highly satisfied” with their life, compared with 78% with $2 million to $5 million and 85% of those with more than $5 million.

Millionaires in the study recognized the implications of their wealth: 37% with $1 million to $5 million said their riches allowed them to live in relative luxury, compared with 62% of those with more than $5 million who said this.

At the same time, the survey found, expectations increased as respondents amassed wealth. Fifty-eight percent of millionaires surveyed reported feeling higher expectations for their standard of living over the last 10 years.

As a result, they kept striving for more.

“But enough never seems to be enough—even the wealthiest continue on the treadmill to achieve a better life,” Paula Polito, client strategy officer at UBS Wealth Management Americas, said in a statement.

The Wages of Success

Because of increased expectations, millionaires feel stress around their ability to maintain their lifestyle. Fifty-two percent of those with children at home said they felt they were on a treadmill, unable to get off without compromising the life they had built.

The report said that 50% of respondents in the $1 million-to-$5 million net worth range were afraid that a single big setback, such as job loss or a market crash, would significantly affect their lifestyle, versus 34% of those with $5 million who expressed this concern.

The anxiety was greater for millionaire parents working full-time, with 63% concerned about the effects of one major setback.

Millennials who had achieved millionaire status experienced more stress, fear and anxiety about their wealth than older groups, according to the survey. Fifty-two percent of young respondents feared losing their wealth entirely.

Moreover, 59% worried about living up to their potential, compared with 54% of Gen Xers and 24% of baby boomers. The same percentage of millennials feared disappointing those close to them, versus 40% of Gen Xers and 25% of baby boomers and 20% of the WWII generation.

“Millennials, more so than any other generation, are also very conscious of how their lives stack up against their peers,” Sameer Aurora, head of investor insights for UBS Wealth Management Americas, said in the statement.

As a result, she said, “millennials tend to put pressure on themselves to earn more and compete for a higher standing in the social hierarchy.”

According to the study, millennial millionaires also aspire to a higher wealth threshold. Millennials most frequently said they would feel wealthy once accumulating $10 million, while older generations said they would consider themselves wealthy when they acquired $5 million.

Entry Fee

Millionaires pay a price for pursuing their dreams.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said they had had to give up family time in striving for and achieving their success, and 68% expressed regrets about this and mistakes they had made in a relationship with a spouse or family.

Millionaire parents with children at home face the dilemma of providing the best for their offspring without spoiling them.

Take values. Sixty-seven percent felt their children took many things for granted, while 53% worried at least sometimes that their children acted entitled.

Millionaire parents also expressed these concerns about their children:

  • 65%, don’t understand the value of money
  • 54%, lack motivation
  • 54%, harbor unrealistic expectations
  • 50%, will embark on an unstable career path