Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Who Wants to At Least Look Like a Millionaire?

In order to look like a millionaire, you'd have to know what a millionaire looks like. How do we know who is a millionaire these days? Most people make assumptions about other people's wealth based on observation - where they live, the cars they drive, the jewelry and clothes they wear, and all kinds of life style factors. Where do they vacation? What jobs do they have? (Or do they seem to support themselves without working? That's usually a pretty strong indicator of high net worth.) Where did they go to school? Where do they donate, and at what level? My son Zach reported at college that he really had no idea what fellow students' financial situation were until vacations, when some worked and others flew off to join family at their vacation homes in the Caribbean. Fundamentally without having access to someone's financials, this is all just educated guessing.
I had a good laugh today in the newspaper which listed all the high-end stores coming to town selling $1500 pocketbooks and designer everythings. I wouldn't recognize such items if I tripped over them. In my neck of the woods the status symbol is a Prius, not a Porsche. I am guessing that lots of people who can afford to buy such things do not, and lots of people who do can probably not really afford them. So much for making judgments by people's consumption.
A recent article entitled Being A Millionaire Just Isn't the Same These Days describes the relatively non-elite status of having crossed into this territory:

According to research from Merrill Lynch & Co. and the consulting firm Capgemini, some 2.9 million people in the United States and Canada have net worths of $1 million. The New York-based companies count all of an individual's financial assets except a primary residence.

There are indeed millions of millionaires. And each one patches together his or own style of spending, investing, and donating. You really can't tell who they are, nor can you make generalizations about them, except that research shows they are only slightly happier than their less affluent counterparts.

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