Where the Millionaires Are

Look to the states won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Proportion of “millionaire households” by state (darker shades equals higher proportion of millionaires).

Over the past few years, we’ve heard a good deal about income inequality in the United States. One persistent narrative is that the wealthiest and highest-income households continue to do well – and indeed are improving their relative standing – while many other families struggle financially.

The most recent statistical reporting seems to bears this out.

According to the annual Wealth & Affluent Monitor released by research and insights firm Phoenix Marketing International, the total tally of U.S. millionaire households is up more than 800,000 over the past years.

And if we go back to 2006, before the financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession, the number of millionaire households has increased by ~1.3 million since that time.

[For purposes of the Phoenix report, “millionaire households” are defined as those that have $1 million or more in investable assets. Collectively, these households possess approximately $20 billion in liquid wealth, which is nearly 60% of the entire liquid wealth in America.]

Even with a growing tally, so-called “millionaire households” still represent around 5% of all U.S. households, or approximately 6.8 million in total. That percentage is nearly flat (up only slightly to 5.1% from 4.8% in 2006).

Tellingly, there is a direct correlation between the states with the largest proportion of millionaire households and how those states voted in the most recent presidential election. Every one of the top millionaire states is located on the east or west coasts – and all but one of them was won by Hillary Clinton:

  • #1  Maryland
  • #2  Connecticut
  • #3  New Jersey
  • #4  Hawaii
  • #5  Alaska
  • #6  Massachusetts
  • #7  New Hampshire
  • #8  Virginia
  • #9  DC
  • #10  Delaware

Looking at the geographic makeup of the states with the highest share of millionaires helps explain how “elitist” political arguments had a degree resonance in the 2016 campaign that may have surprised some observers.

Nearly half of the jurisdictions Hillary Clinton won are part of the “Top 10” millionaire grouping, whereas just one of Donald Trump’s states can be found there.

But it’s when we look at the tiers below the “millionaire households” category that things come into even greater focus. The Phoenix report shows that “near-affluent” households in the United States – the approximately 14 million households having investable assets ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 – actually saw their total investable assets decline in the past year.

“Affluent” households, which occupy the space in between the “near-affluents” and the “millionaires,” have been essentially treading water. So it’s quite clear that things are not only stratified, but also aren’t improving, either.

The reality is that the concentration of wealth continues to deepen, as the Top 1% wealthiest U.S. households possess nearly one quarter of the total liquid wealth.

In stark contrast, the ~70% of non-affluent households own less than 10% of the country’s liquid wealth.

Simply put, the past decade hasn’t been kind to the majority of Americans’ family finances. In my view, that dynamic alone explains more of 2016’s political repercussions than any other single factor.  It’s hardly monolithic, but often “elitism” and “status quo” go hand-in-hand. In 2016 they were lashed together; one candidate was perceived as both “elitist” and “status quo,” and the result was almost preordained.

The most recent Wealth & Affluent Monitor from Phoenix Marketing International can be downloaded here.

Affluent consumers around the world: More similar than different.

Moods and mindsets converge.

worldwide affluent consumers

As the world becomes more interconnected, it’s having an impact on the mindsets of marketplaces. A confluence of perspectives appears to be happening.

A good case in point is affluent consumers. The idea that rich or affluent people are something of a homogeneous segment was put forth about 10 years ago in Robert Frank’s book Richistan.

The author contended that affluent consumers are united by shared characteristics and shared experiences that are becoming progressively more distinct from middle-class consumers.

In fact, he posited that Affluents had implicitly become their own country (“Richistan”).

Since then, we’ve had a global recession or two … along with social unrest on nearly every continent. Have the sociological trend lines changed?

A recent analysis of results from an Ipsos MediaCT survey of affluent consumers in ~50 countries suggests not.

Commenting on the research findings, author  and journalist Stephen Kraus writes, “Affluents continue to form a globally coherent segment marked by cross-border similarities in attitudes, lifestyles and marketplace preferences … this analysis also finds a remarkably consistent demographic, psychographic and media profile among Affluents around the world.”

Regarding the consumption of media, Ipsos found that affluent consumers are using mobile devices and digital media far more than before – not at all surprising since this segment is also noted for being early adopters of new technologies and products.

But even with the big growth of mobile and digital, Affluents’ use of traditional media has declined only modestly. Overall, the segment is more engaged in media than ever before, with the newer forms of media usage “layered” on top of older ones.

For companies that market “high-end” products and services to the affluent segment, it’s actually becoming easier to apply the same messaging and marketing across multiple countries and cultures – with allowances for language differences being made, of course.

Despite all the convergence that’s happened, some attitudinal qualities of affluent consumes continue to distinguish themselves between different cultures, however. For example, the Ipsos survey found these differing characteristics:

  • Growth in luxury purchases is strongest among affluent consumers in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Latin American affluent consumers are particularly enthusiastic users of social media – and international media in general.
  • American affluent consumers are strong in spending on recreational activities such as golf, tennis and skiing.

And European Affluents?  Well, they’re more subdued in their economic optimism – and their spending – at the moment.