Wealthy don't want limelight in downturn: study

Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:13pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Just 29 percent of people with lots of money to spend say they enjoy being recognized as wealthy, down 6 percent from a year ago, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The poll by American Express Publishing and Harrison Group questioned more than 1,500 people in the first quarter of this year with discretionary annual incomes of at least $100,000 and up to $5 million.

Cara David, an executive with American Express Publishing, said wealthy people may not want to be viewed as insensitive to hardship around them.

"People don't want to be called out, they don't want to be seen," she said. "Most people in this group know somebody -- either family, relatives or friends who have suffered because of this economic downturn."

Consumer have cut back sharply on spending, with the well-off acting no differently. The survey showed that 78 percent say they are looking closely to see where money can be saved -- up 10 percent from a year ago.

"If they have a private airplane, they still have a private airplane. But they are flying it less," said Jim Taylor, vice chairman of marketing for consulting firm Harrison Group. "They are making more and more carefully reasoned decisions about what they need to do, not just what they want to do, and sacrificing wants for the occasional real need."

Some 53 percent of people fretted that they could run out of money against 41 percent a year ago. And 46 percent were extremely or very optimistic about their future, whereas 70 percent had expressed such hope a year earlier.

As for their children, 42 percent said they were optimistic about their future compared with 67 percent a year ago.

The survey's margin of error was plus or minus 5 percent.

(Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman; Editing by Xavier Briand)