The majority of wealthy individuals say their most important asset is their health and that their purpose in life would not change if they lost their money, according to a new study by U.S. Trust.
The 2015 “U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth” shows 75 percent of those with at least $3 million in investable assets feel their purpose in life is defined outside of their wealth. The survey, which was based on 640 high-net-worth individuals, is designed to show the attitudes and preferences of high-net-worth individuals on growing, preserving and passing on wealth.
At the same time, the most important asset the wealthy have is their health, not their wealth, say 98 percent of respondents, and investing in their health is as important as investing to build wealth.
Ninety percent of respondents say they are willing to spend more money on their health and 31 percent of those over age 70 say they would spend any amount if they could have good health. Despite this willingness to spend substantially on maintaining or restoring health, half have not planned financially for an unexpected or degenerative health issue, the survey shows.
There is a similar lack of planning when it comes to passing the wealth to the next generation, U.S. Trust says. Leaving a financial legacy to the next generation ranks fifth in relative importance as a contributor to a life well lived. The survey found that although 54 percent of the wealthy believe their family would benefit from developing a formal set of principles to guide the purpose and meaning of their wealth, only one in 10 has done so.
The wealthy hold contradictory views on how to handle their money, according to the survey. While more than half (55 percent) of high-net-worth investors say their greater priority is growth over protection of assets, 64 percent aren’t willing to seek higher returns if it means higher risk.
Sixty percent of high-net-worth investors have more than 10 percent of their portfolios in cash positions, including 22 percent with more than 25 percent. Four in 10 either have moved or plan to move even more of their investments into cash in anticipation of rising interest rates.
Most of the wealthy, and particularly younger high-net-worth investors, either currently use or are interested in adding non-traditional assets to their investment portfolios, including private equity and venture funds (48 percent). Seven in 10 own or are interested in owning tangible investments such as land, real estate, oil and gas properties and timber, primarily to diversify the portfolios and source of risk and income. Yet, lack of understanding and perceived risk is holding back one in three high-net-worth investors from these types of investments.
Only one-third of the wealthy are talking with an advisor about strategies around the goals they consider to be important, including identifying family needs and goals (36 percent) and planning for increased longevity (34 percent). Even fewer are having discussions about the strategic use of credit (21 percent), strategic philanthropy (18 percent) and investing for social impact (11 percent), says U.S. Trust.
The survey shows that those people who are getting professional advice are farther along on measures they describe as essential to a fulfilling, meaningful life. They feel more financially secure and less conflicted by competing priorities and they are more likely to say their family has a healthy relationship with money and their actions are in greater alignment with their intentions when it comes to growing, preserving and passing on wealth and making a difference in the world, U.S. Trust says.