FA, May 6, 2016, Christopher Robbins - Wealthy Investors Believe Education, Saving Key to Success


Ben Franklin once said that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” words that apparently still hold true for today’s wealthy Americans.

In its recent report, “The Core Beliefs of Wealthy Investors,” Spectrem Group found that millionaires, those with between $1 million and $5 million in net worth, rate receiving a college education as the most important element towards achieving financial success.

On a scale of 0 to 100, with a zero indicating not-at-all important and a 100 indicating very important, millionaires rated getting a college education at 86 — perhaps because 82 percent of Spectrem’s millionaire respondents report graduating from college, with 41 percent going on to get advanced degrees.

Among millionaires, millennials born between 1980 and 2000 were the least likely to believe that getting a college degree is very important, while the World War II generation, aged 71 and older, viewed a college education the most favorably.

“Young people are a lot more likely to say that they don’t think it’s worth it,” said Cathy McBreen, managing director at Spectrem Group, in a Wednesdsay conference call. “Most respondents, especially the more wealthy ones, believe that it is important.”

Ultra-high-net-worth investors with between $5 million and $25 million rated college even higher, at 88 points.

After an education, millionaires said that starting a dedicated and regular savings program was very important to their financial health. Once again, the various age groups disagreed as to the importance of a savings plan, with millennials rating it lower, at 72 points, than older generations, who rated it between 82 and 85 points. More wealthy investors were more likely to rate savings as important than less wealthy ones.

“Millennials rate savings plans lower because they are finding it harder to save right now because of where they are in their lifespans,” McBreen said. “Nevertheless, saving remains a core value.”

Millionaires believed that purchasing a home was their third most important financial decision.

However, when Spectrem broke down millionaires by age group, they found less agreement. Millennials rated purchasing a home lower, at 73 points, than Generation X, 79 points, baby boomers, 82 points, and the World War II generation, 83 points.

“We think it’s important to point out that when we separate the responses by age, millennials still believe in owning their own home,” McBreen said. “Owning property as opposed to renting it is still a core belief among wealthy investors.”

The more wealthy the respondent, the more likely they were to consider home ownership important, according to Spectrem.

Coming in third, millionaires also credited work as important to their success, including work during their high school and college years.

“When we ask people how they became wealthy, 95 to 99 percent say hard work,” McBreen said. “Most wealthy households think that it is important to work during high school and college… the people who have been successful believe their hard work ethic was developed because they worked during their education.”

Mass affluent investors, with between $100,000 and $1 million in assets, were more likely than high-net-worth investors and millionaires to believe that children should finance their own education, according to Spectrem.

Ultra-high-net-worth millennials were the most likely out of all the groups to argue that a student should finance most of their education, while millionaire millennials were the least likely of all groups to agree.

All of the groups surveyed by Spectrem expressed some level of pessimism about their family’s financial future.

“We always like to ask them if they foresee that their children will be better off than they are,” McBreen said. “That’s one way to define the American dream. Less than one-third of our respondents, regardless of wealth, thought that their children would be better off. Either they’re depressed and pessimistic, or that’s no longer a component of the American dream, because they don’t think their children necessarily need to be better off than they are now.”

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