- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

The rich have worries, too. Really.

Affluent folks fret most about terrorism, their children’s future and taxes just like everybody else, according to an annual survey of the top 1 percent wealthiest Americans by U.S. Trust, a New York-based “wealth management” company.

“It’s basically true. Affluent people do have similar worries,” spokeswoman Leslie Smith said yesterday. “They worry about terrorism and their kids like the rest of us do. Most have a growing optimism about the economy and they think the big CEOs are overpaid, an opinion shared by the rest of society.”

The survey taps the opinions of the “affluent American,” who is typically middle-aged and married with two children, and has a yearly income of about $500,000, according to poll demographics.

They are not the “mega-rich” — those 587 billionaires around the globe who share $2 trillion and have so much money they have trouble finding ways to spend it, Forbes magazine said.

The affluent, in fact, bite their nails about college costs, inflation, income stability and being poor when they retire. Almost three-quarters of them worry about the federal budget deficit and health care costs and almost half were concerned about the Social Security system and outsourcing jobs overseas.

But good feelings percolate among them as well.

The survey found that, compared with a year ago, 92 percent said their financial portfolios had improved, 60 percent said the overall U.S. economy was better and 48 percent said job growth was on the rise.

“The affluent pay attention to many of the same things as the average American. There’s a lot of crossover,” Ms. Smith said. “Meanwhile, average people pay a lot of attention to how well off counterparts do in the stock market.”

The affluent rated investment sectors and, according to the poll, health care, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology were the most popular, cited by 79 percent as either excellent or good prospects.

According to the poll, the percentage citing these other sectors as excellent or good were: technology (72 percent), real estate (67 percent), consumer products (65 percent), financial services (65 percent), energy and natural resources (62 percent), defense and aerospace (59 percent), communications and entertainment (50 percent), durable goods (48 percent), precious metals (33 percent), environmental services (26 percent), and transportation (25 percent).

Almost two-thirds of them, however, said they were not making any major changes in their investments and would just “wait and see.” Meanwhile, 63 percent said that CEOs at large public corporations make too much money.

The well-heeled, in fact, emphasized the moral attributes of the ideal executive: 97 percent said leadership was a “very important quality” for a CEO, followed by integrity (94 percent), willingness to work hard (86 percent), well-articulated vision (85 percent) and intelligence (85 percent).

Educational background, willingness to take risks, political skills and charisma were at the bottom of the list.

The poll was conducted earlier this year among 150 adults with at least $325,000 in yearly income — which put them in the top 1 percent of U.S. households for adjusted gross income, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

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