When asked what they attribute most to their success, the top three responses were hard work, ambition and family upbringing. The findings are based on a nationwide survey of 684 high-net-worth individuals with at least $3 million in investable assets.
Here are 10 common traits the wealthy share that financial advisors should keep in mind when working with or looking to attract HNWI clients. (For related reading, see: What High Net Worth Clients Value and Need.)
Common Traits Revealed
They built wealth over time. A majority (77%) of those surveyed came from middle or moderate-income backgrounds. This includes 19% who grew up poor. These individuals earned wealth over time and earned most of it through income from work and investing.
They took a basic, long-term approach to investing. Eighty-six percent made their biggest investment gains through long-term buy and hold strategies, traditional stocks and bonds (89%) and a series of small wins (83%) vs. taking big investment risks. HNWI's use of more sophisticated investments grows as their wealth increases.
They're opportunistically optimistic. More HNWIs are optimistic than pessimistic about investment returns over the next year. Almost three in five keep more than 10% of their investment portfolios in cash positions. This includes one in five with more than 25% in cash. The top reason is for opportunistic purposes, which includes being in a position to invest on a sudden market dip or rising trend.
They employ a strategic use of credit. Almost two-thirds consider credit as a way to strategically build their wealth; four in five say they know when and how to use credit as a financial advantage. (For related reading, see: Characteristics of the Ultra Wealthy.)
They make tax-conscious investment decisions. Wealthy investors understand that real investment returns are really negative returns if they are eroded by taxes, U.S. Trust found. More than half (55%) agree investment decisions that factor in potential tax implications are better than pursuing higher returns, regardless of the tax implications. (For more, see: Tax Tips for the Individual Investor.)
They invest in valuable tangible assets. Almost half (48%) invest in tangible assets. They include farmland, investment real estate and timber properties that can produce income and grow over time with legacy value. One in five high net worth investors collects fine art. This includes one in three ultra high-net-worth art collectors who are using art as an alternative asset class.
They practice disciplined saving, opportunistic buying. A majority (81%) believe that investing to reach long-term goals is more important than funding current wants and needs. This approach was instilled at an early age.
They highlight family values and upbringing. Four in five wealthy people came from families where their parents encouraged them to pursue their own talents and interests. At the same time they set firm disciplinary boundaries and, for the most part, were tolerant of failures and mistakes along the way. The five family values most strongly stressed during the years they grew up were academic achievement, financial discipline, work participation, family loyalty and civic duty.
They have a strong family tradition of philanthropy. Sixty-five percent of high net worth investors say that there is a strong tradition of philanthropy and giving back to society within their family.
They have a marriage/lifelong partnership. Most (86%) are married or are in a long-term relationship. And most have stayed married to the same person, avoiding the financial setback that is often the result of divorce. High net worth individuals tend to divide, rather than share, roles and responsibilities at home. This includes financial and non-financial contributions to family wealth, such as taking care of children. Almost all also discuss important goals and values about the use of money.
The Bottom Line
Most high net worth investors did not come from wealthy backgrounds. Building wealth over time and taking a long-term approach to investing are also among the 10 most common traits they share. (For related reading, see: Wealthy Clients: How Advisors Can Nab More of Them.)