Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Too rich to worry?

From the New York Times, on the hard times (relatively speaking, of course) facing the rich:
IT turns out the other half — or at least the tiny slice who live at the top of the wealth pyramid — are not sleeping any better than the rest of America.

At a closed-door meeting of advisers to family offices — which serve families who typically are worth more than $500 million — I learned that the super-rich are just as concerned about the future as everyone else.

Even though the stock market has rebounded from its March 9 low, the family office advisers said many of their wealthiest clients were bracing for more bad news and wondering how it would affect their family unity.

“They are now looking at financial planning and things middle-class families live by,” Kathryn McCarthy, a leading adviser to wealthy families, including the Rockefellers, said at the gathering this week convened by Bessemer Trust.

Before you start laughing up your sleeve, be advised that this is not a good thing. When the super-rich get cold feet, the rest of America gets swine flu. They are, after all, the people who might finance new companies that create jobs, make big investments to support existing companies and spread their wealth throughout the economy.

According to a study the Family Office Exchange plans to release this month, the super-rich are most worried about what they do not know. Some 45 percent of the 108 ultrahigh-net-worth families surveyed in August ranked the economy and financial markets as their No. 1 concern. They were most concerned about government intervention in the financial markets and a commercial real estate bust.

Historically, the super-rich have focused mostly on family dynamics, since so much of their wealth is linked together and could be endangered by a rift. But the sudden decline in wealth — even if they still have hundreds of millions of dollars — has prompted soul-searching. The bad news is they are not confident about the American economy. The better news is they are looking at their families in a way that the average American could learn from. ...

Read the rest here. With record millions of unemployed and underemployed having trouble making ends meet, it's hard to feel much sympathy for those whose net worth is in the nine figures. But as the article notes, when the rich get a cold, the rest of us get pneumonia. If the super rich, who generally have access to far better and more lucrative investment advice and opportunities, are worried, that's hardly a positive sign.

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