America’s millionaires are a little insecure about their status these days, and why shouldn’t they be? When the richest 400 people in the United States have a net worth of $1.27 trillion — more than fifty-percent of the population combined — a mere million dollars is chump change, a pittance. Simple millionaires just aren’t feeling rich anymore:
More than four out of ten American millionaires say they do not feel rich. Indeed many would need to have at least $7.5 million in order to feel they were truly rich, according to a Fidelity Investments survey.
Some 42 percent of the more than 1,000 millionaires surveyed by Fidelity said they did not feel wealthy. Respondents had at least $1 million in investable assets, excluding any real estate or retirement accounts.
“Every person in the survey is wealthy,” said Sanjiv Mirchandani, president of National Financial, a unit of Fidelity. “But they are still worried about outliving their assets.”
“They compare themselves to their peer group ... and they are also thinking about the long period they will have in retirement and want more assets” to fund their lifestyle, said Michael Durbin, president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services.
Chalk this up to one of the many ways that life is unfair. They made a million dollars but they still don’t get to feel rich, at least not in comparison with their peer group. Damn the luck. Thirty years ago they would have been sun gods, but now the poor bastards might as well take up bowling and drive Toyota Camry’s.
So millionaires are fretting about how not to outlive their assets during a prolonged and luxurious retirement. What a dilemma! I need a Valium and a glass of Cristal just thinking about it; maybe even an extra hour of Pilates to work out the fear. Of course, one could recommend that they postpone their retirement or adjust their ‘lifestyles’ to fit their income, but that would require them to think and act like mere commoners. It would force them to prioritize and maybe, gulp, make a few sacrifices. But what’s the use of being a rich American if you have to stoop to that? The juiciest perk of being wealthy in this country is that you never have to sacrifice anything at all, not for anyone or any reason whatsoever. That’s the point of the game. To suggest otherwise seems rude and un-American, blasphemous even, like farting in church. It’s just not done.
The iron laws of American etiquette are as follows: You never discuss politics or religion with your in-laws. You never ask a woman her age. You never point out that American troops aren’t always brave or heroic, and you never, ever, seriously suggest raising taxes on the rich. I’m not being snarky or hyperbolic. I mean it. In all of the chatter about cutting deficits, every alternative — even, to some extent, scaling down defense spending — is considered except one: increasing revenue by raising taxes on the rich. It’s not on the table.
It turns out, however, that our submerged class of forgotten millionaires is feeling a little better about their lot in life now than they were just two years ago. Whereas 42 percent of them don’t feel wealthy in the present year, that number was as high as 46 percent back in ’09, so progress has been made. If this trend continues, more than half of all millionaires should be feeling “moderately affluent” or “well-off” at about the same time the official unemployment rate hits twelve percent.