How the Super Rich Spend Their Money
Forget sports cars, diamonds and yachts.
Today's rich prefer to spend their money on vacations, entertainment and collectibles.
According to a new study from Spectrem Group, Americans worth more than $25 million think of themselves as frugal but actually live large. More than half agreed with the statement that "saving and investing my money gives me greater satisfaction than spending it."
And when asked about how they became wealthy, "frugality" ranked among the top five factors, below hard work, education, smart investing and taking risk.
Yet their spending numbers show that they still enjoy the finer things in life—or at least, the finer experiences in life.
Fully 60 percent spend more than $10,000 a year on vacation or leisure travel, the highest of any category. More than a quarter of spend more than $25,000 on trips, and 14 percent spend more than $50,000.
"They work hard, so they like nice vacations," said George Walper, president of Spectrem Group. "And they take nice vacations because they can."
By contrast, jewelry, cars and boats weren't as popular. More than three-quarters of the rich surveyed didn't spend any money on boats. Only 30 percent spend more than $10,000 on jewelry a year, and fewer than one in five of them spent more than $50,000 on a car. (Granted, the few rich who do like cars spend a lot: 10 percent said they spend $100,000 or more).
"It's not about flashy purchases anymore," Walper said. "Most folks are toning it down a little in terms of what's in style and what's ostentatious."
Perhaps the trend toward more private displays of wealth is why spending on club memberships remains high. The survey found that two-thirds of the rich spend money on clubs and nearly one in five spends more than $10,000 a year on arts and entertainment. Fully 60 percent spent money on collectibles, which many prefer to see as an investment.
The rich also like to spend more on charity than on political contributions. More than half made political contributions, although most were under $10,000. Fully 58 percent, however, made donations to charity of more than $10,000 a year, while 25 percent made donations of more than $25,000.
Robert Frank is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author and leading journalistic authority on the American wealthy. He joined CNBC in May 2012 as a reporter and editor for the news organization.
Prior to joining CNBC, Frank was with The Wall Street Journal for 18 years, serving as a foreign correspondent in London and Singapore, and later covering Wall Street and corporate scandals. For eight years, he was the paper's Wealth Reporter, covering the lives, culture and economy of the new rich.