Cable TV and Sharper Image (NASDAQ:SHRP) can show us how the other half lives and what they buy. But what's more interesting is what the rich do with their money when they're not spending it.

For a peek into the financials of the upper-quartile of Americans, let's peruse the survey results from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. "Upper quartile" certainly sounds impressive. But consider that the 1,000 respondents' average annual household income is $106,000. According to Fed data, the typical "middle-income" family has an annual income between $20,000 and $80,000 -- at this high end just a stone's throw from what many people consider "rich."

What really separates the haves and have-nots is priorities. The Federal Reserve Board found that only 40% of middle-income families save regularly. And get this: Nearly 20% aren't socking away even one dime. On average, the CFP Board's affluent survey respondents save or invest 12% of their total income and boast an average net worth just over $500,000.

A little more snooping reveals how they allocate their assets:

  • Real estate equity (31%)
  • Retirement savings plans (26%)
  • Stock mutual funds (10%)
  • CDs, money market, and savings accounts (10%)
  • Individual stocks (7%)
  • Pensions (6%)
  • Misc. assets (bond funds, bonds, annuities) (10%)

Excluding bill paying and balancing their checkbooks, they spend an average of five hours a month on financial matters. Surely some of that time is spent looking for rewarding investment ideas like the ones our analysts dig up every month. Seems to us that's a fruitful way to wile away a few hours.

Even if you're not "upper"-anything, take a cue from the well-off savers. Don't envy what they have. Emulate how they save.