Everett Dirksen didn't realize how right he was.
The former senator is best known for the quote, "A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." But with the rising number of millionaires in the U.S., maybe it does take a billion to be worth talking about anymore.
According to the latest Phoenix Wealth Survey (opens a PDF file), there are 9.3 million millionaires in the U.S. today. Either this is still the land of opportunity, or a million dollars doesn't buy as much as it once did. (Or both.)
The millionaire up the block
Just as buying a Mercedes or a Rolex is no longer a symbol of having arrived, being a millionaire seemingly doesn't have the cachet it once did. When so many families have such a high net worth, where's the exclusivity? Not that I'm not still trying to join the club!
The Phoenix Wealth Survey uncovers a lot of interesting statistics:
- Millionaires represent 8% of all U.S. households.
- The number of households with a net worth of at least $500,000 has grown more than 50% over the past decade, to 14.7 million.
- Over the eight years the survey has been conducted, the median age of the wealthy has gotten younger. It now stands at 54.
- 11% of high-net-worth households are headed by singles.
"The rich are very different from you and me," F. Scott Fitzgerald said. To which Ernest Hemingway famously retorted, "Yes, they have more money."
Not so different after all
Hemingway was right. Aside from that whole "more money" thing, we're all very much the same. We all put our pants on one leg at a time. We have the same worries and concerns for our future. Just like anyone else, millionaires wonder whether Social Security will be around, and how they'll care for aging parents. Many of them don't have a traditional pension plan. And since we'll all be living longer than our parents and grandparents, they'll need to ensure that their money lasts longer -- just like we do.
For that reason, even the wealthy expect to be working at least part time in their retirement years, and nearly half of them believe they'll need 100% of their current incomes to maintain their lifestyles. According to most financial planners, future retirees should plan on needing just 80% of their current incomes.
So if the rich are feeling this glum, what hope is there for the rest of us working stiffs? Plenty!
A rich achievement
The stock market continues to represent the single best way to achieve a secure financial future, and the rich plan to keep investing. So should you. In addition to individual stocks, the wealthy own mutual funds. Nearly two-thirds of these millionaires plan to invest at least as much as they currently do in mutual funds held outside of their retirement accounts. Just as importantly, some 20% of those who don't currently invest in funds plan to do so for the first time.
The acid test
In a special report issued to subscribers, Motley Fool Champion Funds noted that many investors are already ahead of the game here. Roughly 91 million Americans hold a total of $3.4 trillion in IRAs or defined-contribution plans like 401(k) plans. Finding the right investments to help your own portfolio elevate you to the million-dollar club shouldn't take you more than an hour of research. In fact, the report provided a quick, five-minute acid test that should disqualify most of your choices. Whatever's left deserves more in-depth analysis.
- Has the fund's manager been on board for at least three years? More than five?
- Is its expense ratio less than its category peers? Less than 1%?
- Has the fund outperformed its relevant benchmark over the past five years? 10 years?
Answer "yes" to those three questions, and you're ready to download a prospectus from the company website and read through it.
Like many of us, high-net-worth individuals are increasingly willing to make financial decisions on their own. One-third of the rich people queried by the Phoenix Wealth Survey don't have a financial advisor, and the proportion of those who receive assistance from full-service brokers has fallen to its lowest level (25%) since Phoenix started asking.
Don't go it alone
Even if you don't use a broker, you don't have to go it alone. Champion Funds subscribers enjoy dedicated discussion boards where they can receive expert advice. When you take a 30-day free trial subscription, you'll also get full access to our boards, our winning fund recommendations, and all our special reports, including the latest one, "Add Kick to Your 401(k)!"
Just because the rich may be feeling a bit glum about their future doesn't mean you have to follow suit. While a million dollars might not go quite as far as it once did, achieving that level of success is still a goal to strive for. It means that opportunity's still alive, and that's something to be quite happy about. Go ahead -- you'll feel like a million bucks!