The wealthiest households in the US, living in the most exclusive neighborhoods, and enjoying all that life has to offer
America’s wealthiest households belong to Power Elite, a group of six segments concentrated in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Predominantly white with a high rate of Asians, many have risen to the top thanks to advanced educations and lucrative careers as lawyers, doctors and corporate leaders. Today, these middle-aged and older executives (half are empty-nesting couples) enjoy lives of luxury in the nation’s most fashionable and exclusive areas in the country.
With their deep pockets, they own property in some of America’s most sought-after addresses - from the contemporary mansions of Beverly Hills, Calif. to the sprawling waterfront estates of Old Greenwich, Conn . Many paid more than a million dollars for their dream homes. While many have settled in the greener-belt suburbs of big cities, significant numbers also enjoy private, in- town residences, their homes protected by iron gates and well-tended shrubbery, the backyards dominated by swimming pools and tennis courts.
With nearly half the adults holding advanced degrees, Power Elite reflect a society of white- collar and entrepreneurial types, as well as dual-earners who have worked their way to the top. They’re nearly twice as likely as average Americans to have jobs in business, law, science and technology. Nearly a third of this group’s households earn more than $250,000 annually. Now at the peak of their careers, many are starting to contemplate comfortable life investments, as more than half already own secondary or vacation homes.
As consumers, the Power Elite have regal tastes. They’re philanthropic supporters of the arts who go to plays, classical music concerts, dance performances and museums. With many of their kids grown, they’re free to go out to dinner, watch a movie or take in another evening event. Weekends are reserved for trying to catch up with life, with such activities as antiquing, gardening or gathering with friends at parties. These are also health-conscious households who set aside regular time to exercise at a health club or with a private trainer; no group has more golf or tennis enthusiasts.
Power Elite have the highest level of investments (stocks, bonds and mutual funds), buying real estate and carrying credit cards - typically the gold and platinum varieties. As the nation’s strongest market for luxury goods, many drive luxury imports, outfitting their vehicles with satellite radio and GPS systems. Some collect cars like paintings; nearly two-thirds own three or more vehicles. Given their passion for anything cutting-edge, it’s not surprising that they stay current with the latest fashion, buying designer labels at high-end retailers and boutiques. With their busy lifestyles, they also purchase items from mail-order catalogs and luxury Websites. Unsurprisingly, they are adopters of all the latest and greatest technology.
To satisfy their curiosity about the world, they travel widely in the U.S. and abroad, visiting virtually every country that can be reached by plane, train or cruise ship. They travel in style; they’re more than twice as likely as average Americans to have spent more than $5,000 on their last trip, whether it involved hitting ski slopes, wandering island beaches or teeing off at exclusive golf courses. These are the Americans who sport the envied glow of a winter tan.
Power Elite make a strong media audience. They have above-average interest in watching TV and reading magazines, especially business, epicurean, literary and news titles. They’re fans of TV and radio, though not the advertising; they mute the audio or change the channel when a commercial comes on. They spend a relatively large amount of time on the Internet managing their financial affairs and shopping at premium retail Websites. However, they’re not only about being acquisitive; they also give away a lot of money to charitable causes to support education, the arts, political parties and public broadcasting. For many, their engagement calendars are studded with philanthropic dinners, political fundraisers and charity balls.
As for their political leanings, these active voters are mostly right-of-center. The highest concentration belongs to the Republican Party, but there are also pockets of limousine liberals, and nearly a third call themselves Democrats. No matter their politics, many share an interest in international events.
The educated and wealthy households in this group are among the nation’s more prodigious users of digital media. These early tech adopters have large appetites for high-speed modems, wireless technology and accessing the Internet through their cell phones, handheld devices and other mobile devices. The Internet is a major source of information as well as a tool to shop, bank, trade stocks and book travel arrangements. They also go online to read business articles, research products, get the latest news and weather report, and share their own views through blogs. Among their favorite Websites: msnbc.com, expedia.com, finance.yahoo.com, wsj.com, cnn.com and drudgereport.com.