2/7/2013 6:15 PM ET|
Dow 14K fuels new wealth boom
The billions in investor wealth that disappeared during the financial crisis are coming back, and so are confidence levels and high-end spending.
The next American wealth boom has begun.
It may not feel like it for many Americans, but with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) recently breaching the 14,000 benchmark (before falling back slightly this week), shareholders and investors have recovered the more than $8 trillion in wealth lost during the recession, attaining a level of paper wealth last seen in the Roaring Oughts.
The stock market has gone from wealth destroyer to the nation's largest manufacturer of new millionaires and billionaires.
The market moves are creating a new, virtuous cycle of confidence for the wealthy, although some remain scarred by the memory of the market's dive following the financial crisis.
A new survey shows that millionaire confidence in the economy has hit the highest level in two years, led by their bullishness on the economy and corporate earnings.
The big questions now are what the next Gilded Age will look like, who will benefit and how long the market-fueled prosperity will last.
According to Spectrem Group, a wealth research firm, about 9 million American households have investible assets of $1 million or more. Figures for 2012 haven't been released, but George Walper, the president of Spectrem Group, expects 2012 and 2013 to approach, or even match, the all-time high of 9.2 million households, established in 2007.
"I don't think it will go much beyond the all-time high because real estate prices have not fully recovered," Walper said.
He added that after the tax rates for the wealthy were set in January, "they had a lot more confidence in how to plan and move forward."
The population of individual millionaires (as opposed to households) rebounded to its all-time high two years ago.
According to Capgemini, there were 3.35 million millionaires in North America in 2011, up from 3.2 million in 2007. Their total wealth in 2011 was just shy of the 2007 peak, at $11.7 trillion.
Other measures show a similar resurgence of wealth at the top. The total wealth of the Forbes 400 hit $1.7 trillion in 2012, topping the previous record of $1.58 trillion in 2008. The average net worth of individuals on the Forbes list topped $4.2 billion -- the highest ever.
There has been a reshuffling in the world of wealth. According to the Federal Reserve, the ranks of the wealthiest 1% saw a turnover of more than one-third between 2007 and 2009, meaning that a third of them fell off and were replaced.
Billionaires including hedge fund manager Phil Falcone, real-estate tycoon Tim Blixseth and former banking chief Sandy Weill fell off the Forbes list, while Facebook's (FB) Mark Zuckerberg, Under Armour's (UA) Kevin Plank and Spanx founder Sara Blakely burst on to the list after 2008.
Other members of the 1% are returning after earlier collapses. Whether it's Sheldon Adelson, the casino king who lost more than 90% of his paper fortune then earned it back, or Netflix (NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings, who saw his fortune more than triple in recent weeks, the stock market is restoring massive amounts of wealth.
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The new millionaires and billionaires are spending big. Prices for highly prized art, wine, vintage cars, jewels, watches and other collectibles are soaring past their 2007 highs.
Last year, Sotheby's (BID) sold more than $4 billion worth of collectibles, including the $11.9 million "Scream" painting by Edvard Munch, which set a record for a work of art sold at auction.
This year's collectible-car sale at Scottsdale, Ariz., blew past its pre-crisis sales record, racking up $223 million in sales, up from $163 million in 2008.
"It's almost a little shocking," said Craig Jackson, the CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auction, the auctioneer of collectible cars.
Prices for homes in the nation's wealthiest enclaves are also touching bubble levels. The average home price in Aspen, Colo., is now more than $4 million. And a buyer stepped forward last year to purchase the highest-priced co-op ever sold in Manhattan, at $52 million.
There are now several U.S. homes on the market priced at $100 million or more, including a mansion just listed in Dallas at $135 million, echoing the nine-figure deals of 2005 to 2009.
The waiting lists for new, six-figure Ferraris and Lamborghinis are stretching to more than a year, another development that hearkens back to pre-crisis days.
Yet spending on other forms of conspicuous luxury, including private jets, yachts and high-end handbags -- is still at a fraction of its pre-meltdown pace.
Even though the wealthiest have seen their wealth restored, their mindset has not returned to pre-crisis levels, financial advisers say.
"The fear is still there," said Stephen Martiros, a Boston independent consultant to wealthy individuals and families. "It's like they've been in a car crash. And it was far worse than they imagined. They may be driving again, in a new car on the same roads, but they're taking the corners a lot slower."
That means investing for stability and income rather than growth and risk.
Martiros said that wealthy investors have more money in cash, alternative investments, real estate and other assets seen as less volatile than stocks.
"The big change is reducing volatility," he said. "The big allocation is toward things that don't move a lot."
In opting for peace of mind, some of today's richest investors may be missing out on the rally that took the Dow back above 14,000.
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Just the opposite ... I've been moving out of the market the last year. I'll always have some money in stable, dividend paying stocks to at least catch some of the upside, but the majority is out right now.
My biggest focus recently has been in moving assets around to shelter my principle and earnings from what I believe will be an increasingly hungry more govt. I took some long term capital gains last year.
Now beginning to plan a long range 10-15 year strategy for my 401k withdrawals, as well as gifting money to my children in the manner that most efficiently reduces the taxes and will reduce the estat size. My assumption is that the govt. will become more desperate/aggressive for revenue and "go where the money is" over the coming decades. We are captive audiences with 401ks since withdrawals are monitored and controlled/they can simply write new laws, taxes, add means testing, etc. to get more if you were diligent/responsible and played by the rules all your life.
Same with estates - the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world is going to take place over the next few decades as the baby boomers pass away .... seems like an area ripe for the taking by the govt. So, I'm modifying my plan of having a large trust now to a smaller trust and am actively transferring more assets directly to my children (and hopefully grandchildren) so the deal is done/the govt. can't quickly change the rules and trap those assets before I'd have time to react.
What a 'Pie in the Sky' article ! While I contributed to the wealth of the good people in my community, and many are millionaires -ON PAPER- They only will realize this wealth when the close out there positions- FASTFROG is exactly right!
And when the stocks drop, I'll always try to short a few to 'grab' a little cash for them & me as well as maintain my clients positions so if Robert wants to be that 'cheerleader' for the market-go right ahead. But just be aware that this market is oversold & artificially inflated so don't over extend yourself or you'll be sorry.
Creating wealth does not create spendable money.
A person can have wealth in stocks and bonds, or in the equity of their home or other personal property.
The difference between wealth and money is that you can spend money, but cannot spend wealth until it is converted into money.
This can only be done in 2 ways.
You can use wealth as collateral for a loan.
You can sell some of your wealth.
Either way, the money you receive, comes from the debt principal of someone's loan that has been spent into circulation, because all M1 money is created through the extension of credit from private commercial banks, with no money created to pay the interest on the borrowed money that is in circulation.
All money in circulation is a mortgage on the future productivity of the people who had to borrow it.
Without this borrowing, the federal reserve's fractional reserve debt monetary system would collapse.
For everyone to access money from their wealth, it would require huge amounts of additional borrowing, if not, the debt dollars would not exist in circulation, to enable those with wealth to sell some of their wealth for spendable money.
It is sell the wealth or borrow against it. Either way, the banks would have been, or will be involved, and collect interest on someone's mortgaged future productivity.
Under this system, if there is no debt, there can be no dollars.
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