By JESSICA DREBEN
F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous admonition that the rich are different from everyone else actually has some truth to it: Studies indicate that they work harder and save a lot more money.
They also tend to have better marriages. A whopping 71 percent of individuals with a net worth of $3 million or more are married to their first spouse, while the general U.S. population has a divorce rate of 40 percent.
Those are among the latest findings of the U.S. Trust Corp.'s Survey of Affluent Americans. U.S. Trust, a New York money management firm that caters to the rich, regularly polls the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans defined as individuals who either gross $225,000 or more annually or have a net worth of $3 million or more on their values, concerns and work habits.
Of this group, 85 percent are married and 86 percent have children most have two or three.
Most come from poor or middle-class backgrounds and hold conservative views, the survey found. They say they've worked very hard for their money and put in long hours, even though to many they may appear to have it made.
All this stands in contrast to the popular image of the wealthy in Los Angeles widely depicted as a partying, bed-hopping lot who, when they do conduct business, tend to do so via cellphone from the cockpit of a Ferrari or poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
That stereotype is rooted in the undeniable influence of the entertainment industry. While most of the nation's millionaires strike it rich through years of toil, often in unglamorous trades (like owning dry-cleaning shops or an accounting practice), Hollywood fortunes can be made fairly quickly through a successful film, a hot script, or a starring role.
But while L.A.'s "rich and famous" grab most of the tabloid headlines, they remain the exception, not the rule, said Todd Morgan, chairman of Bel Air Investment Advisors, who counsels some of L.A.'s wealthiest residents.
"My clients are not flashy," said Morgan, who advises Marvin Davis and others. "My clients are pretty low key. For the most part, you wouldn't pick them out of a crowd on a regular Tuesday. I think it is an old observation that people that are rich are more flashy in Los Angeles. I think people have become more low key for safety reasons and for value reasons."
Gregory Sanford, president and chief executive of U.S. Trust Co. of California, a subsidiary of U.S. Trust Corp., notes that most rich people had to work very hard for their fortunes, and as a result are careful with their money.
"The wealthy got that way by being smart; very few won the lottery," Sanford said. "They are fiscally conservative and prudent. If someone has $5,000 to invest, they will usually invest it in almost anything. If someone has $5 million to invest, they will be exceedingly conservative and very protective."
Tom Stanley, who co-authored the best-selling book, "The Millionaire Next Door," spent years researching the wealthy in America and discovered that most of the commonly held perceptions about them are false.
"You would be surprised how many millionaires live a very simple life," said Stanley. "The average millionaire drives a used car, lives in a modest house, joins the PTA and sends their children to the local school."
But some notable distinctions can be drawn between the very wealthy and everyone else.
"Average Americans have to worry about normal expenses like braces, paying for vacations, college tuition and replacing the car when it gets too old," observed Sanford. "The affluent don't have to worry about day-to-day expenditures."
Unlike many Americans, the nation's wealthiest do not like to have unnecessary debt. In fact, 80 percent of the wealthy respondents in the U.S. Trust survey reported that they pay the entire balance on their credit cards every month.
"To (the wealthy), credit cards are a cash-management tool," said John De Marco, a consultant for PSI Global in Tampa, Fla., which manages money for affluent individuals. PSI conducts studies similar to the one done by U.S. Trust. "The average person borrows because they need to; that is why credit-card debt is so high. The only reason wealthy people borrow is to invest."
Affluent Americans tend to be conservative as well, Stanley said.
"The wife usually does not work and the family holds very traditional values," he said.
Agreed Sanford: "They are conservative and traditional about everything."
Joseph Scott, president of Joseph Scott Co., a political consulting firm, attributed wealthy individuals' conservatism to their life circumstances.
"A millionaire has a very different view of the bottom line than most people," he said. "They have to make decisions that the average person can't even fathom. They tend to be more on the conservative side for this reason."
"A conservative wants to conserve wealth and even make more," said Joe Cerrell, chairman of Cerrell Associates, Inc., another Los Angeles political consulting firm. "The wealthy are about 80 percent conservative. It makes sense; it has to do primarily with economics."
Still, one thing that the rich do have in common with the rest of Americans is worry.
"They worry about taxes, inflation, Social Security and their children," Sanford said. "They are pretty much like everyone else, except they don't have to worry about money."
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