The Shullman Luxury, Affluence and Wealth Pulse reports on the expectations, behaviors and plans of adults among all U.S. household income segments, with a special focus on affluent consumers, the drivers of both the luxury and wealth-related markets. Bob Shullman is the founder, lead researcher and evaluator of the Shullman Pulse, and is one of the few market researchers at present who takes developmental, life cycle and gender issues into consideration when evaluating the data he accrues.
Millionaires, according to the Shullman Pulse Insights Briefs (Feb-March 2014), are defined as those who report a personal net worth (total assets minus total debts) of $1 million or more, comprising about 9 percent of all adults according to their most recent survey. Based on the Bureau of the Census' estimate of 236.9 million adults in the United States, about 20 million adults fall into this millionaire category.
The Shullman Pulse looks at selected generational differences among millionaires. Millennials being 18 to 33 years old; Gen-X'ers 34 to 48; Boomers are 49 to 67; and the Silent Generation 68 or older. Boomers represent about one third of total adults, but almost half of adult millionaires.
In the February 2014 Brief, the Shullman Pulse discussed gender differences—attitudes and behaviors between male and females millionaires. This gender-oriented view of wealth led a number of readers to ask how millionaires differ even more when they are segmented another way—by generation or age, instead of by gender. Developmental questions were posed: Do millionaire Millennials have the same views regarding the future as Gen-X'ers or Boomers? Do they have the same financial goals? Are these three generations planning to buy the same products and services, especially luxury products and services, in the near future? What was discovered and reviewed in the March Brief was that the millionaire differences by generation are in many respects greater than the differences by gender.
First, there are about the same number of millionaire men and women—about 10 million of each—but the number of millionaires by generation differs substantially. The largest of the millionaire segments are Boomers, with about ten million; there are almost five million Millennial millionaires and about four million Gen-Xer millionaires. The Silent Generation (65 plus in age), about a million, is not profiled.
These three generations have different viewpoints on many things: one, regarding the economy, 77 percent of Millennials are optimistic, whereas 58 percent of Gen-X'ers and only 32 percent of Boomers are optimistic. Given this attitude, their financial goals, not surprisingly, vary dramatically by generation as well. Notably, 52 percent of Millennials are concerned about remaining financially independent, while Gen-X'ers are heavily focused on three issues: providing for their children's college expenses at 47 percent, having enough money for unexpected emergency expenses at 43 percent, and having control over their assets at 43 percent. The Boomers, as might be expected, are primarily focused on having enough income for retirement—69 percent cited this as one of their primary goals out of the 21 listed.
When the millionaire generations were asked what they are planning to buy during the next 12 months, 82 percent of Millennials stated they are planning to buy one or more luxuries, compared with about half of the Gen-X'ers and Boomers (47 percent and 49 percent respectively) will do the same. A deeper look into millionaire buying plans by generation reveals that the number one luxury buying plan is to take a luxury vacation: 44 percent of Millennials are planning to spend on luxury vacations compared with 27 percent of Gen-X'ers and 29 percent of Boomers.
Recently, I spoke with Bob Shullman about his research, the varying differences between the millionaire generations and what that means for luxury markets.
JustLuxe: Can you talk about your developmental perspective, and which social forces you think are working behind the scenes regarding the results of your research?
Bob Shullman: To me, this is a time of great change both social and cultural, and based on three events, which change the perspective of many affluent people: first, the changing role of women and men. This impacts gender views on wealth and wealth access. Second is a lifecycle issue: lifecycle—are you single? Partnered? Do you have children? Are you single, couple, or family focused? Third is access to information. To those of a certain generation, you went to the library to get information, now, the information is on a computer, accessible to all, immediately. Society has been moving at light speed, and that impacts everyone, but at different times in their lives.
JL: What do you see ahead as wealth or spending trends that your research is reporting today? I mean, I know you are not a tea leaf reader, but good research can often allow for some foresight that others don't yet have or can't quite see.
BS: I think there may be more similarity than differences between Millennials with children and Gen X-ers with children. In general, Millennials grew up under the hand of Boomers, but are closer in attitudes to the Gen X-ers. But I don't know that conclusively yet as I haven't created that question with the data I have. Nonetheless, I am sensing it. Having children is the huge variable—that changes everything, from singular to familial, from self-absorbed to communitarian.
JL: What ideas and subjects do you plan to work on in the following months, and why?
BS: I want to learn more about how I see the two types of Millennials: how they behave financially if they are partnered and have children. The one thing I see is their optimism, and their view of if they want it, they will go after it and get it. But so much is changing; it will be interesting to see how they will use their affluence in terms of their evolving life cycles and stages. Will everything be different, or will their attitudes be, basically, more of the same? There are just so many ways you can cut up the developmental life-stage pie.