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Lifestyle Trends and Problems Facing Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals


In decades past, millionaire status was well-known, and the subject of innumerable songs, TV shows, and movies. However, a million dollars is almost a modest sum by today’s standards, and an exclusive echelon known as ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) has wealth extending to the tens of millions. Yet, being a UHNWI entails more than just opulence. It’s a lifestyle marked by distinct trends and unique challenges. Amidst their massive wealth, UHNWIs grapple with the task of safeguarding their assets, ensuring that their retirement sustains their accustomed lifestyle and navigating the ever-shifting tax landscape.

If you’re looking for help with your investments, or retirement plan, consider working with a financial advisor.

Who Is Considered an Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individual?

An ultra-high-net-worth individual (UHNWI) is a term used to describe someone whose net worth is $30 or more in liquid assets. While numerous successful businesspeople and investors may have a net worth of $30 million, they may not be UHNWIs because they’ve tied up most of their capital in illiquid assets (such as real estate or art collections). Conversely, UHNWIs can invest at least $30 million into a new business or venture at any given time.

Due to this wealth threshold, UHNWIs are an exclusive and relatively small subset of high-net-worth individuals. They have substantial financial resources, including investments in stocks, bonds, real estate, and private companies. Many UHNWIs have diverse portfolios, engage in philanthropic activities, and provide venture capital to startups.

Because of their substantial wealth, UHNWIs often have access to specialized financial services and investment opportunities. They are influential players in various sectors, including finance, philanthropy, politics, and business; and their decisions and activities can significantly impact local and global economies.

Lifestyle Trends of Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals

UHNWIs generally prioritize the following lifestyle choices and perks. Meeting these evolving needs requires a deep understanding of the preferences and aspirations of this unique demographic:

Curated Experiences

UHNWIs seek personalized experiences tailored to their interests and preferences. These experiences often go beyond traditional luxury offerings and may include custom-designed travel itineraries, private events and access to exclusive venues or activities. Curated experiences offer a quality beyond the standard luxury products or services for sale.

In addition, UHNWIs frequently pursue these experiences to connect with family, friends and socioeconomic peers. This trend reflects a desire for authenticity, individuality and distinctive access to top-quality services. For example, a UHNWI might hire a team to arrange a private concert with their favorite musician or organize a bespoke culinary tour with a renowned chef.

Solutions to Increase Efficiency

UHNWIs often have complex and demanding lifestyles that require efficient time management, resources and responsibilities. They may seek solutions that streamline various aspects of their lives, such as financial management, household management and personal scheduling. These services require specialized professionals or advanced technologies to optimize daily routines and decision-making processes. Efficiency solutions help UHNWIs maintain high productivity and effectiveness while minimizing unnecessary stress or administrative burdens.

Focus on Health and Wellness

UHNWIs place a significant emphasis on maintaining and enhancing their physical and mental well-being. This trend includes investments in state-of-the-art home fitness facilities, personal trainers, nutritionists and wellness retreats. They may also explore cutting-edge medical treatments and technologies to optimize their health and prolong their lifespan. This focus on wellness extends beyond personal care and can encompass efforts to promote sustainable and eco-conscious practices. For example, some UHNWIs prize organic and locally sourced food, eco-friendly transportation and eco-conscious living spaces.

Problems Facing Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals

An ultra-high-net-worth couple enjoying a planned vacation.

The four problems below highlight the unique challenges that UHNWIs face in managing their substantial wealth:

Wealth Protection

UHNWIs face the challenge of safeguarding wealth from various risks and threats. Dangers include economic downturns, market volatility, legal disputes and potential liabilities. For instance, the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 bankrupted numerous millionaires with substantial real estate holdings. As a result, hedging against risk is paramount in the American boom-and-bust economy.

To this end, wealth protection strategies involve diversification of assets, investment in stable and low-risk vehicles and the implementation of sophisticated financial instruments and trusts. Additionally, UHNWIs often work with specialized advisors and wealth management professionals to create tailored plans that shield their assets from potential financial threats.

Sustaining Lifestyle During Retirement

Although UHNWIs can usually work into later years than other demographics, retirement eventually happens because of health complications or a desire for less stress. In addition, retirement doesn’t typically entail downsizing. As a result, UHNWIs must plan for a retirement that spans several decades and allows them to continue their current lifestyle. Doing so requires arranging their assets to generate sufficient income to maintain their financial well-being even after they stop earning income from active business activities.

Therefore, retirement for UHNWIs requires the allocation of assets into retirement-friendly investments, the creation of sustainable income streams and the consideration of potential healthcare costs. UHNWIs may also explore options like family offices or private wealth management services to help them navigate the complexities of retirement planning.

Changing Tax Codes

UHNWIs must often contend with evolving tax regulations and codes impacting their financial strategies and outcomes. Tax laws can change at both national and international levels, affecting areas such as income tax, capital gains tax, estate tax and more.

For example, the Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the top marginal tax rate from 39.6% to 37%, creating tax savings for UHNWIs. However, this law will expire after 2025, so taxes may increase to or beyond their previous levels in a few short years. Because marginal tax rates in the past have risen as high as 91%, UHNWIs must stay vigilant about how incoming regulatory shifts can impact their wealth.

Staying informed about these changes and adjusting financial strategies accordingly is crucial for minimizing tax liabilities and maximizing after-tax returns. Therefore, UHNWIs often work closely with tax experts and advisors specializing in wealth management for ongoing tax planning services.

Estate Planning

Effective estate planning is a critical concern for UHNWIs, as it involves the transfer of wealth and assets to heirs, beneficiaries and charitable causes while minimizing tax liabilities. This process can be complex, involving decisions about wills, trusts, gifts and philanthropic endeavors. In addition, federal law imposes taxes on estate transfers above $12.92 million, meaning UHNWIs will likely incur taxes on their estates unless they plan carefully.

UHNWIs may also need to consider succession planning for family businesses or enterprises. Engaging experienced estate planning professionals, including lawyers, accountants and financial advisors, is essential to develop and implement a comprehensive estate plan.

Bottom Line

An ultra-high-net-worth couple looking at an itinerary.

UHNWIs represent an exclusive subset of high-net-worth individuals with substantial financial resources and a net worth of at least $30 million in liquid assets. Their influence spans various sectors, from finance to philanthropy, and their decisions impact economies across the globe. In addition, their wealth allows them to obtain curated experiences that create a unique form of prestige. However, UHNWIs face distinct challenges, including wealth protection, strategies to safeguard assets and evolving tax codes that require planning and adaptation to minimize tax liabilities.

Tips for UHNWI Investing

  • While UHNWIs have millions to invest in the stock market, you don’t need that much to get started. Whether you’re starting an IRA or want to invest in a child’s college fund, a weekly contribution of $50 goes a long way. A financial advisor can help you calculate the necessary deposits to hit your financial goals. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Calculating your net worth is crucial because it allows you to create a more accurate financial plan. Plus, higher net worth can help you access specific types of credit.

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