In a recent personal finance study conducted by WSJ Intelligence, wealthy readers of the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s Group have identified asset protection and minimizing tax liabilities as their primary financial goals. The study, which garnered responses from over 3,600 participants with an average net worth of just over $3 million, sheds light on the financial priorities and concerns of affluent individuals going into 2024.

According to the data, 57% of respondents expressed that growing and protecting their wealth is their top priority for the coming years. This sentiment aligns with the broader concerns of this demographic, with 55% expressing worries about inflation and the increasing cost of living, while 40% highlighted market volatility as their major concern.

The survey participants were predominantly male, with 81% of them being male and 3,280 falling into the Baby Boomer generation (over the age of 55). Millennial and Gen X respondents made up a combined total of 333. Across different wealth bands, the largest group consisted of high-net-worth individuals with assets ranging from $1 million to $9.9 million, followed by emerging affluent respondents (with a net worth of less than $1 million) and ultra-high-net-worth individuals with assets of $10 million or more.

Donna Zeolla, the Associate Director of Finance Intelligence for the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s Group, emphasized that the study aimed to understand the behavior of financially savvy readers and explore how they enhance their financial acumen to make informed investment decisions.

The survey identified specific concerns unique to those in the highest income bracket. For instance, individuals in this group are 22% more likely to be concerned about identity theft and financial fraud compared to emerging affluents. Additionally, the wealthiest participants are 28% more likely to worry about cybersecurity risks in digital banking and three times more likely to be concerned with estate planning and inheritance.

To address these concerns, the wealthiest participants are actively seeking education on tax planning, private banking, and estate planning, and are consuming content that aids in this endeavor.

The study also delved into the wealth management services used by participants across various wealth bands, including brokerage, tax, and estate-planning services. Key considerations when selecting an investment company include fees and commissions (49%), expertise (44%), customer service (38%), and the company’s reputation (36%).

While loyalty to financial institutions is common, the survey found that the wealthiest investors are more open to switching. Only 41% of ultra-high-net-worth individuals would not consider moving their money to a new company, in contrast to 53% of high-net-worth individuals and 49% of the emerging affluent.

Among other differences highlighted in the survey were preferences in credit cards, where the wealthiest individuals expressed concerns about foreign transaction fees, and the importance of a personal touch in financial services. A significant percentage of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (47%) do not use automatic investing services, citing the lack of customization to their needs, compared to 27% of the emerging affluent.

Carter Hill