Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Give Thanks III

Give thanks if you are on the waiting list for a private jet but manage to re-equip a commercial one in time for your Thanksgiving vacation. Give thanks for your new Patek Philippe that cost you $900,000. Give thanks for the economic situation which, astonishingly, is very good for the super-rich:

The quest for things exorbitantly exotic has reached a fever pitch of late. For one thing, more people than ever can afford to join in the pursuit. "This is the richest year ever in human history," said Steve Forbes, chief executive of Forbes, whose recent Forbes 400 list consisted entirely of billionaires for the second year since its inception. The past year has seen the number of billionaires grow 19%, to nearly 1,000, according to the company. In the past 10 years, the number of financial millionaires has more than doubled.

Half the new members on the Forbes 400 list come from hedge funds and private equity, and they form a fiscal fraternity that is not only wealthier but also younger, more diverse and more numerous than ever. While managing and making billions, the economy's latest whiz kids are shaking up the financial world and, quite often, the planet's spending habits along with it. "Never before have so many Americans gotten so wealthy so quickly. And never before have the wealthy spent so much on lifestyle and consumer goods," says Robert Frank, author of Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich. "So what do you do to stand out? The challenge for today's rich is to set themselves apart from the merely affluent. You want things no one else can afford or experience. The challenge is to always stay ahead." And while the recent stock-market turbulence may stall the tide, it is unlikely to stem it. "You can't get rich off financial markets and not be exposed if they fall," Frank says. "The next year or two, we might have a slight decline in numbers of millionaires as well as a decline in the amount of their wealth. But long term, I'm bullish on wealth. The rich are going to get richer, and more important, they are going to get more numerous."