What Wealth Means Around the World

Since we all know that anyone who flies a general aviation airplane must be rich, a Wall Street Journal online story published Monday might be of interest. Titled "The Meaning of Wealth Translated Around the World," it cited a recent study by Barclay's Wealth and Ledbury Research. Analyzing how the wealthy expend their largesse is a science unto itself, and insight can be invaluable to those trying to market high-ticket products — such as aircraft. Two thousand people from 20 countries participated in the survey. Each respondent had at least $1.5 million in investable wealth. Worldwide, they agree that wealth provides access to highest quality products and the freedom to choose one's lifestyle. Most also agree that wealth stems from hard work. From there, however, some geographical differences emerged. For example, European "old money" tends toward travel and décor, while Latin Americans lean toward preferences in education. Interestingly, Americans lead the pack in citing philanthropy as a way to distribute their wealth (though the study authors attributed that preference as much to the U.S. tax structure as to inherent generosity). Fewer than half the Europeans and North Americans cite setting their attainment of wealth as a role model for others, while Asians (61 percent) and Latin Americans (71 percent) note "setting an important example to others" as among their responsibilities. As for status, close to half of the contingents from Asia and Latin America say their wealth, "allows me to get respect from friends and family," while only 38 percent of Americans and 28 percent of Europeans feel that way. What that all says about how wealthy people regard general aviation is open to interpretation, but the whole subject recalls what one of my industry colleagues Gil Wolin once said to me, "You know those rich people; they throw their money around like it was glue."