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2018 Insights on Wealth and Worth

Putting wealth into action

Merrill Lynch clients have access to the trust and fiduciary services provided by U.S. Trust,* one of the nation’s largest and oldest providers of personal trust services. Each year, U.S. Trust conducts a study of trends affecting high-net-worth individuals.

The 2018 study found that while wealth provides the freedom to do more, it also brings increased obligations, expectations and demands. Today, competing priorities are keeping the wealthy from clearly identifying the purpose of their wealth and taking deliberate steps to put a plan into action. However, those who work with an advisor are further along in reaching their goals.

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Are high-net-worth individuals actively planning for how to use their wealth?


Although the majority of respondents report taking practical steps to protect and sustain wealth, only about half have clearly defined a purpose for their wealth or taken deliberate steps to make the most of it.


Why are some wealthy individuals further along in achieving their goals?


Those who use an advisor—particularly an advisor with a more comprehensive approach—have made greater progress toward achieving their goals than those without an advisor.


How are Millennials investing to grow their wealth?


Millennials have recently shifted a large amount of cash into stocks, and are gravitating toward more sophisticated investment approaches, including alternative strategies and nontraditional assets.


Who’s driving interest in impact investing?


The majority of Millennials, Gen X and women believe that a company’s track record in environmental, social and governance is an important consideration for investing. In fact, 37% of all high-net-worth investors are reviewing their portfolios for impact investments.


How are business owners prioritizing employee-related spending?


Business owners are acutely aware of the vital role their businesses play in the lives of employees and are taking steps to demonstrate their commitment to workers.

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*U.S. Trust is a division of Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC and wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation.

Survey Methodology

The 2018 U.S. Trust survey of High Net Worth investors is based on a nationwide survey of 892 high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth adults across the U.S. A total of 892 HNW individuals with $3 million or more in investable assets, not including the value of their primary residence, completed the survey.

U.S. Trust commissioned the independent research firm Phoenix Marketing International to administer the online survey, analyze the data and test for statistical relevance. The double-blind survey was fielded over a six-week period, beginning in January and completed in February 2018.

Quotas were established by age and investable asset size, and for business owners, to ensure sufficient representation of groups of interest. The final sample was weighted to the true representation of HNW households by age, asset level and business ownership and are not representative of U.S. Trust clients.

Asset information was self-reported by the respondent. Verification for respondent qualification occurred at the panel company, using algorithms in place to ensure consistency of information provided, and was confirmed with questions from the survey itself. All data have been tested for statistical significance at the 95 percent confidence level.


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