WealthManagement Magazine

Of Wealth and Debt

It is, by now, an article of faith that wealthy clients are a special group with unique needs. But according to two recent reports, the rich hold at least one thing in common with average consumers: an increasingly heavy load of debt. According to the Federal Reserve specifically, a report from Art Kennickell, a Fed senior economist the top 1 percent of wealthy Americans carries $346 billion in debt,

It is, by now, an article of faith that wealthy clients are a special group with unique needs. But according to two recent reports, the rich hold at least one thing in common with average consumers: an increasingly heavy load of debt.

According to the Federal Reserve — specifically, a report from Art Kennickell, a Fed senior economist — the top 1 percent of wealthy Americans carries $346 billion in debt, up more than 21 percent from three years earlier.

What is that debt tied up in? According to a separate report from Chicago-based Spectrem Group, it's spread all over. Spectrem's study says that 19 percent of those with assets of more than $5 million have either a second mortgage or a home-equity loan. But those are just the highbrow debts. Spectrem says that 14 percent have outstanding credit-card balances, 11 percent have margin loans and 11 percent have “unclassified” loans.

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