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Inside the mind of mobile millionaires

Jennifer Kwan

Ever wonder if millionaires that travel a lot value family or work most, or how they invest to make a lot money? The wealth management arm of Canada's biggest bank offers some clues.

Turns out one thing that helps high net worth people be successful is the freedom to roam around the world, hence the term mobile millionaires. In the vast majority of cases, these so-called, internationally-mobile wealthy individuals left their home countries for a higher quality of life or family reasons, rather than for purely business interests, according to RBC Wealth Management.

The study conducted by UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit is titled "Wealth Through the Prism of Culture and Mobility" and highlights the investment, wealth transfer and charitable-giving behaviours of individuals who live, work, or spend more than half their time outside their country of birth. Members of this club have investable assets of at least US$1 million.

Some of the key findings include:

  • The majority of mobile millionaires are self-made. They cite income from work as a professional, an entrepreneur or an executive of a publicly traded organization as the main source of their wealth. Roughly 30 per cent came from high net worth parents, while a mere 4 per cent inherited their money.
  • More than a third like to invest in global equities. Many cite real estate as a preferred asset class for investment, particularly people living in the Asia-Pacific region.  Mobile millionaires, who primarily take a global view to investing, are also more likely to have significant investments in precious metals.
  • Those surveyed attribute some of their success to mobility itself, with nearly all saying that a global lifestyle has broadened their horizons and created significant wealth and other opportunities for them.
  • Mobile millionaires expect a strong work ethic among the next generation with most planning to leave enough assets to their family so they are comfortable but still have to work for a living.  Those from Asia-Pacific are the most likely to leave all their assets to their families, while North Americans are the most likely to leave assets to charity.
  • Those born in Asia-Pacific generated wealth at a younger age, with almost half amassing a lot of wealth by the age of 40, compared to 19 per cent of those from other regions. People from Singapore and UK are the most likely to have three or more personal residences.

Of the 300 people surveyed for the report, nearly three-quarters say they have investable assets of between $1 million and $5 million. Fourteen per cent have between $6 million and $10 million, while 12 per cent have more than $11 million.

Some 80 per cent are male and more than half are between the ages of 30 and 50. Roughly a quarter are older than 60. Only 3 per cent are 30 or younger.