| Sept 27
Sept 27 Affluent Americans feel more in control
of their finances and say they are less conservative with their
investments than they were a year ago, according to a bi-annual
survey released on Thursday by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth
Wealthier investors recognize there is likely to be more
volatility ahead thanks to the November U.S. elections, the
looming fiscal cliff and continued uncertainty in the European
Union, but they feel confident when it comes to their personal
finances, said Ted Durkin, head of the Merrill Lynch Affluent
That uptick of confidence came in part from changes affluent
investors have made in their financial lives.
Those participating in the August poll of 1,000 people with
investable assets of over $250,000 said they are living more
within their means, making more joint investment decisions with
their spouses and setting tangible goals for their future.
"People have done a great job of controlling what they can
control," Durkin said.
Thirty percent of wealthy investors described their
investing approach as conservative this year - down from 36
percent in 2011 and 50 percent in 2010.
That shift may be, in part, because investors have become
used to volatility, not because they see tangible improvements
in the economy. Almost half of the respondents said they see
economic uncertainty as a "new normal" that will be here for the
Younger affluent investors are more confident. Nearly
two-thirds of those between 18 and 34 years of age said they
think their financial situation will improve next year, citing
an ability to take advantage of investment opportunities.
Tony Montanari, a financial adviser who manages $26 million
in client assets for Charlotte, North Carolina-based ACM Wealth
Management, agreed that the wealthy are getting more aggressive
in their investments. But, he said, they might be disappointed.
"People should have been the most aggressive and the least
conservative four years ago when the market bottomed," he said.
Heather Walsh, a financial adviser with Merrill based in
Burlington, Massachusetts, said she's stressing to her clients
that even though the markets have improved, it's critical to
stay focused on budgeting and saving. That, in turn, can make
them less reliant on unrealistic market returns, said Walsh,
whose team manages $500 million in client assets.
That message may resonate with wealthier investors. Despite
increased confidence in their financial situation, four out of
five of those polled in Merrill's survey said they were
concerned about accomplishing certain financial goals, like
having enough money to sustain their lifestyle in retirement and
buying their dream home.
And only 38 percent of parents paid or plan to pay the full
cost of their children's college education, down from nearly 48
percent a year ago.