Wealthy family. Picture: ISTOCK
Wealthy family. Picture: ISTOCK

"I can still hear that baby crying in economy from my flatbed in first class."

"This trend for ambient lighting in Michelin-starred restaurants makes the Lafite vintages too hard to read."

"The water in my infinity pool isn't the same colour as the ocean!"

All of these, according to the internet, are rich people's problems.

In reality it would seem their worries are a lot bigger and less self-serving. A survey of 2,800 dollar millionaires by Swiss bank UBS has found their main causes of concern are national or global in scale: in Italy, domestic youth unemployment; in Singapore, risk of trade barriers; in Hong Kong, social tensions; in Japan, an ageing population.

And when UBS grouped all of them thematically, the top five were far from trivial: geopolitics, the environment, the economy, financial planning and family.

If anything, it is only the confidence of the rich in overcoming these problems that seems to lack seriousness.

Take geopolitics. Millionaires in all seven countries that UBS surveyed felt they were living through the most uncertain times ever, for varied reasons. In the UK, it was the Brexit negotiations. In Mexico, it was national political risk.

These feelings chime with anecdotal evidence from other wealth managers. Yogesh Dewan, CEO of Hassium Asset Management, says clients fear a "four standard deviation event" - war, the euro collapsing, election surprises or a Donald Trump event.

Yet millionaires remain supremely confident. In the UK, 78% believe leaving the EU will have a "positive effect" on their finances. And only Mexican millionaires are more upbeat about achieving their goals.

Concern about economic risk is universal among millionaires, according to UBS, and financial risk ranks highly with those in Italy, Singapore and Mexico. Again, anecdotal evidence supports this. Jonathan Bell, chief investment officer of Stanhope Capital, says wealthy families fear a failure to make a proper return on their money.

But millionaires are confident. UBS found Asian clients were sure they could ignore short-term noise and diversify. Not in practice, though. Some 75% globally still see cash as a safe option, even though it will be eroded by inflation. Part of the problem is that seven out of 10 say short-term volatility distracts them from long-term asset allocation.

Take family problems, too. UBS found millionaires who specified "supporting my children and grandchildren" as a primary goal felt unpredictability was a threat.

Stonehage Fleming, the family office, concurs. Some 71% of the 78 wealthy families it asked said capital preservation for next generations was their main concern.

At the same time, Rupert Yeoward, deputy head of wealth management at WH Ireland, says clients worry that if their children are too wealthy, they will not try to make their own way in life.

UK millionaires are unperturbed. They may cite the challenges of leaving a legacy and funding a comfortable retirement, but eight times as many are confident of this as are pessimistic. One explanation may be that many see riches not as a problem but as a panacea. Although 75% of British 18- to 24-year-olds opposed Brexit, only 35% of young millionaires consider it a worry. Evidently a poor person's problem.

© The Financial Times, London

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