Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Ultra High Net Worth!

If you're interested in the world of the rich and famous, no doubt you've run across the initials UHNW in magazine articles, blogs, even on Twitter nowadays. But what does that mean exactly?

It stands for Ultra High Net Worth. Basically it's tossed around by marketers and advertising agencies as to where they should target their ads for high-end products, as well as by wealth managers when referring to their clients. But more and more we hear the term used in other settings to describe the super rich and all the things they're up to. So I thought I might jump in here with some observations.

Here's the breakdown of terms in historical order:

- The Affluent ($100,000): Back in the days after World War II, this original term was used to describe someone who owned their own home and cars, and had a hundred-thousand-dollars or more in liquid cash for investments or purchasing expensive goods.

- High Net Worth ($1,000,000): Likewise, this term was used to describe someone who had accumulated at least a million dollars in liquid cash to invest or make high-end purchases, and it's still in use today in some circles.

- Very High Net Worth ($5,000,000): As wealth grew over the years and people became even richer, this term popped up to describe those who have five-million or more to play around with.

- Ultra High Net Worth ($30,000,000): Around 2007 we first began to hear the term UHNW come into play, and it seems to be where we're stuck today. More often than not it's used to describe people with thirty-million-dollars or more to toss around.

By saying 'stuck' with this term at the moment, it seems to me there's an inherent danger with this type of reductive labeling. The problem is that in the last few decades we've seen billionaires springing forth all around the globe with way more spending power than the mere millionaires.

To cite one simple example, on a whim a billionaire can afford to buy and staff a luxury yacht that costs $120,000,000 which the UHNW with only $30,000,000 in the bank couldn't possibly touch, right? And buying a private island for a hundred-million-bucks would be above the price range of the average UHNW - not to mention building a house there, staffing it fully, and adding a small port to accommodate the yacht upon arrival.

So why would advertisers and investment counselors continue to lump all these people under one umbrella at the thirty-million-dollar level, unless they think the UHNW are on their way to becoming billionaires themselves? It's a mystery to me. Sociologically speaking, the term is useless as well. Quite honestly there's very little likeness between the super rich and the lowly millionaires in this world.

Perhaps it's time to have a new category altogether to separate the millionaires from the billionaires, maybe something simple like the Billionaires Net Worth (BNW). What do you think? It makes sense to me.

But then we'd have to dig deeper I guess, to separate the poor billionaires with only two or three billion in the bank from the ones who have seventy billion or more, like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. What would we call them? The Ultra High Billionaires Net Worth (UHBNW)?

I thought the terms Super Rich or the One Percent were clear as a bell and pretty much described who we're talking about. In fact, in his New York Times bestseller Richistan, the famed Wall Street journalist Robert Frank calls them the 'Absurdly Rich' which pretty much suffices, don't you think?

But the term Ultra High Net Worth seems to be chic nowadays, gaining in popularity, and it may be around for awhile.

Thanks for dropping in,


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Proper Table Conversation!

After the last two posts in January about formal table settings, our friend Ben Reierson down in Australia asked a timely and appropriate question"What kind of conversation would be good or at least safe to talk about at a billionaire's table?"

There's a whole lot to say about this, Ben, but I'll try to be concise. After all, trying to converse at the same time you're trying to eat is a tricky affair. There's few things more frustrating than when someone asks you a question at the exact moment when you've just put a fork load of food in your mouth, right? There's an art to how all this is done, and here's a few tips:

To whom are you responsible for conversation? 
If it's a small party of five or six people, you'll probably be expected to interact with everyone at the table. But if it's a larger party, say fifteen-to-twenty people, then you're only responsible to speak with the person on your right, on your left, and the person directly across the table from you. In fact, it would be rude to try to carry on a conversation with someone at the other end of the table.

Unwelcome Topics: 
Above all we don't talk about ourselves or try to dominate the conversation. In addition, politics, religion, world order, health issues, death, and bereavement are not welcome. These topics are best left to the bar area before the meal or the drawing room after - if even then. But at the dinner table we're trying to ingest and digest without agitation, right?

Light Conversation: 
The natural topic at a formal table is about the food being served. There's usually chatter and comments on the flavor and ingredients of each course that's brought out - which leads to other conversations like a new chef in town, the best caterers to deal with, a new restaurant that's just opened up, or mentions of a similar dish someone had in Europe or Asia - which opens the conversation to travel, international cuisines, and fine hotels.

Volley Ball:
Try to think of table conversation as a volley ball game - except with a balloon. You must be careful, observant, and then gently toss out a topic or question - but not to someone who's mouth is full of food. The time-honored rule of not talking with your mouth full can create some awkward moments in getting an answer to an ill-timed question.

At large dinner parties around here there's usually a general hum of several different conversations going on at the same time among those sitting next to each other. Occasionally there might be an outburst of laughter which draws everybody's attention - and the reason for that laugh is expected to be repeated so that everyone at the table can join in the laughter as well. (Celebrities seem to be especially fond of this tactic, to gain attention.) In between courses the host or hostess might take the opportunity to make an announcement or redirect the topics altogether, like a new winery they've just visited - which might change the topic to fine wines when everyone goes back into their private huddles.

In Victorian times when a dinner lasted for five or six hours, there might have been more thoughtful and intellectual topics thrown out during the meal, which were tossed around, discussed, and developed at length during a sixteen or twenty-one course meal. But nowadays table conversation is expected to be light, crisp, and not requiring deep thought or consideration.

In America we're especially fond of getting laughs for our trivial table chatter, and there's nothing wrong with that. The same might not be so in more conservative societies. But we are as we are here in the States - with no plausible apologies I can think of.

I hope this has shed some light. Thanks for dropping in, and thanks again Ben for suggesting the topic.