The wealthy and their resources

By Winston Chesterfield

Understanding the wealthy is challenging. They are a secretive and private group – and with good reason to be so. They are pursued by luxury brands the world over for their immense buying power, making them feel hunted, like exotic beasts.

Of course, the major reason for this is that they have resources that others do not have.

They have wealth, the universal prerequisite for indulgent spending (particularly in a world where consumer credit may not be so affordable). They also have multiple homes in which to display their art & antiques, keep their watch collections and park their multiple vehicles – making their ‘physical capacity’ as consumers far greater than average. The truly wealthy are also not hemmed in by mundane ‘jobs’ that require them to crouch in a chair looking at a screen, gifting them more time to pursue their interests and passions.

However, their relationship with these resources is not straightforward. 

Money has changed them – but doesn’t define them

The apocryphal F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway quote-counterquote legend starts with Fitzgerald claiming that “The rich are different from you and me” and Hemingway responding “Yes, they have more money.”

Hemingway’s simplistic response is factually correct; money is the dividing factor between the wealthy and non-wealthy. However, Fitzgerald’s subtle point is that having money inevitably makes you a different kind of person. It also makes you view money very differently than if you didn’t have it. The more you have, the more you change with it and how you perceive it.

For most average consumers, money is a pay cheque, a loan or a savings account. It symbolizes personal liberty, with which we can relax and act spontaneously. For the wealthy, it is also a fortress. Like any fortress, its owner prefers to see it built up, to see it maintained and preserved rather than dismantled and attacked.

This makes wealthy individuals a lot less predictable than the average consumer. On the one hand, they may be defensive about their wealth, and object to the ‘top of the line’ product as it seems wasteful and unnecessary – but then go and buy something else completely whimsical and expensive, simply because they felt like it.

Even the wealthy with great showpieces and symbols of success do not want to be defined by their money, as this detaches them from humanity. It may have changed the way they behave and think, but they resent that others use it to frame their only understanding of them. 

Space is a cocoon – not just a place to put things

Space is an increasingly valued resource as the world is urbanized. Though the earth has huge areas of uninhabited land mass, human beings are social animals that congregate together. As the population grows, as does the price of purchasing a piece of that space that humans choose to live in.

The very wealthy are the most envied – and resented – in this regard as they can purchase a greater proportion of space than those with ordinary budgets in the most desirable locations. A typical Georgian or Victorian townhouse in the center of a wealth-magnet city like London was built for the affluent middle class – and now only the very wealthiest can afford one.

However, this is not the whole story with the wealthy’s relationship with space. Yes, they have greater square footage in which to put things, leading them to make more purchases than the average consumer, but they don’t see empty space in the same way.

They are more accustomed to having space. And having space is symbolic of comfort and of privacy, which is something they value extremely highly. Crowded stores and spaces, small hotel rooms and cramped vehicles are disliked – particularly in a post-pandemic world. And a desire for bigger private spaces and rooms is not a necessarily always a ‘statement’ of largesse or success, but of a thick cocoon of privacy, of the experience being a personal one.

Wasted time is magnified – and remembered

So often we are told that the most precious resource we have is time, but we often learn this too late or not at all, as most of our lives are spent aspiring to improve our position, paying things off, looking to secure the future of the next generation. For the wealthy, this battle is already largely won.

It is not that the wealthy have a lot more time than other people, it is that they perceive it differently because they have achieved a magnitude of resources which forces them to view how they spend their time differently. They tend to own rather than directly run businesses, in order that they can spend their time doing what they want to. Sometimes this is philanthropy, or the pursuit of a passion as an occupation – such as painting – but in many cases it is spending time acquiring more knowledge, traveling, enjoying the time they have left with their family and loved ones.

No one likes their time to be wasted, and the very wealthy are no different. However, wasted time to the wealthy is far more tragic and damaging. They magnify a lost day as the equivalent of a lost month. A lost year during the pandemic is the equivalent to a lost decade. They have many ways in which they want to use their wealth and preventing them from doing this enjoyably and efficiently often produces an extremely negative outcome.

Winston Chesterfield is the Founder & Director of Barton

About Barton

Barton is a strategic insight consultancy, established to serve businesses in the luxury and prestige sectors, combining evidence and guidance to help these organizations and brands thrive.