Author F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have once told fellow author Ernest Hemingway, “The rich are different from you and me,” to which Hemingway replied, “Yes, they have more money.”  Now a new study by Barclay’s Wealth, based upon a survey of 2,000 wealthy people in 20 countries around the globe, suggests that Hemingway was pretty much correct.

Like ordinary investors, the study finds that a fair proportion of the wealthy let their emotions drive their investing. Also like ordinary investors, many of them trade too much, even though they know they shouldn’t. And like many ordinary investors, they try -- and often fail -- to discipline themselves in their investing.

The survey, released this week, found that despite their wealth, 41% of high net worth investors said they wished they had more self-control over their investing decisions. Furthermore, the wealthier they were, the more concern they had about their self-control.  

According to the survey, emotional trading can cost an investor about 20% in returns over a decade. Those who use strategies to prevent themselves from over-trading -- for example, limiting the frequency of checking on a portfolio or talking with someone before making a buy or sell decision -- are on average 12% wealthier than those who do not.

In some cases, the survey found, there are significant differences in the behavior of wealthy investors. For example investors in the Asia Pacific region tend to have the greatest desire for financial discipline, with wealthy investors in developed countries like Spain, Australia and the U.S. having the least concern about it.

Wealthy investors in the U.S .are more satisfied with their financial situation than most other countries, ranking 5th out of the 20 countries surveyed, yet even in the U.S., nearly three in 10 (29%), said they wish they could be more disciplined in their investing.

Within the U.S., there are also differences, with Midwestern and Western investors having the highest level of satisfaction with their financial approach, and those in the Northeast least satisfied. 

There are also differences globally and regionally in terms of attitudes towards more active trading.  Globally, 32% of wealthy investors believe that frequent trading is necessary to earn high returns though, ironically, 46% of wealthy investors admit they trade on emotions -- an anomaly the study calls an “investment paradox.”

In the U.S., only 15% of wealthy investors said frequent trading is necessary to do well, and there is no paradox, since only 8% admit to trading “too often.”  Among American high net worth investors, 23% said they use a buy-and-hold investment strategy.

Regionally, though, there are differences, with 24% of wealthy investors in the South saying they try to time their investments compared to only 20% in the Northeast.

One interesting finding of the survey was a difference between wealthy women investors and wealthy men. 

Among women, only 36% say they try to time the market, compared to 41% of men. Only 11% of women say they trade too often versus 17% of men. Finally, when it comes to taking financial risks, 32% of high-net-worth women said they did, compared to a significantly higher 49% of men.

Maybe Fitzgerald should have told Hemingway, “Rich women are different from you and me.”  



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