The Book Corner - Review

The New Elite by Jim Taylor, Doug Harrison, and Stephen Kraus

The New Elite: Inside the Minds of the Truly Wealthy

By Jim Taylor, Doug Harrison, and Stephen Kraus
AMACOM, 2008

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4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating materialF. Scott Fitzgerald once observed, “The rich are very different from you and me.” The New Elite is intended to explain Fitzgerald’s koan about what makes the wealthy truly different. In early 2008, one percent of Americans owned more than one-third of the country’s assets (with valuations changing daily, who knows what the numbers are today). Approximately one million households have liquid assets of $5 to $10 million and constitute what the authors call the “new elite.” They are different from most of us in that they have an inordinate impact on business profitability, tax revenues, charitable contributions, and the overall economic health of the country.

We may imagine that the “new elite” are living in extreme luxury in multi-million dollar mansions, cruising on yachts, and jetting off to exotic locales at a moment’s notice. They are a very important demographic, and they do have more money to spend than ordinary mortals. In The New Elite, the authors reveal what drives our country’s most powerful and influential class, what they want, where they shop, and how they really spend their money.

If you recall the 1996 bestseller, The Millionaire Next Door, you will be pleased to learn that the typical millionaire described then as a hardworking, frugal, small business owner has become wealthier and more common. From 1983 to 2005, the population of the United States grew by about one-third. Even after adjusting for inflation, the number of millionaires grew by 168 percent, those with $5 million in net worth grew by 353 percent, and hecamillionaires (those with over $10 million) grew by over 400 percent. Ronald Reagan once explained “trickle-down economics” by saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Recent history has refuted this theory at least for smaller boats. We can, however, conclude that a rising tide does lift yachts.

The authors contend that accurately understanding this group is critical for success in the marketing, sales, product development, branding, and advertising fields. They dispel the myth that most of the rich have inherited their money and reveal the socioeconomic factors behind their self-made rises to success. Exploring how the rich spend their money and what influences their buying decisions, the authors identify five classes of newly wealthy neighbors, wrestlers, patrons, mavericks, and directors each with distinct attitudes regarding the value and purpose of money and with greatly differing lifestyles. Charts and graphs distill key data and make it possible to skim the book and still comprehend the main concepts.

Based on thorough research (a survey of 1,800 millionaires) and extensive access to the wealthy, The New Elite is a must-read for consumer marketers and interesting reading for the rest of us. Except for a few simple precepts (work hard, own your own business, and earn more than you spend), this book will not tell you how to become “rich and famous,” but it will help you better understand the thinking and behaviors of those who are.

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