Money talks—or so the saying goes—but it seems that wealth whispers.
The term “quiet luxury” is one of the loudest trends on the internet at the moment, encapsulating the idea that the ultrawealthy steer clear of flashy brands and logos—instead picking more understated premium products.
Among the reasons for the trend bubbling to the fore is a scene from TV show Succession, in which the über-wealthy characters mocked the “ludicrously capacious handbag” carried by one of their dates.
The clip played on the idea that the very rich have no need for handbags—they simply slip seamlessly from private jets to chauffeured cars, before a housekeeper opens their front door at the end of the day.
Likewise, a focus on Gwyneth Paltrow’s wardrobe during her ski trial earlier this year, and a renewed focus on the British royal family, have ballooned the concept.
The idea is not a new one—Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed years ago he wears the same plain shirt every day—but does offer new lessons for the public, finance experts have said.
Why keep your wealth quiet?
High-net-worth individuals keep their wealth hidden for a range of reasons, the experts revealed, whether protecting their privacy and security or being mindful of their financial position when compared to others’.
David Sadkin, president of Los Angeles–based Bel Air Investment Advisors, told Fortune many clients choose to “fly under the radar” because it also avoids awkward expectations from friends and acquaintances.
“I think this lesson applies for everyone with money,” said Sadkin. “Theodore Roosevelt said: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.’ The ultra-high-net-worth corollary to this would be ‘Don’t be flashy, and keep your wealth out of view.’“
Sadkin was echoed by Carrie Galloway, global head of Advice Lab for J.P. Morgan Private Bank, who said “discretion is an expression of tact” for many clients.
“They avoid flaunting their wealth in consideration of others who don’t have a similar level of financial freedom,” she explained. “In addition, we see the focus on security, particularly when clients are traveling. They are inclined to limit information such as location and itinerary to limit the risk of becoming a prime target for a hacker.
“Some avoid social media altogether while traveling since cybercriminals can use posts to discover when potential victims are out of town and less focused on cybersecurity.”
Another reason for not spending on flashy cars, clothes, and jewelry is because the individuals don’t see their fortune as theirs personally—they see themselves as custodians of it.
Eliana Sydes is the head of financial life strategy at London-based investment portfolio site Y TREE, which has £7 billion worth of assets on the platform, and said many of her clients see their wealth as their “role.”
During a video interview with Fortune, she said her clients are grateful for their fortunes and so “their role is not to run around saying to everybody: ‘Hey, I’m cleverer or luckier than you,’ it is very much: ‘I have a role in society. I think consciously about my role and my presence.'”
Galloway added to Fortune that self-made individuals in particular spend to reflect their values as there is often a “wariness around wealth negatively changing people.”
Accordingly, there is a level of pride that comes with being “grounded and modest,” she said, adding: “There is also suspicion that if their net worth is known, people might treat them differently, or take advantage of them. They want to be role models for their children and grandchildren and impart their values to successive generations. For example, a family that values health and wellness may spend more money on experiences and services that reflect these values and less on conspicuous tangible items such as fine jewelry or real estate.”
Establishing a relationship between money and values is a key conversation for every family—irrespective of worth—Sydes continued.
“Something I talk about a lot with our clients is trying to build a family ethos around what is important in life before dealing with it as money,” she explained.
“Ask children: ‘What’s important to you, as a 7-year-old or 10-year-old or 15-year-old? And now as a family, we’re going to decide, is this something we maybe should fund together?’ So instead of the money just going to personal things, it goes to something that is mentally and emotionally important to the child. Not an item that gives them a momentary pleasure, but something that helps others. So in this way, you’re building this social awareness of money and not just thinking about it in value to them.”
Conversations with the next generation
The custodians of massive fortunes often find their thoughts inevitably turning to the next generation, the experts said, and transparent conversations about earning money need to be had as early as possible.
Pocket money is an easy way to introduce the concept, Sydes said, and consistency is the key to the lesson landing.
“If your view is ‘We’re going to only pay for chores,’ randomly giving [children] money for no chore will undermine that message,” she explained. “If your view is ‘No, I’m not going to teach [children] to always associate money with an action,’ then turning around and saying to them one day, ‘If you don’t do this, I won’t give you your pocket money’ muddies the water again.”
She added that having open conversations about wealth—whether it’s million-dollar fortunes or a standard 401(k)—are imperative for every family.
“We should be bringing up our children to understand money is a complex thing; funding your life is a complex thing,” Sydes said. “And there are a number of areas that you will need to add to their knowledge as they grow older because we don’t teach it in school. You have people coming out of education with very little knowledge of what it costs to actually fund your own lifestyle, and really unrealistic expectations.
“That, from my point of view, is a very disabling thing to do to your family—if you’ve not prepared them for real adult life. It does depend on your child, and how confident you feel yourself about those things, but I was talking about pensions with my children when they were about 8 or 9.
“Now, that might seem quite young, but if I put it in context, there were quite a lot of strikes going on around pensions at the time, so there was a reason to have the conversations at that moment.”
The experts added that often it is not the second generation of wealthy families that struggle with the concept of value, but the one following.
“Wealth is hard to create but easy to destroy,” warned Sadkin. “While our clients and their families should enjoy their wealth, they should also consider building their wealth through investment.”
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