The meaning of wealth

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As well as affecting their individual net worth, the downturn may also have prompted many to think about what wealth really means - and how they should use it.

Attitudes to wealth: Social involvement 6 of 17 Global and local economic prospects 4 of 17

Residents of the United States, please read this important information before proceeding

Please read this important information before proceeding.

The survey suggests that wealthy individuals' desire to accumulate remains, despite a realisation that their material needs are largely met. Nearly three quarters of respondents list "saving for the future" as a priority use for their wealth; only a slightly smaller proportion are aiming to double their net worth.

We also asked people what wealth meant to them; the results are summarised by region in Chart 8.

Of particular interest are the two outliers - the 91% who think that wealth allows them freedom of choice in their life, and the 41% who think that wealth allows them to gain the respect of friends and family.

The belief that wealth offers freedom of choice varies very little across regions, as Chart 8 shows.

But the proportion of respondents who think that wealth allows them to attain the respect of friends and family varies substantially. As the table shows, this is not a priority for Europeans, whereas it is for many respondents in Asia Pacific and Latin America. A similar, if smaller, variation can be seen in responses to the statement that wealth is a sign of success.

It is possible to trace these different attitudes to wealth through survey respondents' views on spending priorities.

European respondents are, for example, rather more likely to list travel and interior decoration as a "top three" spending priority.

They are also much less likely to view charitable giving as a priority (20% of Europeans say charity is a spending priority, compared with 41% of US respondents, although this difference may partly reflect the differing age and wealth levels of the two samples.)