Friday Miscellany – Ad Age White Paper Redefines “Rich”


June 3, 2011

David Albrecht, Director, International Programs & Business Research

If you’re looking for a new set of eyes with which to view consumer demographics, strap on a pair from Ad Age’s blog entry “On The Road To Riches”.

Based on research by Digitas, the post is intriguing, if only a brief summary of the full report.  Touching on the growing gap between the truly well-off and everyone else, the report packs a great deal into just one sentence:  “The study found that one’s job is both a predictor and a determinant of whether his or her household income will reach $200,000 — the minimum threshold of affluence.”

That career choices are critical to one’s lot in life is self-evident.  And a new dollar-amount threshold of what begins to approach “rich” is something that needs tweaking from time to time, as business cycles rise and fall.  But one key element in the article missing in the sentence above is the question of time – when Americans breach that threshold is even more critical, the report argues.

Key finding – families and couples with household incomes of $200,000 before the age of 35 are far and away those most likely to become truly wealthy later in life.

Twasn’t always thus.  Those over 35, with household incomes ranging from $100,000 to $199,000, were once part of a group advertisers targeted beneath the overarching concept of “mass affluence”, a phenomenon made possible by high home prices, burgeoning consumer confidence and easy credit.  With those days over, the study notes, the “aspiring” affluent consumer, about 10% of U.S. total population, now firmly self-identifies as middle class instead, and many have changed spending habits accordingly.

Click through the link above and one thing becomes very clear in the accompanying graphic, though not explicated in the text.  The number of households earning between $100,000 and $200,000 annually in  the “Emerging < 35” category  is a touch more than 18% of the “Aspiring 35+” category.

With numbers like these, if this study’s conclusions are valid – if the Age of the Snuggie®  has indeed succeeded the Age of the Plasma Television – then the future of the kind of big-ticket consumer culture that emerged in the past decade appears cloudy indeed in the decade ahead.


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