The New Face Of British Prosperity - Bling Is Dead, Stealth Wealth Is In


WEBWIRE – Saturday, September 29, 2007

Britain’s mass affluent consumers are now more likely to be found trawling the internet for bargains, than flashing their cash in designer boutiques and jetting off on luxury holidays. New research commissioned by MasterCard® suggests that the well publicised spending habits of the WAGs, Beckhams and Russian oligarchs have made ’bling’ spending the height of uncool amongst the UK’s upwardly mobile. Instead, conspicuous consumption and excessive spending are being replaced by more considered, discreet and conscience-driven lifestyles.

The research into mass affluent living has been conducted by MasterCard, in partnership with the Future Laboratory, as MasterCard launches a new type of credit card - World™ MasterCard -specifically tailored to meet the needs of the financially savvy mass affluent consumer segment, by guaranteeing strong travel and rewards benefits on all World products.

The number of ’mass affluent’ consumers (those earning between £35,000- £70,000 a year) is now estimated by MasterCard to stand at seven million and is thought to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK population. Yet, despite the high personal income, this group of affluent consumers now relates to, and uses their wealth, in a very different way to the flashy stereotypes of the nineties.

Indeed, it seems the old adage ’if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves’ is the new mantra for the UK’s affluent, who readily admit to being some of Britain’s most prolific bargain hunters. Despite affordability rarely being an issue, the majority (57%) of those surveyed by MasterCard say they thoroughly examine all options and price ranges (using the internet, price comparison sites and personal recommendations) before making a purchase. Indeed, only five per cent of Britain’s high earners will buy whatever they want regardless of price.

The study also reveals a prudent approach to financial management among Britain’s financial elite, with just over a third believing that having a high personal income makes them more conservative in their outlook and less likely to take both personal and financial risks. It also shows a long-term approach to financial management, with four out of ten of the UK’s mass affluents believing they should ’stash their cash’ in case their disposable income drops in the future. Furthermore, only four per cent of mass affluent consumers view credit cards as a ’temptation’, with most viewing them as a convenient payment method and a useful financial management tool.

John Bushby, General Manager, MasterCard Northern Europe, said: "We know from our ongoing research that mass affluent consumers are well informed ‘cherry pickers’ - they demand leading products and are careful in their approach to spending, showing a determination to get the best value for money from all their purchases.”

Despite the penny-wise approach to spending, it would be wrong to dismiss Britain’s mass affluent as mean or tight-fisted. Indeed, the majority see their money as a means to the end of unethical living. More than one in three (35%) believe that it is increasingly important to use their wealth for good and that having a high personal income makes them more socially and ethically aware.

Britain’s Stealth Wealth Map

The research from MasterCard also revealed some key regional differences in attitudes to money and spending across the UK’s high earners:

• Northern Ireland’s mass affluents are distinctly flashier with their cash than their mainland counterparts, with 13 per cent saying they would spend in excess of £1,000 for a special occasion dinner. They are also four times more likely than the rest of the UK to believe income is about status and that wealth should be proudly flaunted.

• In contrast, the Welsh are much more watchful when it comes to spending their cash, with over half (53%) saying they are unsure their income will remain at a high level in the future. They also do the most research before making purchases and are less likely to jet off to exotic climes, with one in five opting to holiday in the UK.

• Suggesting a North / South divide may exist between the UK’s mass affluent, those living in the South say that, despite their high earnings, they still find it hard to make ends meet. Nearly a third of mass affluent consumers in East Anglia, the South East and London say they struggle to match their income to their spending. This may also explain why Londoners are the most likely to wait for the sales before making a purchase, with nearly one in five holding out for a discounted price before making a purchase.

• Those living in the Midlands seem to be the most frugal with their cash. Almost forty per cent of high income East Midlanders refuse to spend more than £100 on a special meal, while only four per cent of those in the West Midlands believe their wealth brings with it a responsibility to give to charity.

• In contrast, those living in Yorkshire and Humberside are most likely to embrace philanthropy as part and parcel of their wealth - they are twice as likely as the rest of the UK’s affluent to believe that a high income brings with it a responsibility to support those who are not so fortunate.

Bushby concluded: "As Britain’s mass affluent segment grows and matures, we are witnessing an overall shift from a wealth that is flashy, excessive and over the top, to one that is more considered, measured and unseen.”

MasterCard has underlined its leadership of the premium credit card segment with the recent announcement of the UK’s first World MasterCard programme, issued by Capital One®.



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