For the first time ever, the affluent population of the United States has more Generation Xers than baby boomers, signaling a generational changing of the guard, according to the 2015 Ipsos Affluent Survey.
The survey defines “affluent” as adults living in households with at least $100,000 in annual household income, a group that reflects the top 23% of American households. Affluents have a median income of $145,000, and a mean income of $227,000. Thirty-seven percent of affluents are Gen Xers (aged 34-50), compared to 33% who are baby boomers (aged 51-69); an additional 25% are millennials (18-33), and 5% are seniors (70-plus).
According to Chief Insights Officer Stephen Kraus, “We are seeing a true changing of the generational guard in the affluent population. Long overlooked and underestimated, Gen Xers now outnumber boomers among affluents.”
In marking its 39th consecutive year of studying the lives and lifestyles of financially successful Americans, the study details the $2.7 trillion dollars in annual consumer spending by affluents, with the largest expenditure categories being (in order) automotive, home/garden, personal insurance, travel, education, and electronics. Affluents own and use a wide range of brands, from mainstream to luxury, and shop widely across the retail spectrum—online and offline, and at both mass outlets and luxury boutiques. Affluents display a strong value-orientation (79% agree, “Good value for the money is more important than price”), but also express a willingness to pay a premium for quality across a variety of categories.
Ipsos’ survey also provides a deeper understanding of the attitudes, mindsets, and media habits of each generation of affluents. Not surprisingly, affluent millennials are heavy social media users, averaging a median of 10.4 hours weekly, nearly double the 5.5 hours for affluents in general. Affluent millennials are decidedly not “too cool” for Facebook, as Facebook leads across generations in both the percent using and time spent. Affluent millennials are, however, far more likely than affluents in general to use other social media networks, particularly Instagram (54% affluent millennials using in the past week, vs. 29% of total affluents) and Snapchat (35% vs. 13%).
Among Gen Xers, the data reveal that this generation is not only the largest generation of affluents, but is less monolithic than some might expect. Across many measures, younger Xers act more like millennials, while older Xers are psychographically more similar to boomers. In particular, age 40 appears to be something of a tipping point. Xers under 40 are far more interested than older Xers in social media, entertainment trends, and organic food. For example, 74% of younger Xers “prefer to stream music online instead of buying CDs or downloaded music,” compared to just 45% of older Xers.
Baby boomers may have lost their spot as the largest generation of affluents, and rarely generate the buzz of younger generations. But the survey reveals boomers remain a critical target for media and marketers in many respects. For example, boomers who responded to the survey reported a median household net worth of $913,000, far surpassing the $552,000 of Xers and the $516,000 of millennials. (Although seniors comprise only 5% of affluents, they have even higher net worth—a median of $1.42 million.)
Evan Borak, senior vice president of Ipsos Connect, and head of its Audience Measurement Group, concludes: “One-fourth of the U.S. population now holds three-fourths of the net worth, making this segment more important to media and marketers than ever before.”