Very wealthy Americans are more worried now about the economy and their finances than they were just after President Clinton was elected, a bank survey suggests.
The survey, commissioned by United States Trust Co. and released Tuesday, targeted people in the top 1% - those with at least $200,000 in annual income or with more than $3 million of net worth. They were asked in Janurary and February about current economic and investment issues.
Most of the 153 people interviewed were worried about their future financial status and that of their kin.
As reported by Financial Market Research Inc., a New York-based market research company that compiled the results for U.S. Trust, 83% of the respondents said the next generation would have a harder time financially, up from 80% two years ago.
Fifty-two percent think they will have to support their grown children, up from 44% in interviews during November 1992, just after the presidential election.
On a positive note, fewer respondents (69%) felt that taxes would rise sharply - down by seven percentage points - and more than one-third approved the current Republican leadership in Congress on national economic issues.
The survey is the first of three to be published this year by U.S. Trust on various financial topics and the seventh overall since the bank started the series in January 1993, with its first survey of the affluent.
"The affluent believe that no one has addressed the long-term economic ills," said Jeffrey S. Maurer, president of U.S. Trust. "This is a wake-up call to the people in the financial services business to solve their concerns."
The biggest change from the 1993 survey is the percentage of respondents worrying about not being able to maintain their income level, up by 18 percentage points from 1993.
"There is an increasing concern over tax policies and the transfer process in the wealthy," said Michael M. Cassell, chief executive of Putnam Trust Co., Greenwich, Conn.
Mr. Cassell said a lot of the concern has come from "macroevents," such as industry downsizing or consolidations that have "increasingly put the responsibility for retirement and wealth transfer in the hands of the individuals."
"Assuming that responsibility at an early age and focusing on the next generation has created elements of uncertainty," Mr. Cassell said.
However, he said, that uncertainty should translate into more opportunities for banks to supply retirement, estate planning, and investment management services to high-net-worth people.
Gordon B. Fowler, managing director and head of investment management for private clients at J.P. Morgan & Co., said he has seen more demand in the past couple of years for increasing wealthy clients' after-tax returns.
The reasons for that, he said, are twofold. First, with the tax cuts of the 1980s behind them, clients now have diminished expectations for the savings available on taxes and are "looking for every possible way to squeeze out returns." Second, the 1990s' tax increases for the wealthy have prompted them to chase bigger after-tax returns.
Mr. Fowler said his division, which manages $35 billion of individual- client assets, has focused on managing portfolios with a view to taxes.
Other bankers, however, aren't finding the U.S. Trust profile representative of their clientele.
David B. Stephens, an executive vice president in charge of private banking at Detroit's Comerica Bank, said: "We in the Midwest are not seeing the same level of pessimism" as bankers on the East or the West coasts.
"Our clients have a multigenerational view of wealth and wealth management," he said. Mr. Stephens added that the Midwest had not experienced the kind of economic downturn that the East Coast recently underwent.
Nevertheless, Mr. Stephens said, his clients, although conservative, are demanding a broader array of investment options. On top of bond and stock products, clients - whose $8 billion of personal trust assets his division oversees - are now asking for venture capital products and equity ownership in real estate.