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Rich millennials are like their older cohorts: study


Millennial millionaires share one belief with Baby Boomer millionaires: real estate is the key to wealth.

That continued belief could be what has helped a small sliver of millennials, about 618,000, join the ranks of the world’s likeminded seven-figure club, according to a new Coldwell Banker study on millennial wealth. The study reveals that rich millennials aren’t that different from other generations, although there is an ongoing debate over whether the generation as a whole is different.

“Millennials understand from the past that most millionaires came from real estate, and they are following that trend,” said Ralph DiBugnara, president of New Jersey-based Home Qualified, which creates videos that teach millennials how to become homebuyers. DiBugnara, also a senior vice president at Cardinal Financial, added that millennials have tailored their investment strategies to avoid the mistakes they saw growing up in the financial crisis.

Some 92% of millennial millionaires own property. In fact, the average millennial millionaire has a $1.4 million real estate portfolio, 34% greater than an average millionaire (across all generations including Baby Boomers and Generation Z) with a real estate portfolio of $919,000.

In this Nov. 18, 2011 photo, a $4 million home is shown in Los Altos, Calif. Realtors say they are now more confident that they can sell very expensive homes. As restrictions on selling stock are lifted at a handful of sizzling startups, early investors and employees are preparing for big payouts. Luxury retailers and wealth managers say they're expecting a bump in business and have been preparing for this new crop of Internet millionaires. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
A $4 million home is shown in Los Altos, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

“We’ve been really interested in millennials because there is a popular myth that they are a generation of renters,” said Odeta Kushi, who researches millennials and homeownership as deputy chief economist for First American Financial Corporation. “A large part of that was the financial crisis, which created a narrative that millennials don’t see real estate as a way to build wealth. That is just not what we’re seeing in the data.”

The Coldwell Banker study of 250 millennial millionaires revealed that they prefer to buy, although they move often as expected. And upon relocation they plan to retain the property they own and rent it.

The similarities with their wealthy forerunners do not end there. California is a millionaire’s favorite state to reside in, and millennial millionaires are no different. More than 40% live in the state. The next most common state for rich millennials, New York, hosts 14% of millennial millionaires.

The group does differ from its predecessors in some ways, though. Only 20% of millennial millionaires obtained a Bachelor’s degree, compared to 42% of all millionaires on average. Only 15% are business owners compared to 22% on average, and only 67% are married, compared to 76% on average.

The study also found that millennial millionaires “prefer markets that are more affordable” or “a nontraditional luxury neighborhood,” unlike older millionaires. They are city-dwellers, valuing walkability and community. “The white picket fence is not what we’re seeing millennial millionaires want,” said Nathan Zeder, broker-associate at the Jills Zeder Group, a Miami-based brokerage firm.

The ‘great wealth transfer’

As wealthy millennials buy up properties in major cities, it could change the landscape of urban development, stimulating business in the surrounding areas.

“It’s a good opportunity in urban areas, not only for the millennial millionaires but for the people around them. It will create an even bigger impact in areas that were not once considered premier locations,” said Hillary Hertzberg, sales-associate at the Jills Zeder Group.

The shift could accelerate over the coming decades, as millennial millionaires are poised for the “great wealth transfer,” or a large, sudden inheritance of $68 trillion total in wealth as Baby Boomers age out of the economy. By 2030, millennial wealth will multiply by five, with unknown implications for their real estate investments, according to the study.

“The big question is, ‘What will this generation do with their wealth when the Great Wealth Transfer takes place?’” said Craig Hogan, Coldwell Banker vice president of luxury, in a statement.

Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahapaynter

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