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Survey: Luxury purchases inspire guilt


New York City More than half of affluent consumers say they feel "guilty" making luxury purchases in this economy, a survey of the wealthiest Americans found.

The survey of people with an annual discretionary household income of more than $100,000, which is generally those earning $500,000 or more, was released Wednesday by consulting firm Harrison Group and American Express Publishing, and published in USA Today.

Discretionary income is what's left after the mortgage and taxes are paid. People with such discretionary incomes make up 10% of households, yet account for more than half of retail sales and 70% of profit margins, according to the report.

More than half of those polled -- 53% -- said they worry they could actually run out of money.

The savings rate for the wealthiest in the survey is up 20% this year, while the average household discretionary income among those surveyed was down from $480,000 last year, to $440,000 this year.

According to USA Today, the findings are believed to be the first to quantify guilt's role in the decline of spending. Of more than 1,500 respondents, 54% agreed they "feel guilty purchasing luxury goods in the current economic climate." Just 29% said they like to be recognized as being "wealthy," down from 35% a year earlier.

The survey, in its third year, never addressed guilt because Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group, said it "didn't become an issue until this year."

Taylor said high-end retailers and brands must convince wealthy consumers there's an added value in their products.

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