NEW YORK (MainStreet) — For more than two decades, Diane Saatchi has worked as a luxury real estate agent in Long Island’s glitzy Hampton neighborhoods, helping some of America’s wealthiest men and women find their dream homes, or more likely, their second dream home. Saatchi’s work has given her a front row seat to the decadent lifestyles of the country’s elite, but in the last year or so, she’s seen a subtle but surprising change in some of her clients.
“I’ve noticed more wealthy people talking about shopping at CostCo and bragging about deals they found on Groupon,” said Saatchi, who works for Saunders & Associates. “And by wealthy, I mean the kind of wealthy people who own two or three private jets.”
Saatchi isn’t the only one to notice these changes. Surveys in recent months have hinted at a shift in the spending habits and general lifestyles of wealthy Americans – not just in how they shop, but in what they buy, where they live and when they can retire.
One Nielsen study found that 40% of consumers who considered themselves “coupon enthusiasts” in 2009 lived in well-to-do households with incomes of at least $70,000 a year. Moreover, Nielsen found that it was the Americans earning six figures who spurred the growth in the coupon market during much of the recession.
At the same time, wealthier consumers developed more of an appetite for fast food, buying 24% more of it in the second quarter of 2010 than the year before, according to an American Express report, far outpacing the nation’s overall 8% increase in fast food consumption.
“The wealthy are dining out less frequently, shopping less frequently and most are still continuing to make changes to their lifestyle in response to the recession,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, a luxury market research firm.
Some of these changes are far more severe than just cutting coupons. Realtors around the country have noticed an uptick in luxury rentals, hinting at a sea change in the rich deciding to rent rather than buy. And perhaps most striking of all, more than half of adults with a net worth of at least $15 million no longer consider themselves financially secure, according to a survey from Barclay’s Wealth, with one in every 10 people interviewed saying they don’t have enough money to retire.