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Millionaires are expected to have it all, but here's why they fear losing it — and what you can learn from them.

3 minute read

Anxiety-ridden, stuck on a treadmill, protective of their families, and overwhelmingly, a fear of losing it all.

So who wants to be a millionaire? No one, with that description. But it turns out many millionaires have a lot in common with the rest of us. At least, that’s what a new study from Swiss financial company UBS aims to prove.

UBS asked 2,215 American millionaires (defined as those with more than $1 million net worth) about their ambitions, fears, and desires. What they found was marginally reassuring — millionaires are a lot more like the rest of us than we think. Here’s why.

1. They want to climb the socioeconomic ladder

“Started from the bottom, now we here” doesn’t just apply to Drake. Most millionaires — in fact, 77 percent — grew up in the middle class or below, and 61 percent said they had aspired to be millionaires when they were young.

And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, there is a lesson to be learned about alienating people along the way. When asked to rank the their biggest regrets in life, the top two reasons millionaires gave were making a misstep in a relationship and not spending more time with their families. Only 7 percent regretted focusing too much on their career.

2. They want to keep up with the Joneses

This is especially true for millennial millionaires, who tend to more self-conscious about how their wealth compares to that of their peers. Only half of millennials who are millionaires believe they have really “made it,” and compared to baby boomers and Gen X, they are the least satisfied with their wealth and the most scared of losing it.

But they don’t have much reason to be. Even though millennials are facing a higher unemployment rate and greater wage stagnation than other generations, recent study from life insurance company Northwestern Mutual found that they tend to mimic their grandparents’ generation when it comes to finances. They’re more conservative with their money, due to growing up in the age of a recession, they’re more diligent about sticking to a budget and being responsible savers, and they’re realistic about saving for their future retirement, since they know that Social Security and pension plans are unrealistic for them to expect.

3. They’re concerned about income inequality

Millionaires are worried that the American dream that allowed them to rise to the top is in danger. Seven out of 10 feel that upward mobility through hard work is becoming increasingly difficult, and 63 percent are concerned about growing wealth inequality.

Three out of four millionaires said they relate more to the “99 percent” than the one percent that they’re technically a part of and are concerned about the future of their children and grandchildren. Even if you can relate, you should still make sure you have adequate savings before dipping into your retirement fund for your child’s college education.

4. They worry about their kids

Of the millionaires who were surveyed, 65 percent said they worried about their kids not understanding the value of money, and 57 percent said they worried about how to teach their children about managing wealth without overempasizing money.

While the rest of us regular people probably don’t have to worry about our kids acting entitled (a concern 53 percent of millionaires shared), we do want to make sure we’re teaching our kids how not to be financial failures. That means teaching your kid how to use a credit card responsibly, having the “money talk” with your kids, and most of all, teaching them the importance of saving and delayed gratification.

5. They fear losing it all

“If I could get down to part-time that would be nice. But I would lose a big chunk of my paycheck,” said a 42-year-old millionaire who was quoted in the study. “I want my kids to go to the best colleges possible.”

One of the ironies about becoming a millionaire is that as your income goes up, your expectations go up, and your standard of living rises. About six in ten millionaires reported feeling increased expectations for their standard of living, and as a result, feel like they are “stuck on a treadmill, unable to get off without sacrificing their family’s lifestyle.” Half of those who are worth $1 – 5 million say they are afraid that a job loss or market crash would have a “significant” impact on their lifestyle.

But losing a job is a fact of reality that many have to face, millionaires or not. That’s why it’s important to keep an emergency fund of at least 3 to 6 months worth of savings in case of a job loss or other emergency.

And remember this, aspiring millionaires: $1 million is no longer enough to live on. If being rich is your goal, working hard, saving up, and planning ahead is how you’ll achieve success.

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About the Author

Jess Miller

Jess Miller

Miller is the former assistant editor of

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