Wealthy just as worried about post-coronavirus future as everyone else: UBS survey

Javier E. David
·Editor focused on markets and the economy

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted wealthy investors to consider major lifestyle shifts that include less travel, fewer trips to the office, and moves away from big cities, according to newly-released UBS data that revealed 75% think that “life will never be the same again.”

The mounting human and economic costs of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak have forced dramatic changes to daily life on people across all income levels. Conventional wisdom holds that the wealthy are insulated from the disruption caused by the novel coronavirus, yet UBS’s Investor Watch found that a clear majority of high net worth individuals are at least as worried about the future as average people.

The survey, which polled nearly 3800 investors across 15 different markets, said that many “are already planning to adjust their lifestyle” as the outbreak reshapes public life.

“With the pandemic not yet in the rearview mirror, investors are navigating a changed world,” UBS wrote. “Most will find their way with clear priorities, trusted guidance—and continued appreciation for the most important things in life.”

As remote work becomes far more commonplace among white-collar workers, UBS found that 70% plan to cut travel and office visits, while half plan to move closer to family. Nearly half may shun densely populated cities, and a whopping 88% consider their personal health as a top priority.

Meanwhile 66% of wealthy investors say COVID-19 has impacted how they think about money.

An independent study released in June found that billionaire wealth skyrocketed by over $500 billion since the onset of the crisis, but UBS found that over half are concerned about having enough saved if there’s another pandemic, and about having to work longer to compensate for damage to their retirement portfolios.

More tellingly, 60% are worried about being a “financial burden” to their families if they fall ill, while 54% are nervous about leaving enough money to their heirs.

Generational, regional splits

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: A person walks on Wall Street as the coronavirus keeps financial markets and businesses mostly closed on May 08, 2020 in New York City. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday that the US economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April. This is the largest decline in jobs since the government began tracking the data in 1939. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: A person walks on Wall Street as the coronavirus keeps financial markets and businesses mostly closed on May 08, 2020 in New York City. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday that the US economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April. This is the largest decline in jobs since the government began tracking the data in 1939. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

UBS, which is one of the world’s largest wealth managers, found that certain post-COVID-19 worries were more prevalent depending on where the respondents lived, and their ages.

Millennials are the most worried about having to work longer to compensate for losses and having enough money saved, UBS found. That age cohort, which has embraced sustainability in their investment decisions, are more concerned about having enough to impact society. UBS found that 1/3 of millennials gave more money to family and friends, while a clear majority are interested in sustainable investing and philanthropy because of COVID-19.

In America — which has become a global epicenter in the midst of surging cases in the Sun Belt — a staggering 82% believe that public life has been permanently altered, while 86% say the sense of fear will linger indefinitely. An overwhelming number of those surveyed found the virus sparked a new emphasis on family, health and safety.

Among the data’s findings, 70% of Americans said the pandemic had at least somewhat affected their finances, and 77% said the outbreak had impacted their retirement plans.

Globally, only Latin American investors were more worried about the future than their U.S. counterparts, with 84% saying life was changed forever. That compares with lower numbers in Europe (74%) and Asia (71%) — where citizens are comparatively more accustomed to measures designed to limit the spread of viral outbreaks.

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