'High Net Worth' has Shades of Green

The Kansas City Star: Mark Davis, 5.31.2008

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Evidently, so does net worth.

The topic came up during a radio broadcast of a Kansas City Royals game. No, it wasn't about the players, but the fans.

An advertisement by Fisher Investments said the firm wants to manage money for high net worth individuals. It takes a half-million dollars to hit Fisher’s high net worth threshold.

Do you have enough scratch?

Mind you, it doesn't count the house you live in, though whatever you find in the cushions of the couch is fair game.

'High net worth' looks at the dollars you could toss into the market for an extended stretch, were you of a mind to do so.

Half a million isn't net worth enough for Adam Menzel.

Menzel runs www.valueforum.com, a fee-based Web site where 'high net worth' investors share ideas. Menzel puts the high net worth cutoff at $1 million, though to chat at the site requires only the $219.99 annual fee.

A million bucks seems to be the widely held notion of what makes a high net worth.

For example, it's the threshold used in the 'World Wealth Report' released each summer by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini. By their last count, there were 9.5 million high net worth individuals globally, including 2.9 million in the United States.

I didn't see my name in the report, which makes it accurate so far as I can tell.

But it takes $3 million of investable assets to hit the high net worth circuit at U.S. Trust.

Now, we're starting to thin the crowd.

U.S. Trust's sources count only 6,000 households in the Kansas City area able to hit that mark, and two thirds of them are in - say it with me - Johnson County.

Uncle Sam has his own idea about what makes someone a high net worth individual. His answer is none of the above.

Every year, investment advisers send a form to the Securities and Exchange Commission with details about their operations. You can see your adviser's form at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov. Click on Investment Adviser Search and type the name of the adviser's firm.

The SEC asks what percentage of clients are high net worth individuals. Just so every adviser counts clients the same, the SEC says high net worth means you've got at least $750,000 invested through that particular adviser, or the advisory firm 'reasonably believes' your net worth tops $1.5 million. The SEC set those thresholds in 2000 and hasn't updated them.

We'd all like to be treated as high net worth. It means special treatment. You’re not one of the walk-in retail rabble.

If you crave that label, send $21.99 to www.trendyteeshirts.com and get the High Net Worth Individual golf shirt.

Otherwise, stay focused on whether your adviser helps make you a 'higher net worth' individual, no matter where your net worth started out.

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