To celebrate its 100th birthday, SF's Fairmont is offering two nights in the penthouse for $100,000. Actually, there's more to the package: a 10-carat diamond bracelet, a Rolex watch, a gourmet dinner for 12, and a bottle of 1907 Madeira. Oh, and you get to drive a $140,000 Maserati Quattroporte during the visit. OK, so who exactly would fork over so much money for so much... well, nonsense? Yeah, yeah, rich people, I know. But they're also people who indulge simply for the sake of indulging. There's a percentage of the population that has so much money - say anything over $50 million - that they really don't know what to do with it, which is why luxury goods are doing so well. The WSJ's Robert Frank looks at new indexes being started by Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs that track certain high end consumer stocks. So you can buy into these indexes and feel like you're part of the incredbly wealthy.
Still, the new crop of "blingdexes" offer further proof the wealthy are increasingly creating their own consumer economy. The number of millionaire households in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1995, according to the Federal Reserve. The total wealth held by the nation's richest 1% has increased more than 50% since 1998, to $16.7 trillion in 2004, the latest period measured by the Fed. With incomes and wealth soaring for those at the top, spending by the rich has also jumped. Mr. Kapur, in a 2005 Citigroup research note, said that the top 20% of American earners now account for between 37% and 70% of total consumption. "Today, the good life is defined by the assets you have," says Margaret Mager of Goldman Sachs, which has created the Goldman Sachs High-End Consumer Index. "It's your homes, your cars, how you look, what you wear, who you socialize with, what you eat and drink and ultimately, how important your art collection is. This is definitely fueling the growth in the luxury market and these indexes."
So far no takers on the Fairmont package. "If I had $100,000 to throw away, it's not where I'd throw it,'' Tom Callahan, president of PFK Consulting in San Francisco, told Bloomberg News.