There's a new saying that goes, "He who dies with the most toys still dies."
In tune with a new lifestyle trend, today's elite forego million-dollar entertainment systems or down payments on the Rolls Royce because they know that today, all that matters is that you're living the life, not necessarily owning it.
Piers Brown, founder of the asset-sharing Web portal FractionalLife.com, helps people sort through what he calls an expanding fractional-ownership marketplace by listing companies by category.
How society defines luxury is changing, particularly in the middle market, toward a focus on experiences, not possessions. "It's not necessarily all about what you own, but perhaps more about the luxury experiences you're having," Brown says.
On the site, which serves as a club for fractional lifers, you can browse by categories like Arts and Property and subscribe for free to receive email updates and online brochures for various participating companies.
"There are some notable early adopters and established standard business models in each category. However, these are constantly evolving based on the changing consumer needs and market dynamics," says Brown, who helps consumers to fit fractional ownership to their lifestyles.
But why are so many people sharing to get their kicks?
In the U.K. and U.S., the super-rich don't know fractional ownership exists, explains Brown. It's the "symbols of success" demographic group, which includes moderately wealthy individuals "who have rewarding careers rather than jobs ... and indulge in the most exotic pursuits," that is driving this lifestyle.
Brown credits increases in disposable income, credit availability and low interest rates to a demographic that is trading up. "As a result, the boom in consumer self-actualization, self-improvement and self-gratification has made people reappraise how they spend their money," he says.
Another issue is the rapidly diminishing value on luxury goods, from handbags to cars. "How much is that Chloe ... or sports car you purchased last year now worth on
?" asks Brown. "Go on, take a look -- but be prepared for quite a shock."
Surprisingly, though, the biggest driving force behind this new marketplace is the lack of time people have in the face of demanding careers and fast-paced living standards, says Brown.
"Fractional owners don't pretend that they are owners," says Michael Silverstein, author of
. "They are pleased that they don't have to deal with the hassles of maintenance, improvement and fluctuating value. They like to use the house or the boat as if it were a costume that they have rented for a special event."
Since no two fractional lives are the same, here's a broad selection of my favorite picks.
Pass the Velvet Rope
M1NT bills itself as the world's first shareholder nightclub. If you live in London, Hong Kong or Cannes, becoming a member puts you on the waiting list for club shares when they become available and immediately gives you the chance to organize and attend events and enjoy free club entrance and a personal in-club concierge service.
The club's current shareholders include billionaires and A-listers, according to its site. If anything, you'll never be pleading to get your name on the guest list.
It's in the Bag
Are last season's handbags piling up in your closet as you cringe at how much you paid for them? Fashion-savvy ladies, your financial salvation is here.
Now you can borrow the latest
bag for a fraction of the sale price for a week, six months or just an evening out at
Bag Borrow or Steal. Membership costs about $60 a year, and additional monthly borrowing prices range from $20 a month for a bag in the "trendsetter" category to $275 for a runway-worthy "couture" bag.
If you simply cannot part with your borrowed bag, there's always the option to "steal" (buy) it. A fair purchase price is determined based on the age of the item, its condition and availability in the marketplace.
For those with a passion for contemporary art, but not the funds or connections to build up a collection,
ARTvest provides a way to satiate your creative appetites virtually hassle-free.
Per the site, members join a syndicate where pieces of modern art are reviewed and selected quarterly by a panel of members and advisors, and are then rotated around the members' homes.
Membership costs about $3,000, but that's nothing compared to paying thousands for a Cecile Azoulay on your wall.
Pick a Pooch
The lure of an energetic playmate and warm companionship has brought me to the door of my neighborhood animal shelter, but I was always stopped by thoughts of the poor pup being penned up all day while I'm at work.
San Diego and Los Angeles-based
Flexpetz lets you borrow a dog of your choice for a few hours, a day or even a week. All their dogs come from accredited rescue organizations and range from an Italian greyhound named Pike to Tango, a stunning black Afghan.
Owner Marlena Cervantes says many of their San Diego clients are military personnel who don't want to kennel their dogs while out at sea. A number of celebrities also showed interest at a pre-Oscar event this year. "We had a lot of interest from actors who have to be on-location a lot," she says.
Membership is based on a monthly fee of $40 and a Daily Doggy Time charge, payable for each day or part of a day you spend with the dog, amounting to about $20 on weekdays and $30 on weekends.
They are planning to open a branch in New York City in June and have their sights on cities all over the U.S. as well as Europe and Asia. Soon you will never be left without the companionship of a faithful friend.
Piece of the Vine
A wine estate is perfect in that it gives you excellent wine, a lovely profit and a beautiful retreat anytime you want it. The not-so-practical part lies in finding the capital to purchase it.
Wine enthusiast Arjen Pen saw an answer to this problem by finding a group of investors to buy a carefully selected, high-potential wine estate. He is managing director of
Wine Estate Capital Management, where investors can contact him to be put on a waiting list for the next ownership opportunity.
His first estate was purchased three years ago in Bordeaux, and he just finished the purchase of an estate in South Africa.
The return side of the investment has three components, says Pen. "We are extremely selective because we ourselves are shareholders," says Pen. "An investor ... has the right to receive dividend payments if the shareholders decide to do so." Investors also receive 12 cases of wine every vintage (yearly) and have the right to live at the estate between three to five weeks a year.
So next time you get the urge to own, think fractional. Remember, those who are rich in experience win.
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