In the interest of science and to fulfill my solemn obligation as a financial journalist, last week I took my family to the Gulf Coast of southern Florida to study the habits of rich people on vacation. It was pretty rough duty, but sometime between the $140 jet-ski tour of North Captiva Island, the $90 round of nine-hole golf and the $9 lava-colored poolside drinks, a blinding insight hit me like a triple shot of Jamaican rum: The wealthy must have done something right in their financial lives to have the opportunity to enjoy themselves at such a spending clip.
After your first million, you may be pleased to learn, the path to further wealth should become easier. The masses have to settle for picking among 10,000 mutual funds, relying on a brother-in-law's hair stylist's aromatherapist's recommendation for a stockbroker, or scouring sites such as this one to choose among 7,500 stocks traded on the major U.S. exchanges. Screening engines assist in the hunt -- and quantitative systems such as Value Line's timeliness rankings or Morningstar's star system can play a role -- but essentially, the hoi polloi are on their own. When you cross the golden line and find yourself worth at least seven figures -- the term of art these days is "high net worth" -- you may discover, as many of your kind have recently, that you qualify to hire a private money manager who is independent of brokerage underwriting entanglements and who has a laser-like focus on a single strategy that suits your temperament. Why concern yourself with the time- and emotion-draining decisions to buy or sell securities, after all, when you've got a 10 a.m. tee time?