Sun, June 16, 2024

Thoughts from the General: Surprising analysis about wealth in the CSRA

Perry M. Smith, Jr.

A few years ago, two officials from Boy Scout headquarters came to Augusta. They were looking for big bucks to support a major Boy Scout project. Somehow, they had learned that I had some experience identifying wealthy folks and encouraging them to donate to worthy causes.

The Boy Scout officials did not beat around the bush. The first question they asked was. “Who in Augusta has a personal wealth of five hundred million dollars or more?”

I told them that my guess was that only one person in Augusta had a total wealth of $500 million or more. After some discussion, I shared with them the names of people who, from my experience in fundraising, were especially generous.

This Boy Scout visit made me realize how little I knew about wealth in Augusta. My research over the last couple of months came up with lots of fascinating data. Here is a brief rundown.

In the United States, there are 22 million households which have a wealth of one million dollars or more.  Since America has a national population of about one hundred million households that means that about 22% of American homes are occupied by millionaires.

Georgia is not in the top tier of wealthy states, hence, out of a population of 10.9 million, Georgia has about 200,000 millionaire households. More than half of these households are in the Atlanta area. In the CSRA, there are about 15,000 millionaire households.

OK. What is a millionaire? Someone who has a total wealth of a million dollars. If, for instance, you have a mortgage-free house worth $400,000, a stock and bond portfolio of $500,000, and jewels, furniture, and automobiles worth a total of $100,000, you are a millionaire.

If you own two mortgage-free homes, say one in Augusta and one at the beach or in the mountains, you most likely are in the millionaire category.

The bottom line of all this data is clear. There is a great deal of personal wealth here in the Augusta area.

One more point to consider, in the CSRA there are about 2,000 households with a total worth of five million dollars or more.  Many in this category have received, in the past, generous inheritances from family members.

Let me share with you our family’s gifting approach. Hopefully, it will both enlighten you and inspire you. Using the “portfolio formula,” we support worthy causes at the ten percent level. Our portfolio of stocks and bonds grows about 8 percent each year. Hence, our robust gifting approach diminishes our overall wealth very modestly each year.

However, for most folks, the “income formula” may be best. The ten percent goal works in either case. For geezers and super geezers (my wife and I are in the second category), the “portfolio formula” encourages elderly folks to be quite charitable.

I firmly believe that it is our civic duty as American citizens to dig deep to support local worthy causes. Clearly, the federal, state and local governments just can’t get the job done. Billionaires can and do play an important role, but everyone reading this article can assist.

Finally, there seems to be a close relationship between friendship and generosity. I have noticed a pattern here in the CSRA. Many folks enjoy the company of generous people while drifting away from those who are ungenerous (the word “tightfisted “comes to mind). There is one group for whom I have very little respect: those who contribute to worthy causes at less than 3 percent of their income, yet claim they are very generous.

For those who have the time to read some fascinating books, I would like to recommend Give and Take by Grant and The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko. Both have remained best sellers for a number of years.

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1 comment

  1. Giving away either money from income or wealth is a good thing to do. Some people are hard wired for generosity. Some people are hard wired the other way. Some people will part with income or wealth only if they are more directly impacted. For example, people who have a loved one with a blood cancer or heart disease might feel compelled to contribute to those charities that support patients or medical research. How and how much you donate to causes will ultimately be determined for your “heart” for giving. Someone who is twenty eight years old will view this quite differently than those in their 40’s, 60’s, or 80’s. Being financially able to give away income or wealth is important. I enjoy seeking advice from experts who know my finances and my heart at the same time. I also take input from my wife and listen intently to suggestions from friends. I find General Smith to be a great source for advice. He studies the organizations and he knows how to research thoroughly. I trust his heart and his mind. They are both large and functioning quite well. He and his wife are role models of generosity and living a purposeful life.

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