7 lessons on how the wealthy buy privacy

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said: “Let me tell you about the very rich, they are different from you and me.”

We live in a democratic society that prizes upward mobility, yet many people with money want to keep to themselves. How do they buy privacy?

Here are some ways they maintain privacy, along with some practical steps on how you can use their strategies:

1. Anonymity

Wealthy people can get unwelcome attention. One strategy is to maintain a low profile and avoiding being photographed. Theo Albrecht, one of Germany’s richest men, owns the German based ALDI supermarket chain. Allegedly, when he was kidnapped in 1971, he looked so unassuming the kidnappers requested identification to confirm they were kidnapping the right person. As ” The Millionaire Next Door” notes, the wealthy often live low-profile lives, driving domestic cars and not trading up houses.

2. Post office boxes

One of the simplest ways of staying low profile is keeping your mailing address out of the public eye. Now it’s more difficult for the curious to track down where you live, since your street address is tied to fewer public records. Renting a box at the local post office is easy and inexpensive. If you personally want to lower your profile, it’s an easy step you can take.

3. Property

For hundreds of years, wealth was associated with agriculture, and large tracts of land ensured privacy. Highclere Castle, the real life British country estate we associate with Downton Abbey, has more land than New York’s Central Park. If you can’t see the house from the road, you are pretty private. In the U.S., we believe in “power lawns” showing off the house. In the U.K., large properties are often bordered by high walls, protecting the house from view from the road.

4. Keeping finances elsewhere

Movies portray the wealthy as jetsetters, visiting their numbered Swiss bank accounts. In more practical terms, the low-key wealthy often choose to move their investment accounts away to a nearby city. Although the financial services industry maintains client confidentiality, friends and competitors don’t see you walking through the private banking door in your hometown. If you live in that nearby city you might already have gained some of these clients. Try for referrals to family members.

5. Second homes

People who have made it often don’t want to flaunt it at home. They buy another home in a different part of the country instead. Naples, Fla. and Palm Beach, Calif. are good examples. They can live the upscale lifestyle they choose, surrounded by people in similar economic circumstances. These second home owners come from around the country, so its unlikely word gets back. If you live in a resort area, you may already know some of the wealthy from another part of the country.

6. Private schools

Although many support the American ideal of high quality education available for all, the wealthy often send their children to private schools starting at a young age. In New York, it’s not unusual for elementary or high school to cost about $40,000 a year. In return, your children associate with the children of film stars and future captains of industry. This level is accessible, assuming your child survives the admission process. Getting them in the right company never starts too early. Just be prepared to pay.

7. Luxury vacations

One way the wealthy pay for privacy is vacationing on a private island with few other guests. Access is controlled and if you book the entire island, you choose your vacation mates. River cruising on French canals is often done by private barges holding six or eight guests. From time to time, you hear about financial professionals who built their careers by taking exotic vacations and befriending fellow travelers.

A lot of folks have a far more money than people think. The wealthy are good at discretion.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions and has provided training for the financial services industry on high net worth client acquisition since 2001. Sanders spent 20 years with a leading financial services firm as a successful financial advisor, district sales manager, and home office manager. He is the author of “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” available on Amazon.

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