Nearly Nine in Ten Wealthy Individuals Say Giving Back Is Important

Eighty-six percent of high-net-worth individuals in the Unites States say giving back to society is an important if not essential part of their lives, a survey by U.S. Trust finds.

Based on a survey of six hundred and forty high-net-worth individuals with at least $3 million in investable assets, the 2015 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth (summary, 20 pages, PDF) report found that 78 percent of respondents participate in charitable giving and that 66 percent volunteer time as a way to give back. The study also found that approximately one in three respondents either owns or is interested in owning social impact investments, about the same as in previous years, with millennials, women, and those with the greatest level of wealth driving interest in impact investing. The three reasons most cited by individuals for their interest in impact investing were that they preferred to invest in companies that have a positive social or environmental impact (71 percent); the potential to achieve market-rate returns (62 percent); and a desire to express their values through their investment decisions (30 percent).  

The survey, which asked about aspects of a "life well lived," also found that "giving back to society" was the second most cited area of life — after "health" — to which respondents felt they should  pay more attention, while the top five reasons for wanting to give back were "to support causes that matter most to me" (55 percent), "to set an example for my children" (43 percent), "to change the world for the better" (33 percent), "I believe the wealthy have a moral obligation to share their good fortune with those less fortunate" (32 percent), and "I am grateful for kindness or support given to me when I needed it" (30 percent).

"A life well lived shouldn't be viewed through a rearview mirror with the final assessment of accomplishment or regret at the end of the journey," said U.S. Trust president Keith Banks. "It can and should be carefully plotted and planned for. The wealthy are driven by a sense of purpose and desire to succeed, but what makes life fulfilling is not money; it's what they do with it."