Millionaires? More like $700,000-aires

U.S. households worth more than $1 million have lost nearly a third of their assets in the financial crisis, a report says.

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By Julianne Pepitone, contributing writer

How will the Obama stimulus proposal affect the economy?
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NEW YORK ( -- While it may be hard to feel sympathy for America's millionaires, they're feeling the economic crunch, too - nearly a third of their assets have disappeared in the downturn, according to a consulting firm's report released Tuesday.

Spectrem Group said U.S. households worth $1 million or more - excluding their primary residence - have seen their assets decline by 30% during the financial crisis.

Almost one-fifth of the asset declines were greater than 40%, the report said.

"There's a huge amount of anger," said George Walper, president of Spectrem Group.

Nearly all the millionaires surveyed - 90% - said they "fear a prolonged economic downturn," the report said. On average, they believe it will last for another 22 months.

Maintaining their current lifestyles is also of concern, as 55% of respondents said they are worried they will not have sufficient assets to do so.

"They may not be representative of most people, but this is a population that creates jobs in the country through small businesses and has spending power," Walper said.

Weakness across the board

Millionaires' net worth has been slammed by economic weakness across the board.

Stocks plummeted in 2008, one of Wall Street's worst years on record. By the end of the year, the Dow was down by more than a third, the S&P 500 was down almost 40%, and the Nasdaq was down 41.5%.

The yearly losses are larger than any seen since the 1930s. Stocks would need to rise 65% in 2009 just to get back to end-of-2007 levels.

"The stock market has made them afraid to look at their statements, but they see it every day in the newspapers," Walper said. "It has a huge psychological impact."

The other major factor in the asset decline is real estate, Walper said. Home prices posted an 18% annual drop in October, and the 20-city S&P/Case-Shiller index has posted losses for 27 months in a row.

"If you single handedly own an apartment building, you're probably not looking at it every day and getting emotional," Walper said,

Walper said Spectrem plans a follow-up study in June or July. He said he is curious to see the impact of the Madoff investment scandal and the Obama administration.

"People might say, 'Oh, too bad for the millionaires,' but this is the group that needs to get on board to help the economy," Walper said.

The Spectrem Group report polled 750 households with over $1 million in net worth, with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. To top of page

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