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Inside the minds of wealthy Americans

A survey of affluent households in the United States indicates that almost half are cutting back on both their remodeling plans and their holiday gift giving because of uncertainty over the economy.

More than four in 10 affluent Americans (41%) -- defined as those who have a minimum net worth of $800,000 -- are making a conscious effort to spend less in the coming year than they did in the prior year, according to the American Affluence Research Center in Alpharetta, Ga. Two-thirds (65%) reported wanting to save more money so they plan to spend less, and 60% said they have experienced a decline in savings or investments. The primary reason they gave in the survey for cutting back was uncertainty about when the economy will recover.

When asked about renovation plans, one in 12 affluent households (8%) said they will remodel their kitchen in the coming two years, and 16% are only considering a kitchen remodel. Those who are definitely planning a remodel expect to spend an average of $35,000, and those who are on the fence assume they would spend an average of $28,000. Respondents said they would hire a kitchen design specialist to help them source most purchases, and they cite dHome Depot more often than Lowe’s as a store they would shop, according to the results.

More than one in 10 (11%) surveyed planned to remodel a bathroom in the coming two years, with 19% only considering a bathroom remodel. Those who are definitely planning a remodel expect to spend an average of $15,000, and those who are unsure if they will remodel assume they would spend an average of $11,000. Those planning a bathroom remodel most commonly said they would hire design specialists, followed by shopping Home Depot and then Lowe's for items needed for their remodel.

On the subject of gift giving, about 12% of respondents said would not buy Christmas or Hanukah presents in 2010, up from 9% in 2009 and compared with 3% who said so prior to the recession. Among those who plan to buy gifts, 3% expect to spend more and 29% expect to spend less. In 2009, their average spending was $2,399, and their median spending was $1,160.

The survey also indicated that affluent shoppers are rather tech savvy. Approximately 76% said they have used a mobile device to compare prices, and 21% have used such a device to look up product information while shopping in a store.

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