I live a rich life, one that has far exceeded my wildest dreams. I don't mean rich as in uber-investor Warren Buffett or Facebook wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg. It's not something I measure by the number of zeros that follow a dollar sign.
I measure it with something far more valuable. When I sit down to my holiday meals, I'm surrounded by the people I love most. And all the money in the world can't hold a candle to that.
We do, however, give special thanks for our financial security. It's especially heartfelt this year because days without financial anxiety have become a luxury for many people around the world.
Of course not everyone is struggling. In fact, there's one segment of the population that's doing quite well.
In 1979, the after-tax income of the richest 1% accounted for 7.5% of the nation's total. By 2007, the richest 1% were netting 17.1% of the nation's income.
The latest estimates show continuing gains by the richest 1%. Estimates now suggest theirrepresents 24% of the United States' total income and put their net worth equal to that of the bottom 90% of the population.
Whether this is fair or unfair falls outside my job as an investor. But it's a trend that's getting a lot of notice. An argument supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts rests on the premise that the wealthy will spend and invest that incremental income to spur the overall. But at least one well-known investor and billionaire disagrees.
Recently on ABC, Warren Buffett had this to say: "The rich are always going to say that, you know, 'Just give us more money, and we'll go out and spend more, and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.' But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on."
As an investor, I try to be agnostic when it comes to policy and politics. The only policies I weigh in on are those that affect my ability as an individual investor to have a level playing field in the market.
My priority is tofrom trends. And if the rich are getting richer, there has to be a way for me to make money. But I have to agree with Warren Buffett. Waiting for a potential trickle down is a lousy way to beat the market. The key is to tap directly into the profits the rich are generating.
There are a number of companies that derive profits from the well-heeled. Polo Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL) designs and markets upscale clothing, household goods and fragrances. LVMH Moet Hennesy Louis Vuitton (OTC: LVMUY) sells champagne, spirits and designer fashion. Coach (NYSE: COH) specializes in high-end leather goods.
Another trend I've been following is jewelry sales. On Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving -- jewelry sales were up 22% from a year ago. In fact, jewelry sales accounted for 14.3% of total Black Friday purchases.
On November 29, the auction house Christie's International even sold a rare pink diamond for $23.2 million. The price for "The Perfect Pink," the 14.23 carat ring, made it the most expensive jewel ever sold in Asia.
The auction for the gem was held in Hong Kong. The fact that the gem fetched such a high price in Asia shouldn't come as a surprise because the same trends for the rich in America are playing out in China.
According to a recent report in Forbes, China now has 128 billionaires, up from last year's count of 79. And the total wealth of the top 400 richest people in China rose to $423 billion, from $314 billion a year earlier.
Action to Take --> I suppose it's nice to have enough money to buy a $23 million diamond, but I'm a bit more pragmatic. And since I wouldn't know what to do with something like that, I'm much happier taking advantage of the trends these mega-spenders set and buy the stocks that will benefit from their excessive consumption.
I'm not just paying lip service here. Following December's issue of my Stock of the Month newsletter, I bought 100 of a high-end retailer for inclusion in my $100,000 real-money portfolio.