When John Lennon was asked at school what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, “happy”. The teacher said, “you don’t understand the question”, to which John replied, “no, you don’t understand the answer!” 

Sir John Templeton (a highly respected financier, billionaire, and philanthropist) once said, “Happiness comes from spiritual wealth, not material wealth… Happiness comes from giving, not getting. If we try hard to bring happiness to others, we cannot stop it from coming to us also. To get joy, we must give it, and to keep joy, we must scatter it…”  

This year we have grown accustomed to the burgeoning wealth of the tech glitterati as their company values continue to soar. Forbes tracks the fortunes of the world’s wealthiest people; there are currently 2,755 billionaires with a combined net worth of over $13 trillion. Just over 100 of these billionaires are millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), with a combined net worth of $573.1 billion. The youngest is Kevin David Lehmann of Germany, aged 18! 

Forbes’ own ‘Real-Time Billionaire Tracker’ revealed a surprise twist earlier this month, as France’s Bernard Arnault became the World’s Richest Person, worth $186.3 billion. Jeff Bezos is currently a close second, with Elon Musk third, so maybe normal service will resume shortly. 

While his name may be new to some, Bernard Arnault is no stranger to the wealthiest top table. He oversees LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey); the power behind some of the world’s most famous luxury brands of champagne, luggage, clothing and hospitality. In January this year, LVMH added Tiffany and Co to its range for the small sum of $16 billion. 

Conventional wisdom might suggest luxury goods should not have fared well over the recent pandemic and global economic shutdown, but LVMH is thriving (especially in Asia). By way of comparison, one of the millennial billionaires is Lukas Walton, whose family own Walmart. His wealth decreased by almost $3 billion over the past year. It appears luxury rather than budget shopping came out ahead last year at least. 

I recently came across Veblen goods. These are luxury items or superior goods that don’t follow the typical economic laws of supply and demand. Rather than seeing demand fall as the price rises, the opposite happens. With Veblen goods – when the price rises, demand grows as people want more of them. Conspicuous consumption and “Loadsamoney” lifestyles in the 80’s and 90’s, comes to mind. 

During the pandemic we saw huge sums spent on exclusive and luxurious Christmas presents, Mothers and Father’s Day, and birthday gifts. It seems people felt luxury and exclusivity would relieve the pressures of lockdown and bring a little light and colour to the occasion. Champagne was a common Veblen gift, which is great news for LVMH as it owns Dom Perignon, probably the world’s most prestigious champagne brand. Champagne and jewellery certainly add more than a little sparkle to life. 

Perhaps, as Sir John Templeton said, happiness is found in giving and sharing with others. Maybe it’s true that, “you get more than you pay for” if you include the enjoyment you feel from doing something for someone else. 

This sits comfortably with Stewardship Wealth’s approach to managing your wealth. We help people to grow their wealth, spend their wealth, and importantly, to give it away when the time is right. Faith, Family and Philanthropy in practice.