US Trust’s Insights on Wealth and Worth is an independent annual survey of High Net Worth investors—defined by having $3 million or more in investable assets—across the country. The survey asks respondents about their “approach to building wealth” as well as the extent to which they are using that wealth “to achieve their goals and support the causes they care about most.” A key demographic surveyed were Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1997 (ages 21-37), and their responses provided some surprising insights, especially when compared to other age groups.

When asked about their motivations for building wealth, 86% of Millennials said their primary intent was to help others through philanthropy, as opposed to just 72% of Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). Millennials also ranked higher than all other age groups when it came to why they were building their wealth: 81% said they wanted to change the world. That sort of altruistic outlook appealed to only 37% of Baby Boomers surveyed. When it came to how they were investing, Millenials had shifted away from cash and towards stocks in the last year. In 2017, Millenials averaged 47% of their wealth in cash, with just 25% invested in stocks; this year, the numbers were virtually flipped, with 46% allocated for stocks, and only 21% in cash.

These statistics are interesting on their own, but especially illuminating when coupled with the responses about the art collecting as it relates to wealth investment. According to US Trust’s study, Millennials are the fast growing segment of art collectors, with their ownership rising 8% since last year. The biggest takeaway? Millennials are twice as likely as any other age group to view art as a financial asset, with 32% of respondents viewing art as a safe investment in volatile markets, and 35% saying they enjoy being part of the art world.

As prices for art rise, and the art market continues to expand, more HNW investors were found to be incorporating tangible assets such as art into their wealth planning, across all age groups. In 2017, 29% of respondents said they view art as a part of a comprehensive wealth management strategy; that rose to 42% this year. Interestingly, just 41% of Millennials reported they collect art for its inherent aesthetic value, while 62% of other age brackets did. Equal across all age groups was agreement with the statement, “Art is a universal language that can help bridge economic, cultural, and political differences among people.” However, it was those under 50 who most strongly agreed that art “is an agitator that serves as a catalyst for change.”

And how these artworks are being acquired has also changed. In 2017, just 28% of respondents had purchased fine art online. In 2018, that number is now 40%, representing a 43% increase in online art purchases over the year before. Of the Millenials surveyed this year, 78% said they buy art online, with women representing the largest increase, 36% up from 16%.

It’s important to talk with a wealth or art advisor before investing, or to consult with a knowledgeable Trusts & Estates professional if you’re thinking of selling part of your art collection.

Want more Trusts & Estates and Appraisal news? Sign up for Freeman's monthly Business Bulletin and never miss a beat.