there is money to be made from these people. now i didnt say money to be stolen, i said made. these people have lots of loot and they have to spend it somewhere.

Maricopa County movin' on up millionaire list

Chad Graham The Arizona Republic Mar. 30, 2006 12:00 AM

The rich surf dudes and babes of Orange County, Calif., live in "the O.C."

Maybe residents of Maricopa County should start telling themselves they live in "the M.C."

The two counties are certainly close in numbers of wealthy households, according to a new survey.

Maricopa County ranks fourth in the United States in the number of millionaire households. It counts 106,210, or roughly 8.2 percent of all households, as having $1 million-plus in net worth. Orange County counts 113,299 households and took the third spot.

In 2000, Maricopa County ranked sixth in the survey.

One reason for the county's upward movement is due to the overall population boom. There are also plenty of retirees who've made their fortunes elsewhere, or at least have saved and invested wisely and relocated to Arizona to settle into the twilight years of warm weather and golf.

The county had 3.6 million residents in July 2005 and is set to become the country's third-largest county. "You're a large county to begin with, and I would imagine that a lot of people retire to places in Arizona, particularly the Phoenix/Scottsdale area because the cost of living there is a little more favorable than a place like San Francisco," said Jeanette Luhr, manager of a mail-in research study by TNS Financial Services,a division of a British market research company..

The results, which include data from follow-up interviews, are based on household net worth, excluding the values of primary residence.

Nationally, the median age of the head of the millionaire household is 58, Luhr said. Forty-five percent of the millionaires are retired.

Los Angeles County took the top spot with 262,800 millionaire households, followed by Cook County in Illinois with 167,873 households.

Traditionally rich areas rounded out the top 10, and many of those counties had a greater percentage of wealthy residents than Maricopa County. California's Santa Clara County, home to dot-com tycoons, ranked eighth in the number of millionaire households. Florida's Palm Beach County, home to hair-helmet hostesses in Chanel, was ninth.

The number of millionaire households across the United States rose 8 percent to a record 8.9 million in 2005.

"This increase is due to long-term wealth accumulation, not new wealth creation or real estate investments (Although real estate continues to be an investment portfolio staple, it is not the sole cause of wealth)," the report said.

In the end, the new numbers really show that a million bucks doesn't have the same cachet as in years past. It's more of a benchmark of success or a financial goal tossed out by financial planners.

"Just your average ordinary worker with a good pension plan can be a millionaire by the time they get to retirement age," said Marshall Vest, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management.

He remembers the days of the $64,000 Question game show. "People just about fell off their chair, that was so much money," he said.

Speaking of real money . . . according to Forbes magazine, the number of billionaires around the world has risen by 102, to 793. Four live in Arizona.

"For the average person out there, a million dollars is still a lot of money," Luhr said. "I think it's important that the people (in the survey) didn't become millionaires overnight. The majority of them earned their income over a long period of time and saved."

That's the message Mitzi Olivere, a counselor at Washington High in Phoenix, wanted her students to hear two years ago when she started a club to steer them toward college.

Originally called the Scholarship Club, the name was changed to the Millionaires Club to push the point that they could earn $1 million or more over their lifetimes if they went on to higher education.

"There was a huge, huge interest. It was like a light bulb going on," she said. "We don't really have a population that the parents talk a lot about higher education."

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