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7 out of 10 wealthy Koreans offer grim outlook for 2024

Real estate remains most attractive potential investment for the rich

By Choi Ji-won

Published : April 25, 2024 - 15:38

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The majority of wealthy South Koreans have a negative outlook on this year's economy, with plans to maintain their current asset portfolios. However, some are considering investing in real estate if the economy improves.

These findings are from the "2024 Korean Wealth Report," compiled by a think tank under Hana Bank based on a survey of around 2,600 Koreans conducted in December last year. Of the respondents, 746 with over 1 billion won ($726,000) in financial assets -- including cash, bonds and stocks -- were classified as "wealthy."

According to the report, 63 percent of the wealthy anticipate a downturn in the real economy, while 26 percent believe it will remain stable. Only 11 percent expect it to improve. Although this outlook is generally negative, it shows some improvement from last year, when 79 percent foresaw economic decline and only 7 percent expected improvement.

The proportion of wealthy individuals taking a wait-and-see approach to their asset portfolios, rather than actively adjusting them, has increased significantly. This year, 7 out of 10 respondents plan to keep their current portfolio status, an increase from last year's 5 in 10.

Among potential investment options, real estate was the most attractive, with 24 percent choosing it as their preferred investment, followed by deposits at 22 percent.

About 16 percent of respondents said they have no additional investment plans for this year, up from 5 percent in the last survey.

Aerial view of apartment complexes in Seoul seen from N Seoul Tower. (Yonhap) Aerial view of apartment complexes in Seoul seen from N Seoul Tower. (Yonhap)

The report also highlights that the total assets of wealthy individuals shrunk from an average of 7 billion won to 6 billion won during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to falling real estate and stock prices.

As of the end of last year, real estate accounted for 50 percent of the wealthy's total assets, down from 55 percent the previous year.

The proportion of financial assets grew from 43 percent to 46 percent during the same period. Among financial assets, deposits saw the largest growth, climbing from 15 percent to 18 percent, attributed to high deposit rates, which peaked at 5 percent. This had a positive impact on financial asset returns, with 42 percent saying deposits contributed to their returns, followed by 17 percent who attributed their gains to stocks.

The report also explored the perception of wealth in relation to life satisfaction. Both the wealthy and the general public most commonly associated money with "comfort."

More than 90 percent of the wealthy viewed money positively, seeing it as a means to reduce life's inconveniences and ensure comfort for future generations.

Regarding overall life satisfaction, 70 percent of wealthy respondents reported positively, nearly double the proportion of the general public at 35 percent.

Satisfaction rates among the wealthy varied based on their total assets. For those with assets under 1 billion won, satisfaction was 42 percent. It increased to 66 percent for those with around 3 billion won and to 71 percent as assets neared 5 billion won. However, beyond this point, satisfaction declined to 67 percent.