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Where Do the Happiest Millionaires Live?

Thursday, 24 May 2012 | 2:15 PM ET
Malaysia skyline
Getty Images
Malaysia skyline

Ah, money. If only it could buy happiness.

It does in Asia. A recent survey of 2,800 millionaires across the region, conducted by Scorpio Partnership, a global wealth-management consultancy, shows that high net worth individuals, especially those living in India and Indonesia, are the happiest, and most optimistic about growing their fortune.

The survey, which polled individuals with an average net worth of $1.4 million in nine Asian countries, focused on how satisfied these millionaires were with their lives and what their expectations were for future wealth creation.

Millionaires living in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, while they enjoy the process of making money, are happiest about their work-life balance, finding time to spend with family and friends. They were also hopeful that the good times would last and they would continue to make money at a faster pace.

By contrast, the rich in the financial hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore were more cautious about future wealth growth.

“Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have shown positive exuberance in these tough markets when it comes to wealth creation, matched only by Indian millionaires. The linkage between happiness and confidence in wealth creation ambitions is significant,” said Catherine Tillotson, Managing Partner at Scorpio Partnership.

Asia has 3.3 million individuals with a million dollars or more in investible assets, second only to North America. Asia is ahead of Europe for the first time, according to the Capgemini Merrill Lynch 2011 World Wealth Report.

India is home to about 225,000 of these millionaires. Indonesia, meanwhile, has seen a rise of about 47 percent in individuals with more than $30 million in assets, according to Wealth-X, a research firm that tracks the super rich.

According to the Scorpio report, Indians are ambitious, noting that they are “throwing themselves into the task of wealth creation with gusto. Their energy levels are high with a huge focus on family, health and hitting their professional goals. But, their satisfaction levels also hint at an impatience for success.”

They are also the most optimistic in Asia. Despite slowing growth, a slumping currency and a government that has not delivered on economic reforms, millionaires in India expect to almost triple their fortunes in less than seven years. They are also looking more to their home market to achieve these gains, according to the report.

But the most ambitious with regard to future wealth growth are the Indonesians, Thais and Malaysians. Though their average wealth at present is just around a million dollars, they expect to triple that within the next 10 years, says the report. They are also among the most entrepreneurial, which gives them greater control over their wealth,

According to Mykolas Rambus, CEO of Wealth-X, "Despite the pessimistic economic outlook and global challenges, Southeast Asia continues to be a major growth area when it comes to ultra high net worth individuals (those worth more than $30 million). Wealth-X uncovers new ultra rich in Malaysia and Indonesia on a daily basis.”

The self-made millionaires in Asia enjoy the hard work that goes into making money, but are careful when it comes to investing their cash. The rich especially in India and Indonesia are risk-averse preferring to park their wealth in traditional assets like gold, high-interest savings and real estate.

A powerful mix of enthusiasm and hard work topped with some caution is what defines these wealthy men and women who know just how to buy happiness with money.

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  • A reporter and editor, Robert Frank is a leading authority on the American wealthy for CNBC.