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In Washington state, the rich really are getting richer

August 12, 2013

Puget Sound Business Journal - 09/13/13
By George Erb

The rich really are getting richer, and in Washington state they appear to be accumulating wealth at an impressive rate.

  • The number of Washington state households with more than $1 million in invested assets increased 21 percent to 148,333 between 2009 and 2012, according to Phoenix Marketing International, a research firm based in Rhinebeck, N.Y.
  • Washington’s per capita personal income last year was $45,413, which was 6 percent higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
  • The number of owner-occupied homes in Washington worth more than $1 million increased 237 percent to 34,022 between 2000 and 2010, according to the Census Bureau

Wealth accumulation among members of the upper class is hardly unique to Washington state. Nationwide, affluent Americans have prospered in recent years, according to a recently updated study by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.

One of the companies that tracks affluent markets is Pure Insurance, a property-casualty insurer based in White Plains, N.Y., that caters to wealthy clients.

“Throughout the country, wealthy families are getting wealthier, while the mass population stagnates,” said Martin Hartley, Pure’s chief operating officer. “And that’s fairly universal.

The documented growth of affluent households in Washington state persuaded Pure this summer to ramp up its efforts in this market. The high-net-worth insurer had some existing clients in the state, but, essentially, “it is a new market” for the company, Hartley said.

The high-net-worth segment of the insurance market is competitive. Pure’s rivals include the Chubb Group of Warren, N.J., and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. of Novato, California.

Pure is established in New York, Connecticut, Texas, the Carolinas, Florida and Illinois. “It tends to be where the wealthy are,” Hartley said.