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Top 10 Population Centers of Wealth in the U.S.

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Millionaires all around you in Honolulu

Source: Honolulu Advertiser

It might not be the Upper East Side in New York City or Bel-Air in California, but Honolulu has more than its fair share of millionaires, according to a new ranking of wealthy areas.

Honolulu is 10th nationally in terms of the percentage of millionaire households, according to Kiplinger.com, the Web site of Kiplinger's personal finance magazine. The site said 12.5 percent of households here are occupied by well-heeled residents, ahead of New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles, all better-known millionaire haunts.

"For years vacationers have flocked to the Pineapple State capital for a vacation," said the story posted on the Web site. "But today wealthy mainlanders are returning, in search of an island paradise where they can retire."

Kiplinger enlisted TNS Financial Services, a London-based market research company, to furnish numbers on cities where millionaire households make up more than the 8 percent average found nationally. TNS surveyed 2,400 affluent households to get the net worth numbers. People's primary residences were excluded from the calculations of their net worth.

Among the surprises: Los Alamos, N.M., ranked as the top upper-crust hotbed. The town is home to the famed Los Alamos National Laboratory and has a millionaire in one of every five households.

Kiplinger said areas typically become millionaire magnets if they are popular with wealthy retirees, have many innovators and talented individuals, or have concentrations of highly paid executives.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were an estimated 140,337 households between Salt Lake and Hawai'i Kai in 2003. Rough calculations using Kiplinger's percentage indicate there could be at least 17,500 residences in Honolulu occupied by the really rich, if Kiplinger's numbers are correct.

Paul Brewbaker, Bank of Hawaii's chief economist, said he wasn't surprised by the finding.

"So much of what we've seen in the recent real estate cycle has involved offshore purchasers," he said.

Those buyers include so-called dot-com refugees who made money and moved here, as well as baby boomers who cashed out of homes in California to move to Hawai'i.

Brewbaker said the Kiplinger finding raises interesting questions about the distribution of wealth in Hawai'i at a time when homelessness appears to be rising. He said the 12.5 percent is roughly equivalent to the number of people living under the poverty line here.

The Kiplinger isn't alone in ranking Honolulu highly on the scale of wealth. An October report on Forbes.com listed Honolulu as 10th highest among U.S. cities in terms of median household income.

Scott Creel, regional marketing manager for Kahala Mall, said his shopping center has no trouble filling vacant space, given the income in adjoining neighborhoods that are among Honolulu's toniest. He said Kiplinger's numbers could be right.

"If you look at the homes in the area, and the cars people drive, it kind of points you in one direction," Creel said.

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*With the high cost of living it will probably only be home to millionaires :(

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