Los Alamos Tops Nation in Millionaires - Albuquerque Journal

Los Alamos Tops Nation in Millionaires

SANTA FE — Los Alamos has a higher percentage of millionaires than any other city in America, according to a new survey.

But it isn’t exactly “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” up there.

“I hear these numbers, and then we joke around at the table during dinner when we have friends over,” said Sharon Stover, who chairs the Los Alamos County Council (and, she says, not a millionaire). “We’re all looking at each other, going, ‘Who is it?’ ”

It’s not exactly Beverly Hills, but Los Alamos continues to have more millionaires per capita than any city in the country, a new survey says. (EDDIE MOORE/JOURNAL)

According to the November edition of Kiplinger, reporting on a study by the financial services firm Phoenix Marketing International, 11.7 percent of Los Alamos households are worth more than $1 million.

In no other town in the country are more than 10 percent of households considered millionaires.

The Phoenix report says there are 17,950 households in Los Alamos, of which 885 are worth $1 million or more in liquid assets (which can be easily converted to cash, so real estate or retirement savings don’t count).

“We put out our millionaire update as sort of an informational thing,” said Phoenix’s David Thompson. “People like to see where the millionaires are.”

Los Alamos is “unique,” Thompson said, among other locales atop the list, because the wealth there is less obvious. No. 2 Naples, Fla., for instance, is a beach community with 90 golf courses.

Los Alamos has a single, public golf course. New Mexico’s atomic city also has no luxury stores, and residents who want high-budget haute cuisine have to drive down to Santa Fe.

“Typically, these cities are where the mansions and the more visible wealth would be,” Thompson said.

But Los Alamos is no stranger to ranking high in the millionaire count.

“Los Alamos has been No. 1 for quite some time, at least five years,” Thompson said. “It’s because it’s a small area with a large percentage of highly educated and highly trained engineers and scientists.”

Los Alamos tops the list because of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Says Kiplinger: “If it weren’t for the national laboratory, Los Alamos might be just another stagecoach stop in the desert. The facility, a powerhouse for weapons engineering, bioscience and other government research, is the dusty town’s largest employer. Top chemists, engineers and physicists have pulled in hefty paychecks here since 1943, when the lab launched the Manhattan Project.”

A LANL spokesman said Thursday the average salary for its 9,665 employees is $102,552. No employee at LANL makes more than $1 million annually. Seventy-two percent of lab workers have a bachelor’s degree, 19 percent hold a graduate degree and 22 percent have doctoral degrees, the spokesman said. These figures do not include more than 1,000 contracted employees, such as cafeteria workers and janitors.

Los Alamos County Councilor Michael Wismer works as a security manager at LANL, and he said he is not a millionaire.

“It sort of brands people,” said Wismer of the top ranking, “When you associate millionaires, you think of Cayman Islands or exclusive mansions, and that really doesn’t depict our community.

“Our largest employer is the laboratory, and people make salaries appropriate with their skill levels. We have a very high academic requirement at the lab. We have a brain trust that’s unique, and they’re paid well.”

And the figures are relative. Los Alamos has the highest percentage of millionaires, but in terms of the actual number of rich people there, it isn’t even close to the runners-up. Naples has more than 12,000 millionaires, with an overall population of 321,520. No. 3 Bridgeport, Conn., has 29,713 millionaire households, who make up 8.8 percent of the community there.

As a state, New Mexico ranks No. 36 on Phoenix’s list, with 4.21 percent of its households worth more than $1 million. The state with the most millionaires per capita is Hawaii, at 6.79 percent, followed by New Jersey and Maryland.

The Phoenix report also says nearly 130 Los Alamos households had at least $5 million in investable assets.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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