chapter
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Understanding the wealth continuum

To discern whether and how wealth status affects wealth-building strategies, I take the following steps. First, I continue to focus on households during 2007. As the peak in household wealth over the past generation, it offers the best choice in discerning which circumstances best explain wealth accumulation. Second, I exclude households headed by seniors. Before age 66, most households are building their net worth in anticipation of retirement while after this age they are working to mitigate its decline. They may employ the same wealth-building strategies as before, but will likely witness a decline in their net worth now that they are retired. To limit this shift, I omit those households headed by seniors. Third, I return to the Wealth Privilege model to investigate whether differences

in wealth status affect wealth accumulation. That model describes three distinct groups operating under substantially different circumstances. Wealth-poor households will likely experience difficulty in traversing the thresholds that separate the

vicious from the virtuous cycles along each wealth pathway. Affluent households can avoid these difficulties and benefit from many of the privileges of wealth. However, the full benefits of wealth privilege are reserved for the rich. Thus, the Wealth Privilege model suggests a three-tiered approach: bottom, middle, and top; coincidentally, this resembles our usual convention of socioeconomic class, in which we speak of working, middle, or upper class.1