How the Pandemic Has Changed Attitudes Toward Wealth

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Several key metrics of defining wealth had fallen in the past three years. In 2018, 65 percent of respondents felt that wealth gave them peace of mind, but that number had fallen to 53 percent by this spring. Half of the respondents equated wealth with happiness, four percentage points lower than in 2018.

In another shift, more people said wealth meant success in life — that was up to 50 percent, from 40 percent last time.

“A big component of success is still making money, but it’s just not making money to increase your financial capital,” Mr. Baker said. “It’s accomplishing something in the process, to build other things, to take some of that financial capital and put it into something else.”

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Mr. Norton said his priorities had shifted to focusing more on the people around him, so he decided to pay the first half of his company’s Christmas bonus to employees in May. “I did it just to make sure they were OK,” he said. “I focused less on my net worth and income and more on making sure we’re doing the right thing for our clients but also making sure my staff and my family was OK.”

For others, though, the mandated isolation focused their mind. Douglas Swets, an angel investor in early-stage start-ups, said the pandemic brought greater clarity and focus to the investments he and his partners were making.

“After a year of Zoom meetings, I can have a lot more meetings and it’s improved our due diligence,” he said. “We can have more people doing reference calls. You get all the questions answered.”

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At the same time, Mr. Swets, who is married with two adult children, said the investments that he reviewed were not necessarily better given the extra time. If anything, they were actually riskier, but the pandemic gave him a different view on investing.

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