By  on July 25, 2007

Luxury isn't what it used to be.

"With millions of millionaires and thousands of [other] people who can afforda Louis Vuitton bag or a Prada suit, the very term luxury keeps getting debased," Robert Frank, author of "Richistan" (Crown Publishers,$24.95), stated simply.

One result of people getting wealthier far faster and at significantly younger ages than they have historically is that luxury marketers will be pressed to keep giving more to the new rich. More elaborate and expensive things will be in demand— status symbols that "have always defined the truly rich," projected Frank, who has chronicled the rapid run-up in wealth that is giving rise to a tier of Americans he dubs Richistanis, who live in the realm of Richistan.

Even in Richistan, a class divide is emerging whereby the "have-mores,"as Frank describes those with wealth of at least $10 million, are intent on purchasing things that, among other things, set them apart from mere single-digit millionaires. Single-digit millionaires do not qualify as truly rich in the eyes of the author, a senior special writer at The Wall Street Journal who writes a daily blog, "The Wealth Report."

In 2004, there were nine million single-digit millionaire households among the country's then-112 million households.That compares with a considerably more rarefied 530,000 households with wealth of $10 million and 110,000 households with wealth of $25 million, based on the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finance.

Nonetheless, the nine million households with a net worth of $1 million represent a steep ascent from the less than four million such households tracked by the government in 1995. And households with wealth of $1 million in 2004 represented 8 percent of the U.S. total, twice the 4 percent share 10 years earlier.

In an interview at the funky, fun, but decidedly unluxurious Mayrose Dinerin Manhattan's Flatiron district, Frank expressed concern that the older couple portrayed in the "Richistan" cover image — a satiric reinvention of Grant Wood's "American Gothic" painting — not give people the idea his tale is one of an older crowd. The playful placement of a golf club in the man's hand and a poodle in the arm ofthe woman, who stand before a McMansion, manicured lawn and swimmingpool, do suggest the sense of fun that permeates many of the writer'sstories about the lives of the new rich and their (relatively) fast money.

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