NEW YORK — The clamor for a thrilling luxury experience is getting louder.

Fifty-nine percent of affluent Americans — those with annual household income north of $99,999 — get the greatest personal satisfaction from luxury experiences such as traveling, dining, entertainment, and attending sporting events, while 21 percent find it through acquiring personal luxuries such as apparel, accessories, jewelry and automobiles. Twenty percent enjoy the most pleasure from home-related luxuries, according to findings in the American Express Platinum Luxury Survey, slated to be released today.

The snapshot of affluent consumers suggests a reversal from the shameless status-seeking of the Eighties to a post-9/11 era in which affluent people get the biggest charge from varied experiences. “The mind-set of affluent consumers in the Eighties was about ‘I need to wear the right brand of the right apparel; I need to live in the right house,’” noted Pamela N. Danziger, president of Stevens, Pa.-based Unity Marketing, who conducted the study in May for American Express. “Today, many get their thrills from the least expensive things — the luxury of more time, more space, sharing an experience with a loved one.”

As a result, spending for personal luxuries like fashion among affluent individuals amounted to $14,270, on average, in the 12 months prior to the survey, or 42 percent more than the $10,060 expended by affluent Americans on experiences and 16 percent more than the $12,300 spent on home luxuries. However, the well-heeled set shelled out 46 percent less for personal luxuries than the $26,401 expended, on average, by those who value upscale experiences most, or roughly 56 percent of those surveyed.

It was surprising, Danziger said, to find that 59 percent of those surveyed get the biggest kick out of a luxury experience rather than a top-flight product. “Today’s bragging rights are about traveling to far-flung destinations like Vietnam,” she related. “It’s not a status-symbol mentality.”

Fueling the quest for thrilling experiences, said the luxury specialist, is the basic reality that the more money people have, the more things they tend to have — and the more inclined they are to seek happiness beyond the satisfaction they derive from the products they purchase. For example, 88 percent of participants in the May study said they had enjoyed a luxury experience in the past 12 months, compared with 71 percent of those who acquired a home luxury in that period and 67 percent who purchased a personal luxury.

This story first appeared in the July 21, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Three key drivers motivated affluents who said they value experiences the most: 56 percent cited enjoyment or pleasure; 41 percent mentioned having time for important things in life and 41 percent noted reducing stress.

The research comprises a quantitative study of 900 consumers with household incomes of $100,000 and up, who bought or enjoyed an experiential, personal or home luxury in the past 12 months. The average household income of those surveyed was $175,000.