updated 4/28/2008 11:55:49 PM ET 2008-04-29T03:55:49

Even millionaires are feeling the economic squeeze, with many saying they don’t even “feel” wealthy. But as a group, they are optimistic that things will improve in the next year.

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The Fidelity Millionaire Outlook, a survey of 1,000 people with at least $1 million in assets to invest, found that you don’t have to be a laid-off worker in a rust belt state to have a negative view of the nation’s economy.

Using a scale ranging from minus 100 as the worst to 100 as the best, the survey found that high net-worth individuals have a minus 50, or “very weak,” view of the economy right now. But when asked where things will be next January, the grade rises to a positive 18.

That could mean millionaires see “today’s problem as tomorrow’s opportunity,” said Jack Callahan, president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, the unit that sponsored the survey, which was conducted by an independent research firm.

People with more than $10 million to invest other than their home and retirement savings — what Fidelity called “deca-millionaires” — have a more pessimistic view than those with less than $2.5 million.

Tellingly, about 19 percent of the people surveyed do not consider themselves wealthy, even though they have, on average, $3 million to invest and earn at least $270,000 a year.

Callahan suggested that reflects people in this category struggling to maintain a lifestyle their income can’t support. “It says these folks are spending beyond their means,” he said.

Overall, 31 percent of those surveyed intend to put more money in the next year into fixed-income vehicles — typically bonds or preferred stocks that carry lower risk and guaranteed returns. Some 27 percent plan to buy more individual stocks, with about half that, 14 percent, planning to increase real estate investments.

“As they look at the future and look at the markets, they see fixed-income as the best,” Callahan said. While fixed-income investments are usually considered safer, he noted that many have lost value in the last year because of the subprime housing crisis and credit crunch. Three-quarters of those surveyed said the subprime fallout hurt their investments, with 42 percent saying the effect has been at least moderate.

The 2008 survey, taken in January by Burke Inc., did not identify Fidelity as the sponsor. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The outlook is the second such survey Burke did for Fidelity. Last year’s results found a score of positive 41 for the economy a year ago, but just a positive 6 for where things would be at the beginning of this year.

While that didn’t quite predict the recession many economists say the country is in now, it does indicate that millionaires saw a slowdown on its way. In particular, millionaires last year expected difficulties in the stock market and in real estate.

“It will be an interesting indicator to track over the years,” Callahan said. “Millionaires, as business people, look to the future.”

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