What's your pleasure?

The rich aren't like me and you — they have more to spend. Here's how they're doing it.

Hot wheels

The most sought-after ride on the market today is Ferrari's 60th anniversary car, the Enzo. Released in 2002 and named after company founder Enzo Ferrari, only 399 of the flashy red sports cars exist. Initially sold for US$700,000, the Enzo now trades at about US$1.2 million. Equally coveted by the CEO set is the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, an updated version of the classic Gullwing. But don't expect to walk into a showroom and buy this US$450,000 coupe straight from the lot: to get your hands on one (only 3,500 will be made) you needed to have plunked down a US$50,000 deposit five years ago. L.B.

Bling bling

Nothing signifies wealth better than a body bedecked in sumptuous designer jewelry. And the newest way to achieve that look is laboratory-made diamonds. Dubbed “cultured diamonds” by manufacturer Gemesis, the jewels boast the same chemical properties as mined diamonds, without the hefty price tags. Playing on consumers' current love of coloured diamonds found rarely in nature, Gemesis has been selling yellow and orange diamonds for just over a year, and recently introduced pink and red diamonds. The product is especially popular with wealthy fashionistas who can now commission extravagant pieces for, say, $35,000 instead of $300,000. Only your jeweller will know for sure. L.B.

Travels deluxe

Whether it's a five-day sojourn at the exclusive Singita Private Game Reserve in the wilds of South Africa (about $20,000 for a family of four) or a breath of fresh Himalayan mountain air at India's soothing Ananda spa (US$5,225 for eight days) the jet-setting crowd spares no expense when it comes to luxury travel. If Safari-style excursions or Ayurvedic seaweed body wraps aren't your thing, consider hopping to the island retreat of Seychelles, where A-list guests stay at the US$2,800-a-night Frégate Island Private, a 16-villa resort complete with panoramic clifftop views. Well-heeled travelers looking to stay a little closer to home can always book the US$12,900-a-night, two-bedroom Presidential Suite in midtown Manhattan's swish St. Regis hotel. Peanuts, really. E.P.

Black plastic

One measure of a man's worth, it might be said, is the colour of his credit card. Gold, of course, is good, but platinum is better. But is it the best? Not these days. The hyper-wealthy wouldn't be caught dead without the American Express Centurion card, or black card. Don't bother applying, AmEx will contact you. Membership definitely has its privileges: there are free airline upgrades, a free international cellphone as well as the services of a personal travel counsellor and a concierge to help with special-occasion planning. Some service industry personnel have reportedly been confused by the colour, not even aware there is such a card. Now that's rich. J.S.

Bon appetit!

So where are the wealthy dining? In Montreal, they should be trying Garçon. “It” spots like Globe are still popular, but Garçon is getting noticed for its classical French elegance. The intimate restaurant sports one detail always appreciated by gastronomes: a proper maître d'. In Vancouver, Chambar, a new Belgian restaurant run by star chef Nico Schuermans, is also attracting attention for its more formal atmosphere. Schuermans serves up Belgian staples such as moules frites and potato waffles (with goat cheese) in small servings, or tapas-style, which is all the rage right now. The trend toward smaller plates landed in Toronto last year, where the new Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar has been packing in chic crowds. Diners can share and mingle various small dishes (such as a Moroccan poutine featuring merguez sausage and pecorino cheese), each of which is paired with a particular wine. J.S.

Grape expectations

Few things accompany the good life of the super-rich better than a fine glass of Bordeaux or Barolo. For rare and obscure wines that will impress your guests, it would behoove you to seek the services of a wine agent. Rob Jull, owner of Toronto-based Vinifera, imports boutique French wines for connoisseurs who are looking for a unique vintage–price be damned. “We have a lot of clients who easily spend between $30,000 and $50,000 a year on wine; some spend even more,” says Jull. Once you succumb to the charms of the grape, of course, you will need a wine cellar–an essential part of any oenophile's mansion. A good wine agent will help you plan, stock and maintain your cellar. À votre santé! J.G.

House proud

If you want to be surrounded by other affluent folk, choose your neighbourhood according to mailing address. In Toronto, Rosedale's M4W postal codes duke it out with Forest Hill's M5P and M5N addresses for supreme status. But it is actually residents in the M4N area–the district bordered by the Don River to the north, Blythwood Road to the south, Bayview Avenue to the east and Yonge Street to the west–who have the highest median total family income in the country. In Vancouver, traditionally posh postal codes V7W and V7R are in competition with V3H, which covers the up-and-coming Belcarra community. Other top postal codes: Montreal's H3Y Westmount, H3X Hampstead and H3R Mont-Royal; and Calgary's west-end regions of T3Z and T3H, and T3R to the north. L.B.

Saving face

For one of the most memorable nip-and-tuck experiences money can buy, Toronto-based plastic surgeon Dr. Lloyd Carlsen will whisk you away to his Grand Cayman hospital where you can relax in the sun after going under the knife. For about $20,000, Dr. Carlsen will do your face, eyelids and forehead before depositing you at an upscale condo complex on Seven Mile Beach to recover. (The cost of airfare and accommodation is separate, dahlings.) “All these patients are in the ocean 48 hours after surgery, so they have a holiday as well,” says the 64-year-old surgeon, who has been offering what's become known as a “beauty and the beach” experience to well-sandalled patients since 1978. E.P.

A room of one's own

Cigar smokers are personae non gratae in restaurants and bars across Canada. Even in one's own home, owing to the sensibilities of significant others, fine-tobacco enthusiasts often are forced to suffer the ignominy of lighting up out of doors. But fret not. If the rest of the world doesn't like your smoke, to a custom-built personal cigar room with you. Ely Sbrozzi, general manager of La Casa Del Habano, a cigar retailer in Toronto's tony Yorkville neighborhood, recommends putting the room in your basement. Make the doors airtight, and seal off any return ventilation to other parts of the house. Then install a top-notch air purifier or heat recovery ventilator–which can cost upward of $1,800, plus labour. Add comfy chair, ashtray, perhaps a well-stocked bar, and enjoy. Total cost of the smoking room deluxe: $50,000 to $100,000.

Posh greens

Never mind luxurious mansions or extravagant cars, the most coveted symbol of success is the exclusive golf and country club membership. One of the most secretive is the Capilano Golf and Country Club, which even requires a password to access its website. This West Vancouver course, known for its spectacular mountain scenery, reportedly costs more than $70,000 to join and has a waiting list upward of five or 10 years. Back east in Aurora, Ont., Magna Golf Club, created by Magna International Inc. chairman Frank Stronach, is the picture of opulence. Each blade of grass is clipped perfectly and every member's whim is catered to. The course is known to be wide and forgiving, making it less challenging than hillside Capilano, but the prestige of paying $125,000 for a membership makes up for it. The height of seclusion is Redtail Golf Club nestled among the cornfields just outside of St. Thomas, Ont. Designed by renowned British golf course architect Donald Steel, it's more minimalist than other courses, but the experience is what really counts–especially when play is by invitation only and costs about $10,000 annually for a spot on the club's exclusive Round Table. B.G.

Tax tips

If you've got loads of dough, how can you keep the government's hands off it? According to George Denier, tax partner with KPMG, the wealthiest Canadians use three main strategies to reduce their tax bills.

  1. Estate planning This involves income splitting, where money earned is directed into the hands of various family members, thereby reducing the marginal tax rate paid on each chunk of change. If there's a family corporation, estate planning can also include estate freezing, a means of deferring tax on the increasing value of any shares owned.
  2. Insurance-based solutions Most sophisticated insurance products have some tax-sheltering features. For example, if you invest $1 million in a life insurance policy, you pay no tax on the income it earns and, upon death, your family gets it all back tax-free. Put the same million in the bank and you'll be taxed in the ordinary manner.
  3. Tax-effective charitable giving By donating securities instead of cash, you minimize the amount of tax paid on the increase in value of your holdings, while still getting a tax-deduction credit equivalent to the full value of the gift. You may be poorer overall, but you'll be less poor than you would be otherwise. And it means the money is directed to an institution of your choice, rather than distributed by the government. L.B.