Millionaires Now Own Half of World’s Personal Wealth – And They Are Getting Richer A Lot Faster

The rich are getting a lot richer and doing so a lot faster!

According to a recent report released by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), personal wealth around the globe reached US$201.9 trillion last year, a 12% gain from 2016 and the strongest annual pace in the past 5 years.

Booming equity markets swelled fortunes, and investors outside the US got an exchange-rate bonus as most major currencies strengthened against the greenback.

The rising number of millionaires and billionaires worldwide

The growing ranks of millionaires and billionaires now hold almost half of global personal wealth, up from slightly less than 45% in 2012, according to the report.

The bulk of world’s wealth was held by residents of North America, which had $86.1 trillion of total wealth – 42% of investable capital is held by people with more than $5 million in assets. Investable assets include equities, investment funds, cash and bonds.

“The fact that the wealth held by millionaires as a percentage of total wealth is increasing does not mean that the poor are getting poorer,” said Ms Anna Zakrzewski, the report’s lead author.

“What it means is that everyone is getting richer. Specifically, we believe that the rich are getting richer faster.”

Last year’s big winner was China, which now ranks second globally in terms of financial wealth after overtaking Japan in the past 5 years, Ms Zakrzewski said. While China trails only the United States in the number of millionaires and billionaires, the biggest driver of growth in the Asian country was its so-called “mass affluent” segment, or those with US$250,000 to US$1 million of investable assets.

“China will continue to experience similar growth as in the past and this will mean that over the next 5 years, there will be more wealth created in China than in the US,” she said, adding the number of millionaires there is expected to grow four times as fast as in the US.

Currency appreciation 

photography of one us dollar banknotes
Photo by Burst on

Without the boost from a weakening dollar, the global wealth gain would have been 7%. The region that benefited the most from currency appreciation was Western Europe, where a 15% advance in US dollar terms shrinks to 3% in local currency.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia had the greatest concentration of wealth at the top, with billionaires alone holding almost a quarter of investable assets.

The 28 Eastern Europeans in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index have a total net worth of $294 billion, which includes a gain of $3.4 billion so far in 2018.

Wealth is also highly concentrated in Hong Kong, where individuals with more than US$20 million hold 47% of investable riches, according to the report.

The Middle East was the region with the greatest share of wealth held in investable assets – $3.1 trillion of a total $3.8 trillion.

Western European residents held 56% in currency and deposits, while in North America, the emphasis was on equities and investment funds, with 62% of $47 trillion of investable wealth parked in those assets.

If personal wealth creation continues at the rate of the past few years, Boston Consulting projects a compound annual growth rate of about 7% from 2017 to 2022, in US dollars. Events like stock market corrections and geopolitical uncertainties could knock that down to 4%.

In a worse-case scenario, such as a major economic crisis, global wealth might produce a compound growth rate of only 1% over 5 years, the study found.

Source: Bloomberg 

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