WASHINGTON (AFP) – A bare 0.004 per cent of the world’s adult population controls nearly $30 trillion in assets, 13 per cent of the world’s total wealth, according to a new study released Thursday.
And perhaps unsurprisingly, the study by the Swiss bank UBS and luxury industry consultant Wealth-X said the concentration of money in the hands of the ultra-rich is growing.
The report said 211,275 people qualify as “ultra-high net worth” (UHNW) – those with assets above $30 million. Of them, 2,325 have more than $1 billion.
Their numbers grew six per cent over the past year, but their wealth grew seven per cent, as asset markets like stocks and property soared in many places around the world.
The fastest growth, indeed, came in the “demi-billionaire” group worth a half-billion to a billion dollars apiece, the study said.
“Even amidst geopolitical conflicts, socio-economic strife, and volatile currency markets, the world’s equity markets displayed strong performances, thereby enabling UHNW individuals’ wealth to increase and their influence across industries and sectors to grow – from their importance in wealth management to their consumption of luxury goods,” it said.
“Such a large concentration of wealth in the hands of these few individuals means that they tend to have a large degree of influence, whether on global equity markets or specific industries.”
Of the nearly $30 trillion this elite group controls, just over one-third is in the hands of tycoons in North America, more than one-quarter in Europe, and 23 per cent in Asia.
Of them, 87 per cent are men, of the average age of 59, and nearly one-quarter of them were in banking. Of them, 68 per cent were “self-made” rich, 13 per cent rich by inheritance, and the rest a combination of the two.
The average ultra-rich woman was 57, and more likely to be involved in non-profit and social organisations (19 per cent) than any other sector.
Nearly half became wealthy through inheritance, while one-third were self-made wealthy.
As F Scott Fitzgerald wrote, the rich are different. The average UHNW-er spends $1 million a year on luxury goods and services.
Yet, the study points out, luxury items can be “part and parcel of their lifestyle and are not necessarily considered a ‘luxury’.”
“For example, UHNW individuals with private jets use their aircraft not only for leisure, but also for business purposes. On the other hand, while yachts, and particularly superyachts, are usually a non-necessity, many UHNW individuals lead very public lives, and the privacy of a family holiday on a yacht is a very special treat.”