Rich Getting Richer, But Future Is Not All Golden

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The world economy may stutter, but the number of ultra-wealthy has surged by 10% in the past year, according to new data.

To join the exclusive club, someone must have net assets of at least $50 million.

Research by wealth consultancy Wealth-X reckons only 129,730 people out of a global population of 7.44 billion fit the bill.

Between them., the ultra-wealthy have assets adding up to a combined $26.4 trillion.

Wealth-X managing director Vincent White believes this is a golden era for the ultra-wealthy, who have never had it so good.

Goldilocks economy

“There have been ‘Goldilocks’ economic conditions, not too hot and not too cold. These make it easier to do business, provide a good environment to raise capital and, above all, encourage entrepreneurialism – the key to wealth creation,” he said.

The rich are getting richer faster than before, he says, as the 2017 increase was the quickest in the past five years.

Economic growth and rising stock markets play their part in wealth creation, especially in countries where the local currency is pegged against the appreciating US dollar.

“Many currencies gained strength against the US dollar last year, which has resulted in a net increase in our estimates,” said White. “However, the relationship is not linear. There is an interplay between this and the other factors affecting wealth growth.”

North America is the world’s wealthiest region, with a population of 59,920 ultra-wealthy individuals – up from 44,000 in 2017.

Wealth inequality

But Asia is setting the pace and catching up by making multi-millionaires faster than any other region. With 55,740 ultra-wealthy – up from 35,880 last year – the experts figure Asia will soon overtake North America as the world’s richest region.

In China, the ultra-wealthy population will at least double in five years, according to Wealth-X, because of expected economic and stock market growth,  plus expectations for tougher rules about keeping money onshore.

But the future may not be so rosy for the ultra-rich.

“Even when overall conditions are negative, we have traditionally seen more resilience among ultra-wealthy populations,” said White.

“There are societal changes that are going to take place over the longer term – the reaction to wealth inequality is a pressure that shouldn’t be ignored. There may well be a point where the growth in ultra-wealthy populations doesn’t automatically continue on its current trajectory.”

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