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Australia’s millionaire boom

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 16, 2014


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Does it surprise you to hear Australia has more than 1.2 million millionaires? If it does, just think about how much we invest in housing.

Australia also has the highest median wealth in the world, with household wealth growing at an average annual pace of 11 per cent, according to a new Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse.

The fifth annual study by the Swiss bank of global wealth trends found the median Australian adult was worth more than $US225,000 ($258,000) in June, well ahead of the second wealthiest population on this measure, the ­Belgians, at $US173,000. They were followed by the Italians, French and British, all at around $US110,000.

There are a couple of reasons for this, but one of them is the composition of household wealth in Australia – it is heavily skewed towards “real assets” such as homes and apartments.

Real assets account for 60 per cent of gross household assets in Australia. With house prices rising, our median wealth is rising too. There are plenty of suburbs where the average price of a home is nudging $1 million. Lots of us need to be millionaires on paper just to own a home.

At any rate, the Global Wealth Report shows Australians have enjoyed some of the biggest gains in wealth in recent years. Here are some key graphs that tell the story of our millionaire boom:

Growth in median wealth by country, 2000-2014.© James Davies, Rodrigo Lluberas and Anthony Shorrocks/Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2014 Growth in median wealth by country, 2000-2014.

The above graph tracks trends in the median wealth of adults in different countries from 2000 to 2014.

Australians achieved some of the biggest gains in the Asia-Pacific region in the past 14 years, second only behind New Zealanders.

But why?

One of the things this graph shows is the impact of financial crises on median wealth, with New Zealand and Korea experiencing particularly large setbacks during the global financial crisis.

Median wealth in Korea, Hong Kong and India has still not recovered to the level achieved in 2007.

Australians suffered less during the GFC compared to their neighbours, but the pace at which their median wealth was growing before the crisis has slowed considerably in recent years.

We obviously fared better during the GFC than others and our recovery has been better too.

Number of millionaires by country, 2000-2014.© James Davies, Rodrigo Lluberas and Anthony Shorrocks/Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2014 Number of millionaires by country, 2000-2014.

The above graph shows the growth in the number of millionaires in various countries.

There were 1.1 million millionaires in Australia a few years ago. Now there are more than 1.25 million.

But while Australians have enjoyed the benefits of a stronger exchange rate and growing house prices and asset prices, other countries have fared less well.

Indonesia was doing surprisingly well since the financial crisis, outperforming all other countries in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding China) and the Middle East, until the economic reversals of the past 12 months.

In fact, the report’s authors note that the “exceptionally high” growth in millionaire numbers in Indonesia also reflect a “significant rise” in wealth inequality since 2008.

The number of millionaires in Japan fell below the level achieved in 2000, and then remained there for much of the period, before climbing again recently.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are countries which have not seen the number of millionaires return to the levels recorded before the financial crisis.

(This graph has excluded the number of millionaires in China because it is so far ahead of the rest of the region).

Millionaires by country, 2000 and 2014.© James Davies, Rodrigo Lluberas and Anthony Shorrocks/Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2014 Millionaires by country, 2000 and 2014.

The above graph shows how the changing fortunes of millionaires in the region have had a significant impact on the “residence pattern” of millionaires in Asia and Australia.

As this graph shows, Japan had more than three-quarters of the total resident millionaires in the Asia Pacific and Middle East at the beginning of the century. But its regional share has halved to 39 per cent.

China’s share has risen ten-fold to 18 per cent.

Australia’s share has risen four-fold to 17 per cent.

Representation in Korea, India and Singapore has roughly doubled, but the share has remained constant in Taiwan and fallen in Hong Kong.

Ultra high net worth individuals 2014: selected countries.© James Davies, Rodrigo Lluberas and Anthony Shorrocks/Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2014 Ultra high net worth individuals 2014: selected countries.

The report characterises “ultra-high net worth individuals” as people whose net worth is over $US50 million ($57.4 million) and as the graph above shows, America has plenty of them.

There are roughly 128,200 ultra-high net worth individuals in the world, of which 45,200 are worth at least $US100 million and 4300 have assets above $US500 million.

America clearly dominates the regional rankings.

The number of high-net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals has grown rapidly in recent years, but the report’s authors say it is hard to say whether the very wealthy have “benefited most” since the financial crisis.

“Little can be deduced about inequality trends from the fact that the number of millionaires and billionaires is growing faster than average wealth,” the report says.

“This is almost certain to happen when wealth is growing, regardless of whether inequality is rising or falling.”

@MSN

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