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With So Many New Millionaires, Is The Seven-Figure Club That Special Anymore?


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It's estimated there's 7.7 billion people in the world. According to the Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse, 46.8 million of them are millionaires holding 44% of the world's wealth. The seven-figure club welcomed 1.1 million new members since 2018 and now represents a combined $158.3 trillion of global wealth.


The world's nearly 47 million millionaires represent only 0.9% of the total adult population. Conversely, 2.9 billion people, or about 57% of all adults globally, have less than $10,000 in wealth.


The U.S. is the greatest country in the world, if you're measuring in terms of the number of millionaires, with nearly 40% of the world's millionaires. Despite income inequality in the U.S. now at the highest level since the Census Bureau started tracking it in 1967, the U.S. added 675,000 new millionaires, bringing its total to 18.6 million individuals.


Rounding out the top five countries with the largest number of millionaires are China, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany. Despite having the most millionaires, the U.S. now trails China in the number of "global wealthy," defined as those in the top 10% of wealth in the world.


The report couldn't ignore the issue of wealth inequality, saying "There is no doubt that the level of wealth inequality is high, both within countries and for the world as a whole." The bottom half of the world's adults now account for less than 1% of total global wealth.


In what is surely a result of global central bank policies, the aggregate wealth of adults with more than $1 million in wealth has grown nearly four-fold from $39.6 trillion in 2000 to $158.3 trillion in 2019. Over this period, their share of the global wealth has risen from 34% to 44%. The report even points a finger at central banks, saying "Financial assets grew rapidly in response to quantitative easing and artificially low interest rates. These factors raised the share of the top 1% of wealth holders."


The wealth segment that has seen the largest increase since 2000 is adults with wealth between $10,000 and $100,000. This segment, which may reflect an expanding middle class in the developing world, tripled in size from 514 million individuals in 2000 to 1.7 billion last year. The report makes the case that, by this measure, wealth inequality may be declining, saying "While it is too early to say that wealth inequality is now in a downward phase, the prevailing evidence suggests that 2016 may have been the peak for the foreseeable future."


With central banks unlikely to reverse their policies that have enabled millionaires to control nearly half of the world's wealth anytime soon, it remains to be seen how this ends. Should the day come where those who are not members of the millionaire club have had enough, they will certainly have an advantage in size.


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