Good year to sell to the mega-rich

The rich are getting richer, according to the latest Wealth Report, a report on the world’s super-rich published annually by property management firm, Knight Frank.

The number of ultra-high net worth individuals, or UHNWI, which the report defines as people with $30 million or more in net assets, increased between 2012 and 2013 to 167,000 worldwide.

The report also found that the super-rich have increased by 59 percent over the past decade, with the number of billionaires counted in dollars increasing by 80 percent to 1,682 individuals worldwide.

The Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 is said to have coined the phrase: “We are the 99 percent.” It seems their math was a bit off. Worldwide, the disparity comes out to something more like 99.9 percent. The total number of mega-rich individuals is small, yet they control increasingly large amounts of wealth.

They also spend it more and more lavishly. Chinese are buying up French wineries, Malta will start selling passports for about €650,000 without any residence requirement, and Rolls-Royce sales are up in the Middle East and in China. Rolls-Royce sales were also hot in Japan.

Most of these super-wealthy put their money in property — second homes such as seaside villas and ski chalets — but also in commercial property such as hotels and office towers.

The purpose of the report is not to expose increasing economic inequality, though, but rather to guide the yacht builders, investment advisors and luxury carmakers that make a living from sales of luxury items to the ultra-wealthy.

The report details where and how the ultra-rich spend their money so that high-end specialty services that cater to them can get a piece. Such reports on wealth seem to find nothing wrong with increasing disparities in wealth.

The United States, Japan and Germany are still home to more millionaires and billionaires than other countries. China, though, is projected to have more and more ultra-rich in the coming decade, adding up to more billionaires than Britain, Russia, France and Switzerland combined by 2023, according to the report.

The super-rich UHNWIs in Japan are doing very well for themselves. Japan was home to 16,450 UHNWIs in 2013. That number was predicted to grow by 15 percent before 2023.

Japan is also home to 1,915 centa-millionaires (defined as having $100 million or more in net assets). That’s up 39 percent over the last decade.

Perhaps the annual Wealth Report is simply an investment advisory survey helping luxury-oriented companies. Yet, from another point of view, the survey’s projections of increasing amounts of wealth for a few individuals is an alarming indictment of the vast inequalities of the global economic system.

  • I think we need to celebrate the fact that there are more wealthy people in the world. I think we have to stop thinking that there is more poverty in the world because there are more millionaires. I’d prefer to see more money in the hands of the wealthy simply because that is what personal growth is about (not just money), and they are better custodians of it than govts ever will be. Yes, we can condemn the Bernie Madoffs of the world, however they are just a fraction of the wealth builders deriving it by illegitimate means. Govts in contrast are completely illegitimate in their efforts. They don’t earn anything, and I can’t think of a well-governed nation. I think its the model. Its equally interesting that the system does no seem to project the character values of the old colonial days – notwithstanding the same flaws. We are living under a degenerative system. Let’s celebrate the progress of the few; and condemn those who look to government for welfare – not justice.