The Rich Are Alright

Because I know you were all worried about them:


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As the article notes:

“We are not all in this together. The UK economy is flat, the US is weak and the Greek debt crisis, according to some commentators, is threatening another Lehman Brothers-style meltdown. But a new report shows the world’s wealthiest people are getting more prosperous – and more numerous – by the day.

The globe’s richest have now recouped the losses they suffered after the 2008 banking crisis. They are richer than ever, and there are more of them – nearly 11 million – than before the recession struck.

In the world of the well-heeled, the rich are referred to as “high net worth individuals” (HNWIs) and defined as people who have more than $1m (£620,000) of free cash.

According to the annual world wealth report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, the wealth of HNWIs around the world reached $42.7tn (£26.5tn) in 2010, rising nearly 10% in a year and surpassing the peak of $40.7tn reached in 2007, even as austerity budgets were implemented by many governments in the developed world.

The report also measures a category of “ultra-high net worth individuals” – those with at least $30m rattling around, looking for a home. The number of individuals in this super-rich bracket climbed 10% to a total of 103,000, and the total value of their investments jumped by 11.5% to $15tn, demonstrating that even among the rich, the richest get richer quicker. Altogether they represent less than 1% of the world’s HNWIs – but they speak for 36% of HNWI’s total wealth.

Age also helps: more than eight out of 10 of the world’s wealthiest people are aged over 45. So does being male: women account for just over a quarter of the total – though this is slightly higher than in 2008. The highest proportion of wealthy women is in North America – 37% of HNWIs – while the lowest is in the Middle East, which has 14%.

Generally, HNWIs are most concentrated in the US, Japan and Germany: 53% of the world’s most wealthy live in one of those three countries, but it is Asian-Pacific countries where the ranks of the rich are swelling fastest. For the first time last year the region surpassed Europe in terms of HNWI individuals.”

And what do they spend their money on?

“As the world’s richest people got even richer, so did their appetite for the playthings needed to satisfy their lifestyles. Growing wealth from the emerging economies, largely in Asia Pacific, helped spur the demand for these so-called “investments of passion”.

Sales of luxury cars jumped, with Mercedes-Benz reporting a rise in sales in China and Hong Kong of 112%, outpacing the total rise in its sales of 5%. Ferrari had its best ever year in China.

Chinese buyers are also pushing up the price of art. Last year, Bright Road, by contemporary Chinese artist Liu Ye, sold for three times the estimated price at auction. Chinese collectors are also passionate about European art. Two world records were set last year: $104.3m (£65m) for a Giacometti sculpture was later surpassed by a Picasso painting which fetched $106.5m.

In 2010, Sotheby’s set a 40-year record for the amount raised at wine auctions, with sales from its Hong Kong branch rising 268%. And Russian and Middle Eastern buyers are thought to have helped push up the price of diamonds to record levels.

Those from the Middle East are also interested in investing in football clubs such as Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City, though the report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini cited the most notable sports investment for 2010 as the sale of the St Louis Rams to entrepreneur Stan Kroenke. US basketball star Michael Jordan also bought a controlling interest in the Charlotte Bobcats basketball team.”

Thorstein Veblen probably turned in his grave.

3 thoughts on “The Rich Are Alright

  1. The fact that the y spend a large portion of their incomes on collectibles just demonstrates that the wealth of these folks does little to help the economy. Bidding up the price of artwork produced hundreds of years ago does absolutely nothing at all to spur economic growth. It is, perhaps, the single worst use of resource conceivable, other than pure destruction. IOW, the only thing worse for the economy than bidding up the price of old art would be just burning money.

    • And that certainly puts to rest the idea that we need to cut their taxes so they can consumer more and stimulate the economy.

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