The Rich Still Are Different

The wealth of the world’s high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) declined by nearly one fifth last year to $33 trillion, according to the 2009 World Wealth Report from Merrill Lynch and Capgemini.  A HNWI has at least $1 million of assets besides a primary residence, its contents and collectible items.  In 2008, the number of HNWIs fell to 8.6 million, or slightly more than 0.1 percent of the world’s population.

Their wealth declined by more than 20 percent in North America, Europe and Asia, and by a bit less in Africa and the Middle East.  Latin America’s rich were the least affected: they lost just six percent of their wealth, and the number of HNWIs there fell by less than one percent.  In North America, which had a large proportion of people just above the $1 million threshold, the ranks slimmed by 19 percent.

An interesting aside:  That $33 trillion is almost half of the $70 trillion that constitutes the subset of global savings known as fixed-income securities – or, all the money in the world.