World's millionaire class swelled despite pandemic, global wealth report finds

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The ranks of the world’s richest grew significantly in 2020 while much of the world felt financial strain amid the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn.

The number of millionaires globally jumped to 56.1 million, with 5.2 million joining the group last year, according to the 2021 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, while the number of ultra high net worth individuals — those with net worth above $50 million — grew by 24% to 215,030.

The report included housing wealth and investable assets when estimating net worth, which is generally considered to be the value of the assets a person owns minus their liabilities.

“Wealth creation in 2020 appears to have been completely detached from the economic woes resulting from COVID-19,” Anthony Shorrocks, economist and author of the report, said in a press release. “In the lower wealth bands where financial assets are less prevalent, wealth has tended to stand still, or, in many cases, regressed.”

Millionaires’ share of global wealth rose from 35% in 2000 to 46% in 2020 — reaching $191.6 trillion or at least four times what it was two decades ago. And to qualify for the global top 1%, individuals now require a net worth of more than $1,055,337, up from $988,103 from a year ago. 

The U.S. contributed a third of the new millionaires — 1.7 million new millionaires and newly 21,323 ultra high net worth individuals — in 2020, according to the report. Germany came in second, adding 633,000 millionaires and 1,630 ultra rich individuals in 2020.

Global wealth grew by $28.7 trillion in 2020, reaching a total of $418.3 trillion, driven by the U.S. stock market rebounding to record highs by the end of the year in addition to the rise of housing prices supported by low-interest rates. 

Rich Uncle Pennybags in New York City on March 17, 2021. (Charles Sykes/AP Images for Hasbro, Inc.)

“The top wealth groups are relatively unaffected by reductions in the overall level of economic activity,” the authors wrote in the report. “More importantly, they have also benefited from the impact of lower interest rates on share prices and house prices.”

And while the number of millionaires and ultra rich grew in 2020, inequality increased. The report found that approximately 2.9 billion individuals — or 55% of all adults globally — had net worths below $10,000 as of 2020.

“The contrast between what has happened to household wealth and what is happening in the wider economy can never have been more stark,” the report noted.

The global wealth pyramid 2020. (Global Wealth Report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute)

Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova

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