Global household wealth increased 9.8% to $463.6tn in 2021 on share price gains

Credit Suisse report shows the top 1% of super rich accounted for 45.6% of the global wealth share last year

Wealth per adult rose 8.4 per cent to $87,489 last year, according to Credit Suisse's Global Wealth Report 2022. Getty
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Global wealth at prevailing exchange rates jumped 9.8 per cent to $463.6 trillion in 2021 from the previous year, driven by gains in share prices and lower interest rates, according to Swiss bank Credit Suisse.

Setting aside exchange-rate movements, aggregate global wealth grew by 12.7 per cent in 2021, which is the fastest annual rate yet recorded, the bank said in its Global Wealth Report 2022, which analysed the household wealth of 5.3 billion people.

Accounting for inflation lowers the wealth growth rates, with the estimated increase in real wealth at 8.2 per cent last year, Credit Suisse said.

Wealth per adult rose 8.4 per cent to $87,489 last year, while the US added the most household wealth in 2021 at $19.5tn, followed by China ($11.2tn), Canada ($1.8tn), India ($1.5tn) and Australia ($1.4tn), according to the report.

“While some reversal of the exceptional wealth gains of 2021 is likely in 2022/2023 as several countries face slower growth or even recession, our five-year outlook is for wealth to continue growing,” said Nannette Hechler-Fayd’herbe, chief investment officer for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and global head of economics and research at Credit Suisse.

“Our forecast is that, by 2024, global wealth per adult should pass the $100,000 threshold and that the number of millionaires will exceed 87 million individuals over the next five years.”

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic tipped the world economy into its worst recession since the Great Depression, forcing countries into lockdowns that led to higher unemployment and reduced salaries.

However, the generous financial support given to households by governments in many advanced countries and monetary support measures implemented by central banks, coupled with lower interest rates and limitations on consumption opportunities, boosted household wealth throughout the world.

A survey by jobs portal and market research company YouGov in November 2020 found that about 68 per cent of people in the UAE considered saving money as a top priority in 2021.

But factors such as the Russia-Ukraine war, inflation, rising interest rates and declining asset price trends could reverse last year’s growth in household wealth in 2022, the Credit Suisse report said.

Although all regions contributed to the rise in global wealth last year, North America and China dominated. North America accounted for more than half the global total of household wealth and China added another quarter.

In contrast, Africa, Europe, India and Latin America together accounted for about 11 per cent of global wealth growth because of widespread depreciation against the US dollar in these regions, the research found.

“Wealth losses were less common and almost always associated with currency depreciation against the US dollar,” said Anthony Shorrocks, economist and author of the Global Wealth Report 2022.

“Analysis of median wealth within countries and across the world shows that global wealth inequality has fallen this century due to faster growth achieved in emerging markets. The average household has thus been able to build up wealth over the last two decades.”

Total household wealth amounted to $2.1tn in Saudi Arabia and $1tn in the UAE last year, according to Credit Suisse.

However, because of Saudi Arabia’s higher population, wealth per adult in the UAE at $122,841 was 46 per cent higher than in Saudi Arabia at $84,407.

Net worth per adult in Saudi Arabia rose 7.1 per cent and 6.8 per cent in the UAE in 2021, the report said.

Meanwhile, the wealth share of the global top 1 per cent rose for a second year running to reach 45.6 per cent in 2021, up from 43.9 per cent in 2019.

US dollar millionaires gained 5.2 million members during 2021 and totalled 62.5 million worldwide in 2021.

The number of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals (with wealth above $50 million) expanded at a much faster rate, adding 21 per cent new members in 2021, according to Credit Suisse.

The US continued to rank highest with more than 140,000 UHNW individuals, followed by China with 32,710 individuals. The US also gained the most UNHW members at 30,470, followed by China at 5,200 last year.

The number of millionaires will grow markedly over the next five years to 87 million, while the number of UHNWIs will reach 385,000, the report said.

“Global wealth in nominal US dollars is expected to increase by $169tn by 2026, a rise of 36 per cent,” according to Credit Suisse.

“Low and middle-income countries currently account for 24 per cent of wealth, but will be responsible for 42 per cent of wealth growth over the next five years. Middle-income countries will be the primary driver of global trends.”

Updated: September 21, 2022, 7:48 AM