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Don’t Ever Bet Against America’s Wealthy

Research & Commentary
May 07, 2011


Researchers at the Deloitte global financial consulting group are calculating that the U.S. millionaire share of world millionaire wealth will actually increase over the next decade.

Deloitte LLP has just become the latest global financial industry giant to take a stab at tallying the wealth of the world’s wealthy, joining, among others, Merrill Lynch, the Boston Consulting Group, and Credit Suisse. But Deloitte seems to be carving out a niche all its own in the wealth census sweepstakes: the future.

The global wealth study Deloitte’s Center for Financial Services released last week projects, a decade ahead, the wealthy’s wealth in 25 major countries “selected for their size, growth potential, and strategic importance.”

By 2020, Deloitte calculates, the holdings of all these wealthy will have more than doubled, from $92 trillion in 2011 to $202 trillion in 2020.

How reliable can we rate these projections? Deloitte’s investigators, working with Oxford Economics, have tried to avoid “subjective judgments.” They’ve instead categorized the current holdings of the world’s rich by asset type, then projected overall growth in each category.

The goal: A snapshot of world wealth, in 2020, that financial managers can use to plan their marketing — to the rich — efforts.

And the main advice Deloitte now has to offer these financial managers? Don’t let those rising growth rates in China and India, Deloitte advises, get you dazzled. Grand fortune’s real home, for deep into the future, will remain the United States.

In 2020, the Deloitte projections indicate, Americans will hold 43 percent of the world’s millionaire household wealth, up slightly from the 42 percent share of this wealth that wealthy Americans hold today.

The Deloitte wealth totals, unlike most other recent global wealth tallies, encompass both financial assets — stocks, bonds, and other investments — and nonfinancial assets like primary residences and consumer durables.

About 38 million households in the nations the Deloitte study tracks hold at least $1 million in total net worth. By 2020, Deloitte projects, over 65 million will have hit the million mark. Over 20 million of them will live in the United States.

The U.S. share will be equally pronounced among the richest of the rich, those households worth at least $30 million. The United States has 496,000 such households today. In 2020, an estimated 620,000 U.S. households will hold $30 million or more in wealth. China will rank second, with 327,000 super rich.

These figures, of course, all represent just good guesses. The Deloitte projection model, like all forecasting models, has to make assumptions. Chief among these assumptions: the expectation that tax policies around the globe won’t change significantly between now and 2020.

That’s a reasonable assumption to make, particularly for financial industry analysts. Their rich clients in the United States and around the globe have, after all, been doing a fairly efficient job quashing any and all moves to tax, at significantly higher levels, the incomes and wealth of the world’s most fortunate.

If that quashing continues, the new Deloitte numbers make plain, the world’s wealthy — and America’s wealthy particularly — will enjoy a golden decade, no matter how rocky a road the rest of us may have to travel.

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