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The Global Debt? Give the Big Boys the Bill

Research & Commentary
June 25, 2011


The world’s ultra rich, those 103,000 deep pockets with at least $30 million to invest, could afford to pay off the entire national debt of the world’s biggest deadbeat nations without having to sacrifice a single Rolls or Bentley.

Sober central bankers the world over — and their political pals — have been hyperventilating the last few months about the debts of the world’s most notorious deadbeat nations.

Over in Old Europe, we have Greece with a standing debt of some $485 billion. Over here in the New World, meanwhile, the United States owes some $9.4 trillion to the outside investing public.

“Crushing” debts like these, the debt hawks squawk, have only one remedy. The average people of deadbeat nations must swallow hard and accept austerity. They must shut down their libraries and overcrowd their classrooms — and start selling off their public assets as well. Anybody want to buy the Parthenon?

Amid all this debt hysteria, we might want to slow down a bit, unless we relish the possibility of having Donald Trump ending up the owner of the Acropolis. We need a little perspective, the sort we can get from the 15th annual World Wealth Report, a joint effort from Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and Capgemini, a Paris-based corporate and financial consultancy.

This latest World Wealth Report, released just last week, calculates — among other fascinating numbers — the total investible wealth of everyone in the world who now has at least $30 million available to invest.

Remember, we’re not talking total wealth here, only investible assets. The Capgemini-Merrill Lynch tallies don’t include the residences wealthy people call home, their diamonds, their luxury cars and yachts, or any other personal luxury goods and collectibles that sit in wealthy households.

The world now hosts, reckon Capgemini and Merrill Lynch, 103,000 individuals with $30 million or more sloshing in their investment accounts. Together, these “ultra-high net worth individuals” hold $15 trillion in investible wealth.

Cogitate on that total a moment. If the world’s ultra-high net worth folks had a hankering, they could totally pay off the Greek and U.S. debts, and still have almost $50 million each, on average, left to invest, on top of their mansions, Bentleys, and jewels. And the Greeks would get to keep the Acropolis!

The folks over at Capgemini and Merrill Lynch would never, of course, want to suggest for even a moment that the world’s “ultra-highs” — about 40 percent of whom, incidentally, live in the United States — either ought to have this hankering or be taxed into it. They’ve put together this World Wealth Report to impress the wealthy into becoming their clients, not to scare them.

But the rest of us remain free to suggest whatever we want — after we thank Capgemini and Merrill for providing all this wonderfully suggestive inspiration.

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