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- 10 Jun 2010
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The Millionaire is Back


According to a new study by The Boston Consulting Group, the global number of millionaire households has returned to boom-time levels.

The 2010 Global Wealth Report by The Boston Consulting Group says there were 11.2 million millionaire households in the world at the end of 2009; (that’s households with $1 million or more in assets under management, not including real-estate, private businesses or luxury goods), This figure represents a 14% jump from 2008 bringing the total count to a level similar to that which characterised the golden, pre-recession days.

The U.S. saw particularly strong growth, with the number of millionaire households rising to 4.7 million — still the largest number of millionaire households in the world. On the other hand, Singapore had the highest “millionaire density” with 11% of all households being millionaires.

Does this mean that the rich have weathered the recession well and emerged on the other side with their finances more or less in tact?

Not really, says Bruce Holley, senior partner at BCG. In fact, many millionaires lost their fortunes while others found ways to capitalise on the new economic environment and make theirs for the first time. “When we got this data back we were very surprised, this caused a lot of discussion internally,” Mr. Holley says. “I’m out there talking to a lot of wealthy families who have been burned… [It is] not the same people who gained, lost, and gained it back again.”

Moreover, Holley stressed that the notion of financial ‘pain’ is relative and many billionaires who still look rich on paper have in no way returned to their pre-recession situation: "Someone with a billion looks at their numbers and complains like they’re someone with $100,000…they say ‘I have big mortgages to pay, I may have to liquidate some assets, I can’t make certain investments.”

These detailed points aside, overall, the rising number of millionaires may look like cause for optimism. However, the improvements at the top end of the financial hierarchy are not matched at the middle and bottom, and as a consequence global inequality has actually widened.