Global Wealth Report 2018: US and China in the lead
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Global Wealth Report 2018: US and China in the lead

Global wealth increased by 14 trillion USD last year – with China ranking second after the USA. Credit Suisse's Global Wealth Report breaks down the world's wealth and analyses the global outlook.

Our latest findings show that the world was wealthier in the past than our previous analysis indicated. New official statistical data and other reliable sources have led us to revise our estimate. The revision mostly relates to non-financial assets owned by the middle class.

China is now clearly established in second place

The main outcome of the new wealth valuations is confirmation of what many observers already suspected – that China is now clearly established in second place in the world’s wealth hierarchy. Another prominent feature of the world wealth outlook this year is the seemingly relentless rise in household wealth in the United States. Total wealth and wealth per adult in the United States have grown every year since 2008, even when total global wealth suffered a reversal in 2014 and 2015.

During the twelve months to mid-2018, aggregate global wealth rose by USD 14.0 trillion to USD 317 trillion, representing a growth rate of 4.6%. This was also sufficient to outpace population growth, so that wealth per adult grew by 3.2%, raising global mean wealth to USD 63,100 per adult, a record high.

Regional differences

The global mean wealth of USD 63,100 per adult masks considerable variation across countries and regions, as shown below.

World Wealth Map 2018

Switzerland and Australia lead the pack

Switzerland (USD 530,240), Australia (USD 411,060) and the United States (USD 403,970) again head the league table according to wealth per adult. The ranking by median wealth per adult favors countries with lower levels of wealth inequality and produces a slightly different table. This year, Australia (USD 191,450) edged ahead of Switzerland (USD 183,340) into first place.

The infographic below illustrates the geographical imbalance in the distribution of household wealth. North America and Europe together account for 60% of total household wealth, but contain only 17% of the world adult population.

Wealth inequality not rising any further

The early years of this century saw the most broad-based spell of wealth creation in recent history. More importantly, it was socially inclusive: all levels of society shared in the rewards.

This golden age came to a halt with the global financial crisis. The pattern of wealth creation also changed significantly. Top wealth holders benefited most from the rise in financial wealth, leading to rising wealth inequality in all parts of the world. In every region bar China, median wealth stopped rising, and in many places declined.

The evidence suggests that the growth pattern has recently shifted back toward the pre-crisis pattern. Wealth inequality has not yet fallen significantly, but has stabilized according to most indicators. As a result, future prospects for inclusive wealth growth look more promising than they have been for the past couple of years.

Watch the video with Michael O'Sullivan, Regional Chief Investment Officer EMEA, discussing the report.

Wealth outlook: more to come

Global wealth is projected to rise by nearly 26% over the next five years, reaching USD 399 trillion by 2023. Emerging markets are responsible for a third of the growth, although they account for just 21% of current wealth.

Wealth will primarily be driven by growth in the middle segment, but the number of millionaires will also grow markedly over the next five years to reach a new all-time high of 55 million.

The proportion of global adults with wealth below USD 10,000 has decreased since 2000. At the beginning of the century, 80% of global adults belonged to this stratum: today the fraction is 64%. Our projections show it decreasing further to 61% in 2023.

Women and wealth: Progress has been happening

This issue of the global wealth report reviews evidence on women's wealth from around the world for the first time. After rising as a share of global wealth in the 20th century, women’s wealth has risen this century in absolute terms and also relative to men’s wealth in some respects. In recent decades, women’s share of wealth has risen in Asia, along with the rise of China’s wealth. And there are signs that more self-made women are succeeding in business and entering the highest wealth ranks. While more needs to be done, there are signs that progress has been happening in much of the world.

Nannette Hechler-Fayd'herbe, Global Head of Investment Strategy and Research, Credit Suisse, on Women and Wealth.