6 Surprising Facts About the Richest People in the World

Despite the continuing problems in the global economy, the ultra-rich have helped to push up average wealth in the world to an all-time high of US$51,600 per adult (£32,399). But what do those averages hide?

The data, published in a new report by Credit Suisse, also reveals the countries that have seen the biggest rises in wealth, and which are likely to in the future. Here are some of the main findings:

1. The wealthiest 32m people own more than the poorest 4.3bn put together

The idea of the world's wealthy 1% is still a powerful one – and graphics like the pyramid below demonstrate that stark contrast between the few and the many.

32m individuals (just 0.7% of the world's population) together hold US$98.7tn (or £62,000,0000,000,000, which represents 41% of global wealth).

At the other extreme, there are 3.2bn individuals at the bottom of the pyramid. Together they have 3% of global riches, despite representing 68.7% of the world population. But it might be surprising how little wealth an individual has to have to get out of that bottom tier and in with the top 33% of the world's population: US$10,000 is sufficient.

richImage: Credit Suisse, World Wealth Report 2013

2. 110 rich Russians

With just 110 individuals holding 35% of the country's riches, Russia has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world (with the exception of some small Caribbean nations that have resident billionaires). There's a stark contrast between that and the world average, where billionaires hold around 1-2% of wealth.

Globally, for every US$170bn in household wealth there is on average 1 billionaire. In Russia, there is just US$11bn in household wealth for every billionaire in the country.

RichImage: Credit Suisse, World Wealth Report 2013

3. Wealth can be fleeting

Fortunes can go down as well as up. Using the Forbes rich list, Credit Suisse caught up with individuals that had been classified as billionaires as far back as 2001, to see how many were still among the super-rich by 2013.

The financial crisis did very little to chance a consistent trend. In the first year after making it to the list of the top 100, around 33 individuals dropped out. By the time a decade had passed, more than 60 billionaires of the top 100 lost their status.

richImage: Credit Suisse, World Wealth Report 2013

4. Europeans can lose wealth easier than Africans

The blues on the right-hand side of this graph show people who have increased their wealth over thirty years; the lighter the blue, the bigger the jump in wealth. The oranges and yellows on the other side indicate people who have slid down the wealth scale in their respective countries.

Globally, the graphic shows that on average almost half of individuals do not significantly change their wealth status over the course of their lifetimes, and change is the least likely in Africa. So you have more chance of losing wealth if you live in Europe than in Africa. But at the other extreme, there's also a much bigger chance individuals in Europe will move up the wealth scale too.

China has the world's highest level of wealth mobility. Almost 75% of the country has seen their wealth rise significantly in the past three decades.

richImage: Credit Suisse, World Wealth Report 2013

5. By 2018, Poland will have seen the biggest rise in billionaires

But how will wealth change in the future? Credit Suisse predicts the number of millionaires for various countries by 2018. Globally, there will be a 50% rise in the number of millionaires in the next five years. Although the US will continue to top the list with the highest number of millionaires, in terms of percentage change, Poland's population will experience the biggest leap – with 89% more billionaires in 2018 than it had in 2013.

6. Libya has seen the biggest growth in household wealth

If the past year is anything to go by, individuals in any country can see their wealth radically change as a result of sometimes unexpected national events. In Libya, household wealth leapt by more than 60% between 2012 and 2013 while households in Egypt saw their wealth fall by over 10%.

RichImage: Credit Suisse, World Wealth Report 2013

Here's what wealth looks like today, click here to read the report and see the full-size images.


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