How to Put Your Wealth in Perspective

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Credit Suisse, one of the world’s leading financial services companies, just released its 2018 Global Wealth Report, the most current and extensive source of information on global household wealth.

The news was almost entirely good.

Of course, real wealth is not about how much you make. It’s how much you keep.

Personal income is not a good measure. There are plenty of people earning six- and even seven-figure incomes who prefer high living and end the year with little or nothing more than when they started it.

That’s not particularly smart, in my view. But it’s their money and they are free to spend it as they see fit.

Credit Suisse calculates an individual’s wealth (or net worth) by totaling all their assets – stocks, bonds, real estate, cash, etc. – and subtracting all liabilities – mortgages, car loans, credit card balances, etc.

Since the bank’s previous report came out a year ago, aggregate global wealth rose $14 trillion to $317 trillion. That represents a growth rate of 4.6%.

There are now 42.2 million millionaires worldwide, up 2.3 million over the past 12 months. And 878,000 – approximately 40% of them – are Americans.

(I’ve heard from countless readers that they’ve crossed that milestone in the past few years.)

China overtook Japan as the nation with the second-greatest number of millionaires. (Although average wealth per adult is still much higher in Japan.)

Only a few countries saw their number of millionaires decline.

These exceptions were almost entirely countries like Turkey, Argentina and Brazil that saw their currencies depreciate sharply.

(Wealth collapsed so rapidly in Venezuela that Credit Suisse said it was unable to offer a reliable estimate.)

The U.S. has accounted for 40% of the increase in global wealth since the financial crisis in 2008 – and 58% of the rise since 2013.

This is primarily due to rising real estate values, a booming stock market and a stronger dollar.

You don’t even need a six-figure net worth to make it into the global top 10%. A net worth of $93,170 makes you richer than 90% of the world’s population.

One hundred and two million Americans – more than a third of adults in this country – made the grade.

To make it into the global top 1%, however, you need a net worth of $871,320. Still, more than 19 million Americans are in that more rarified category.

If you didn’t make the top 1% or 10%, don’t feel bad.

For one, there is still time to get there if you follow the proven investment principles we talk about here.

And two, count your blessings. If you have $4,000 to your name, you’re still in the top global 50%.

A small fraction of the world population owns a large majority of the world’s wealth, but that share has been decreasing over the last three years.

Despite what you read on The New York Times’ op-ed pages each week, global economic inequality is falling not rising.

How do you become one of the wealthiest 1% in the U.S. or the world?

Studies show that very few get there by founding a computer company in their garage, playing third base for the Yankees or selling a million hip-hop albums.

It sounds pedestrian, but the vast majority of affluent Americans got there by maximizing their income, minimizing their outgo, and religiously saving and investing the difference.

How can we be sure?

Because of extensive data compiled and analyzed by Dr. Thomas Stanley, a respected researcher and author of the mega-best-seller The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy.

Stanley died in a car accident in Augusta, Georgia, three years ago, but his daughter, Sarah Stanley Fallaw, has carried on his work.

And in my column next Monday, I’ll discuss some of her most valuable new discoveries about wealth creation.

Good investing,

Alex

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