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Worldly Possessions

Jonathan Clements  |  December 17, 2016

HOW MUCH are we all worth? The Credit Suisse Research Institute recently published its 2016 Global Wealth Report, as well as the accompanying Global Wealth Databook. It’s a tricky undertaking, given the difficulty of getting accurate data, even for developed countries. Still, the results are intriguing:

  • U.S. families own 33.2% of the world’s $256 trillion net worth. This figure combines financial assets (think stocks and bonds) and real assets (principally housing), with household debts then subtracted.
  • U.S. net worth averages $345,000 per adult, while the median net worth is $45,000. (The $345,000 average represents total U.S. net worth divided by all U.S. adults—and is skewed upward by the super-wealthy—while the $45,000 median represents the net worth of adults halfway down the wealth spectrum.) Worldwide, average net worth is $53,000 and median net worth is $2,200.
  • Global gross wealth is split between 54.5% financial assets and 45.5% real assets, while debts are equal to 14.1% of gross wealth. In the U.S., financial assets make up a much larger portion of gross wealth—between 64% and 72%, depending on the methodology used.
  • The U.S. is home to an impressive 41.2% of the world’s millionaires. Less impressive: 34.6% of U.S. adults have a net worth below $10,000, an alarming number, though better than the global figure of 73.2%.
  • Among adults in North America, 9% have a negative net worth—a level similar to other regions of the world, including Asia Pacific, Latin America, Europe and Africa. Still, a negative net worth in a developed country like the U.S. doesn’t necessarily mean great day-to-day hardship, because the debt may reflect student loans owed by young adults and because incomes are so much higher than in other parts of the world.

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