Ranks of worlds richest grow in 2006 | VailDaily.com

Ranks of worlds richest grow in 2006

Jackie FarwellAssociated PressVail, CO Colorado

NEW YORK Suppose all of the worlds wealthiest people got together and pooled their assets into one lump sum. How much money would that be?According to a report released Wednesday, the combined wealth of the globes richest individuals rose more than 11 percent to a grand total of $37.2 trillion last year.The rise marks the first double-digit increase in seven years.Thanks to a strong global economy, 9.5 million people held at least $1 million in financial assets excluding the value of their primary homes in 2006, up from 8.7 million in 2005, according to the 11th annual World Wealth Report compiled by Merrill Lynch & Co. and the consulting firm Capgemini Group.Those accumulated trillions give these individuals control of about a quarter of the worlds total wealth, or nearly three times the United States gross domestic product.If the rich decided to combine their assets and split the money evenly among all 9.5 million of them, theyd each be left with nearly $3,915,789. That would be enough for each person to buy about a dozen Rolls Royce luxury cars, or more than 7,000 of Apple Inc.s new iPhones.Worldwide, gross-domestic-product growth and accelerating market capitalization or the value of corporations outstanding shares in the global market fueled the generation of wealth, the report found.Despite last years strong international economy, the worlds wealthiest shifted their money away from alternative investments such as hedge funds, foreign currencies and commodities in favor of high returns on real estate ventures, the study stated.The investment strategies of millionaires may not suit those with fewer assets to spare, however, Robert McCann, president of Merrill Lynchs Global Private Client Group, said Wednesday after a press conference outlining the report.The world is becoming more and more global, he said. Thats an interesting thing to think about, whether you have $10,000 or $10 million.The expansion of the worlds richest class was the strongest in both India and Singapore, the report found, which each boasted increases of more than 20 percent. Solid investor cash-flow into riskier corners of both countries emerging markets generated much of the gains, according to the report.Driving the growth of many millionaires fortunes was the growing class of the super-rich, individuals whose assets exceed $30 million, the report stated. Their ranks also grew more than 11 percent last year to 94,970, with a combined wealth of $13.1 trillion.Topping the list in both in the number of wealthy individuals and the sum of their accumulated assets was the United States, fueled by gross-domestic-product growth, the report found. Japan ranked second.Investments by the wealthy in North America dipped in favor of allocations to Europe, which enjoyed its best performance since 2000.In the annual studys first breakdown of philanthropic giving, individuals worth $1 million or more donated an estimated total of $285 billion in 2006.Charitable giving has become more important in millionaires overall investment strategies in recent years, Ileana van der Linde, a principal in Capgeminis wealth management practice, said Wednesday.It seems to be much more about leaving a legacy and having influence in the things that they care about, she said.Entrepreneurs donated an average of $232,206, more than double the amount dedicated to philanthropy by those who inherited their riches.If all ranks of the worlds wealthiest decided to give away their combined assets, they could pay off the U.S. federal deficit, 250 times over. Or they could write a check for nearly $33,000 to every resident of India, though some investors there are faring well on their own.Wealth among the worlds rich is expected to hit $51.6 trillion by 2011, growing at an annual rate of 6.8 percent, the study stated.

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