Total World Wealth, 2016

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Wealth is a different concept than income. Income is what you earn with your labor (your job) and wealth is the assets you own minus your liabilities (or debt). Said differently, the accumulation of income and property passed from generation to generation over time is wealth. Income inequality has been growing in the United States over the past 30 years and is a hot button issue, but wealth inequality is a different and even more extreme situation – especially at the global level: The richest 1% of adults in the world hold 50% of global wealth, while the top 10% hold 85%!

The total wealth of the world is estimated to be $255 trillion dollars by Credit Suisse in 2016. Of this, $84 trillion (33%) was located in the United States. Other wealthy countries include: Japan $24 T, China $23 T, UK $14 T, Germany $12 T, and France $11 T. One way to picture this distribution is with the map above colored in three tiers – The US has 1/3 of world wealth, Japan-China-UK-Germany-France combined have 1/3 of world wealth, and the remainder of the world, some 188 countries, have 1/3 of world wealth.

What are the assets that make up this wealth? Real estate is a large fraction of the total. Numbers are difficult to find but of the $84 trillion dollars of wealth in the US, $27 T (32%) of the value was real estate (2014 estimate). Another large fraction is located in financial assets: ownership of stocks, bonds, etc. This market is also concentrated with stock exchanges in the United States or Europe representing 80% of the global allocation of mutual fund assets.

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