Record drop in the number of millionaires in 2008


Merrill Lynch reports that the number of millionaires plunged by 15% in 2008. The value of millionaire's assets fell by 20% in 2008, following a 9.4% increase in 2007.

Bloomberg reports
that "The number of people in the ultra-high net worth category, those with more than $30 million to invest, not including the value of their homes or consumable goods, fell 25%. This was because they had a greater proportion of their assets tied up in equities, hedge funds and private equity..."

Geographically, the global recession hurt millionaires from all over the world. The number of millionaires in North America fell by 19% compared with 14% in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. But it's hard to say whether that means that the economy is worse in America -- or just reflects the large percentage of American millionaires who are "middle-class millionaires" rather than the more powerful oligarchs that dominate the ranks of millionaires in some countries.

As big as the drop was, all that it did was bring the number of millionaires back to 2005 levels. So for all the wealth that has evaporated over the past few years, it's just a pullback to where we were before the real estate market completely overheated.

But that raises an interesting question: If all that we've done is retraced a couple years of wealth creation, is it really reasonable to expect a quick turnaround?