America is home to a staggering 770 billionaires and 9,630 centi-millionaires with wealth of USD 100 million or more. The total private wealth held in the country is USD 65 trillion, making it the world’s wealthiest nation. It has been a cradle of prosperity for decades, but the tide appears to be turning for the nation built on the energy of disparate groups of immigrants in search of their American Dream.
By Dr. Juerg Steffen, FIMC, Chief Executive Officer of Henley & Partners
Where in the States are the millionaires?
American high-net-worth individuals are certainly on the move. Austin, Texas is one of the fastest growing cities in terms of the number of millionaires that reside there; over the past decade that number has grown by over 100%. West Palm Beach, Scottsdale, Miami, Greenwich & Darien have also proven to be blossoming millionaire magnets. In terms of the top US wealth hubs, however, Henley & Partners’ USA Wealth Report confirms that New York City (340,000 millionaires), the Bay Area (285,000), and Los Angeles (205,400 millionaires) remain at the zenith of such lists.
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US millionaires are not just moving to new states. A rising number are now setting their sights abroad in search of greener pastures, and affluent Americans are one of the fastest growing segments applying for investment migration solutions globally.
In addition to planning their next move, US families are also mapping out how the fortunes they have amassed over the past decades will transfer onto the next generation — a cohort of globally-minded, innovative individuals who are living in a very unpredictable period of our human history. Family offices in the USA have been mushrooming across all the key wealth hubs as the patriarchs and matriarchs of these influential empires seek support to smoothly transition to the next generation, and identify the best investment solutions to achieve their legacy goals.
Why are Americans on the move?
America was largely founded on the energy of entrepreneurially minded immigrants, who flocked to the new continent to build a better future for themselves and their families. Known for being the land of opportunity, the USA has for centuries prided itself on having the highest number of top-tier universities and an enviable business ecosystem. Today, Americans are still motivated by the same drivers; the desire to secure their children’s future and education, to protect their wealth and to guarantee access to top tier healthcare. However, a growing number of families in the USA are becoming disenchanted with the American Dream and seeking new opportunities abroad.
A multitude of factors is motivating Americans to set up international bases, but most notably the ongoing civil unrest, political polarization caused by the partisan rifts between Republicans and Democrats, and mounting pressure to increase taxation on the rich. Financial markets have been detrimentally impacted by the pandemic, inflation, and the ongoing war in Ukraine that has affected supply chains and energy prices. As a result, Americans are currently experiencing their own bleak ‘winter of discontent’. In many respects, this is also a global trend, and in line with our forecast for 2023 that estimates that over 125,000 millionaires worldwide will migrate and relocate to another country this year – setting a new record.
Since 2020, America’s wealthiest have been avidly investing in the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program, the Greece Golden Visa Program, and citizenship by investment programs in Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis among others. If Europe continues to curb access to residence by investment programs within the European Union, Americans will likely pivot to solutions in other regions, such as the UAE’s Residence by Investment offering or the Singapore Global Investor Program, as they seek to build a future proof portfolio of residence and citizenship options.
The prowess of the East’s purchasing power
Although America has an undeniable lead on the private wealth scale, by 2030 this may no longer be the case. There are several key areas where the USA is fighting to retain its front-runner position, whether on the environmental, financial, or political front as war in Ukraine continues, and trouble persists in the Middle East and Taiwan.
In terms of wealth, many factors converge to define a country’s ranking. Rather significant ones are the size and the might of its consumer population. These consumers are by default the ones who fuel the economy and provide much-needed demand for a country to prosper.
Historically, Western consumers represented 75% of the global consumer population, but the scales have tipped and they now embody only 60%. This is in part due to the rapid rate of economic growth in wealth hubs across China, India, Vietnam, and Singapore to name a few. In fact, according to The Centi-Millionaire Report published by Henley & Partners in 2022, Vietnam is set to have the fastest growing centi-millionaire population globally by 2032. Another notable trend is that the population in the West is on the whole aging and shrinking as birth-rates stagnate year on year, whereas in Asia the situation is quite the opposite, with populations growing at an exponential rate.
The USA Wealth Report recently published by Henley & Partners, highlights that America currently has 32% of the world’s total wealth, three-fold that of China. The USA is also home to seven times as many millionaires as its Eastern rival. Nonetheless, it is estimated that thanks to Asia’s rapid economic growth coupled with its growing consumer population, the composition of the global consumer populus could transform dramatically reducing the USA’s proportion to a mere 30%. If that trend were to play out in the coming years, America’s comparative influence in financial markets and global affairs would also significantly diminish in the not-so-distant future.
The American Dream that is floundering in its birthplace is being reconceptualized by the developing consumer class. Reaching that base and rediscovering the dream might well require stepping beyond America’s borders and laying foundations elsewhere.