Stats and Gratitude

wealth stats gratitude

I recently read the Global Wealth Report for 2017 published by Credit Suisse Research. This is the eighth annual wealth report and it is chock full of interesting stats.

Before we delve into some snippets from the report, let’s get the definition of wealth out of the way. The report says “Net worth, or “wealth” is defined as the value of financial assets plus real assets (principally housing) owned by households, minus their debts…….Private pension fund

assets are included, but not entitlements to state pensions”


The State of Wealth in the World Today

“We further saw an increase of 2.3 million US-dollar-millionaires, almost half of whom reside in the United States.“

So 1.15 million new millionaires were created in this country in the last year! Were you one of them? If so, high fives all around!


“The 13.2 million millionaires in the world in 2000 were heavily concentrated (97%) in high income economies. Since then, 22.9 million “new millionaires” have been added to the total, of whom 2.7 million – 12% of the total additions – have originated from emerging economies “

That is a lot of new millionaires. I’m glad to see that millionaires are being created in regions outside the ‘first world’, but as this diagram shows, the U.S. still dominates the millionaire scene.

“Median wealth in North America is currently four times the level in Europe, nine times the level in China, almost 50 times the level in India, and more than 100 times the level in Africa.”

I’m lucky to be here, and from the perspective of building wealth, my decision to immigrate to this country was a good one. As I continued to read the report it would quickly become apparent just now lucky I really am.

“a person needed only USD 3,582 to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens in mid-2017”

$3,582. That number stupefies me. It isn’t enough for me to make a single monthly mortgage payment (including insurance and property taxes). Every month I spend on my house payment enough money to place me among the wealthiest half of people in this world.

“USD 76,754 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and USD 770,368 to belong to the top 1%”

I am in the top 1% of this world’s wealth holders. Not because I am particularly good, or talented, or deserving. I take credit for ~5% of my good fortune. The rest is blind luck. This isn’t false modesty. This is cold, hard reality.


This pyramid was depressing. Wealth inequality is a real problem in our world.

70.1% of adults in this world – a massive 3.474 billion people – are worth less than $10,000.  

Here is another way to visualize the numbers, to help wrap your mind around how vast the wealth inequality is in the U.S. If all the wealth in the U.S. was equally divided, every adult would be worth a very respectable $374,869.


Since we are on the path to financial independence, let’s take a closer look at the rarefied air at the top of the pyramid:

The BITA family resides in the large dark blue base of this pyramid. It boggles my mind to think that there is a fair chance (based on cfiresim simulations) that by the tail end of our lives we could be in the teal region.

So Much To Be Grateful For

There is a lot of interesting information packed into the 68 page report, and I hope that these little teasers encourage you to go read the rest of it.

This is the season of gratitude and giving. If I ever feel thanklessness descend upon me, I plan to refer back to the pyramid of wealth and then give myself a hard smack. If I have trouble loosening my purse strings to give, the pyramid is there to shame me into being a better person.

We are at the end of a stellar year financially. This report highlights just how lucky we are to be where we are. We are privileged to be in a position where we can dream of financial independence and make that dream a reality. Let us look down from the pinnacle of our privilege with immense gratitude and empathy that is in proportion to our luck.


2 thoughts on “Stats and Gratitude”

  1. Truly inspiring and mostly awe inspiring. Being born in the US to an immigrant from third world country has given me a huge appreciation as to the pure blind luck aspect. I do credit my success a minimum 10% of pure tenacity and good personal decisions like returning to school and then grad school…that’s when my wealth really started turning around. Excellent read. Thank you as always!

  2. This post fully resonates with me. My parents immigrated from a developing third world country where my grandparents on both sides were farmers. As farm yields varied by harvest, my grandparents were regularly indebted (at 15-20% interest rates) as they borrowed for food and for the next season’s inputs. My parents escaped this generational, cyclic poverty through some good luck, vision, and insane hard work. They eventually migrated to the US and did well.

    I have been triply blessed – I was born in the US, had parents who insisted on and paid for my education to the highest possible levels, and I was lucky to find an enjoyable and lucrative career and a partner who shares similar financial values. On top of that, our pursuit of FIRE is nearing completion. The odds of these combined good fortunes converging together must be > 10,000,000:1.

    I agree – my merit contributes 5% to any success; 95% can be attributed to blind luck and standing on the shoulders of others. The stats you highlight remind me to be grateful for good fortunes.


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