What is an 'Ultra High Net Worth Individual (UHNWI)'

Ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWI) are people with investable assets of at least $30 million, excluding personal assets and property such as a primary residence, collectibles and consumer durables. UHNWIs comprise the richest people in the world and control a disproportionate amount of global wealth. Ultra-high net worth is generally quoted in terms of liquid assets over a certain figure, but the exact amount differs by financial institution and region.

BREAKING DOWN 'Ultra High Net Worth Individual (UHNWI)'

Forbes curates lists of the world's richest people. As of 2015, Bill Gates, Carlos Slim Helu and Warren Buffett top the list. Others near the top of the world's UHNWI population include the Koch brothers Charles and David, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and several children and in-laws of Sam Walton, the late founder of Wal-Mart.

The biggest changes in the numbers of UHNWI appear in emerging economies and specifically in the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China. China and Russia, in particular, boast more than 200 billionaires in their ranks, making these countries second and third, respectively, behind the United States. In Russia, Vladimir Potanin, chairman and key shareholder in Norilsk Nickel, and Leonid Mikhelson, a gas and petrochemical magnate, are two of the country's top billionaires. In China, Wang Jianlin's real estate fortune, Jack Ma's company Alibaba, and Ma Huateng's internet holdings propel them to the top of their country's list of UHNWIs.

How Many UHNWIs Are There?

As of 2015, the UHNWI population has 172,850 people among its ranks, a number 61% higher than 10 years earlier, and 1,844 of these individuals have over $1 billion, an 82% increase over the number of billionaires in the previous decade. Together, these individuals hold $20.8 trillion. Although they constitute only 0.003% of the world’s population, they hold 13% of the world's total wealth.

Where Do UHNWIs Live?

As of 2015, half of all UHNWIs live in North America, and a quarter of them live in Europe. Asia-Pacific countries, excluding India and China, host 13% of the world's UHNWI population. The United States has the highest number of UHNWIs, and 48% of them call the country home. China has the second-highest share of the UHNWI population with approximately 8%, and the United Kingdom follows with 4%.

What Do UHNWIs Do With Their Money?

UHNWIs keep a close eye on their wealth and tend to manage it themselves. Among families with more than $200 million in assets, only 20% give their financial advisors full discretion to make portfolio changes; 44% give limited discretion and 36% gave no discretion to their advisors and portfolio managers.

On average, UNHWI philanthropists donate $25 million to charity during the course of their lives. Nearly 40% of those donations go to educational causes. Female UHNWIs tend to give gifts that are 26% larger than their male counterparts. The average UNHWI philanthropist is 64 years old with an average net worth of $240 million.

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