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. They comprise the wealthiest people in the world and control a tremendous amount of global wealth.

This group of people is small but continues to grow. They totaled 513,244 individuals globally at the end of 2019, up 6.4% from 2018, according to Knight Frank's The Wealth Report, published in 2020. The U.S. has the most UHNWIs in the world by a large margin.

Key Takeaways

  • The ultra-high-net-worth are individuals who have at least $30 million in investable assets.
  • The U.S. is home to the most UHNWIs in the world.
  • Most of the world's ultra-wealthy individuals are men and 50 years or older.

Understanding Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals (UHNWIs)

The U.S. is home to almost half of the world's UHNWIs—240,575. That's about four times more than China, the country with the second-highest number (61,587 ), and more than all of Asia and Europe combined.

Over the next five years, the ranks of the ultra-wealthy will grow by 27%, according to Knight Frank. Asia will see the most growth (44%), followed by Africa (32%). The U.S. will continue to have the most UHNWIs by 2024, adding 22% super-rich individuals.

Eighty-five percent of ultra-high-net-worth wealth is held by people 50 and older, and a majority are men, according to a report published by the Milken Institute published in 2020. Only one in seven are women, but that number is on the rise. Among those below the age of 50, women account for almost one in five.

Ultra high-net-worth is generally quoted in terms of liquid assets over a certain figure. While $30 million is typically the gold standard, the exact amount can differ by financial institution and region.

Examples of UHNWIs

Many of the world's super-rich citizens are self-made individuals. This is evident in Forbes' annually curated list of the world's richest people. On its World's Real-Time Billionaires List for 2021, the magazine ranks the daily worth on its wealth-tracking platform. According to the website, "The value of individuals’ public holdings are updated every 5 minutes when respective stock markets are open (there will be a 15-minute delay for stock prices)."

On Forbes' ever-changing list, Elon Musk and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos keep swapping number one and number two spots, as of Jan. 13, 2021. Others in the top 10 are Bill Gates, Bernard Arnault, Mark Zuckerberg. Musk, Bezos, and Gates all founded their own companies, and continue to take an active role in managing their immense wealth.

Others near the top of the world's UHNWI population include several children and in-laws of Sam Walton, the late founder of Wal-Mart.

2,095

The number of billionaires in 2020, according to Forbes.

How the Ultra-High-Net-Worth Invest

Most UHNWIs do not have their money sitting in certificates of deposit (CDs), money market accounts, or mutual funds in a 401(k). Here is how their portfolio asset allocations looked toward the end of 2019, according to Knight Frank:

  • Property (as an investment): 27%
  • Equities: 23%
  • Bonds/Fixed Income: 17%
  • Cash/Currencies: 11%
  • Private Equity: 8%
  • Collectibles: 5%
  • Gold/Precious Metals 3%
  • Crytocurrencies: 1%

When Forbes published the 2020 billionaires list, which was finalized in March, it pointed out that even the world's wealthiest weren't immune to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, the combined net worth of the world’s billionaires was $8 trillion, down $700 billion from 2019.

But 25 of the wealthiest people on the list increased their net worth by $255 billion, combined, just two months after the U.S. stock market hit a low on March 23. Facebook's Zuckerberg saw some of the biggest gains, followed by Bezos, due to an increase in the stock prices of their companies. Elon Musk, however, saw the biggest gains in 2020, according to Forbes.