Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individual (UHNWI): Definition and Criteria

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. It totaled 521,653 individuals globally in 2020, up 2.4% from 2019, according to Knight Frank's The Wealth Report, published in 2021. 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 over a third of the world's UHNWIs—180,060. That's over two and a half times more than China, the country with the second-highest number (70,426), and more than all of the European countries combined at 151,665.

From 2020 to 2025, the ranks of the ultra-wealthy will grow by 27%, according to Knight Frank. Asia will see the most growth (39%), followed by Africa (33%). The U.S. will continue to have the most UHNWIs by 2025, adding 24% 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 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, 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, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos holds the top spot as of July 12, 2021. He is followed by Bernard Arnault, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, in that order. All except Arnault founded or co-founded their own companies. Only Musk and Zuckerberg remain CEOs of their companies.

Others near the top of the world's UHNWI population include several family members of Sam Walton, the late founder of Walmart.


The number of billionaires in 2021, 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). Many ultra-high-net-worth individuals (49%) derive the majority of their wealth from owning their own businesses. Twenty-one percent get most of their wealth from their investment portfolios, and 14% get most of their wealth from their salary.

Many UHNWIs invest in investment property. That is, on average, UHNW individuals have 21% of their wealth invested in investment properties (mostly either residential or office buildings).

When Forbes published its list of billionaires for 2020, it pointed out that billionaires suffered losses or slow growth in 2020, but the number of billionaires still grew—with more billionaires than ever in 2021.

The total worth of billionaires now tops $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion in 2020. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was the richest person in the world for the fourth year in a row for 2020. His current net worth is $209 billion. Of the billionaires, Elon Musk saw some of the greatest growth in his net worth, going from $25 billion to over $150 billion and coming in as the second richest person in the world for 2020.

Article Sources
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  2. Knight Frank. “The Wealth Report 2021,” Page 83. Accessed July 23, 2021.

  3. Milken Institute. "Stepping off the Sidelines: The Unrealized Potential of Strategic Ultra-High-Net-Worth Philanthropy," Page 20. Accessed July 23, 2021.

  4. Milken Institute. “Milken Institute Report Examines Ultra-High Net-Worth Philanthropy, Offers Recommendations to Spur Giving.” Accessed July 23, 2021.

  5. Forbes. “The World's Real-Time Billionaires” Accessed July 13, 2021.

  6. Forbes. "World's Billionaires List." Accessed July 23, 2021.

  7. Knight Frank. "THE WEALTH REPORT." Accessed July 23, 2021.

  8. Forbes. "Forbes World's Billionaires List." Accessed July 23, 2021.

  9. Forbes. "The World's Real-Time Billionaires." Accessed July 23, 2021.

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