Weaker real estate prices and the depreciation of the Aussie dollar against the US have reduced the number of millionaires in Australia over the last 12 months.
Australia has fallen to second place behind Switzerland for median wealth per adult in the 10th edition of the Global Wealth Report published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute.
The number of US dollar millionaires in Australia declined by 124,000 this year to 1,180,000 compared with last year in terms of average wealth per adult. It was the biggest decrease of any country in the report, largely due to weaker real estate prices and the depreciation of the Australian dollar against the US dollar.
Average wealth per adult in Australia in 2019 was $US386,060 ($562,000), close to its 2011 level of $US384,640. Despite the exchange rate effects, Australia’s wealth per adult is fourth highest in the world (US dollar).
The report noted that high average wealth is combined with relatively low wealth inequality in Australia. Only 7 per cent of Australians have net worth below $US10,000, compared with 17 per cent in the UK and 27 per cent in the US.
“While the economic environment since the 2018 report has become more challenging in Australia with subtrend GDP growth and a weaker property market, the growth seen across investment markets has ensured Australia retained its consistently strong position as one of the wealthiest countries globally and is second in the all-important measure of median wealth,” Credit Suisse head of private banking Australia Michael Marr said.
“A weakening Australian dollar against the US dollar has been the biggest contribution to its fall in the rankings of wealth per adult. Importantly, Australia remains one of the countries with one of the most even distributions of income across its population out of all the countries in the report.”
The composition of household wealth in Australia is skewed toward non-financial assets, which average $US275,420 and form 58 per cent of gross assets. The report noted that the high level of real assets reﬂects a large endowment of land and natural resources relative to the population, but also high property prices in the largest cities.
While financial assets are just 42 per cent of total assets, they are also high in absolute terms in part because of Australia’s mandatory superannuation system, which generates strong pension wealth. Average debt is 19 per cent of gross assets.
Andrew McAuley, CIO for Credit Suisse Australia, private banking, observed that Australia’s high ranking in median wealth is a product of an unbroken run of 27 years without a recession.
“It also reflects the wealth benefits of our large superannuation pool which has grown from inflows and strong financial markets since the global financial crisis,” he said.
The report reveals the large proportion of wealth tied up in housing, emphasising the importance of real estate conditions to confidence and economic activity.