Wealth experts all agree that the world is creating more millionaires. Just how many? It all depends on who's measuring—and who defines "millionaire."
Last week, Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management released their World Wealth Report measuring the world's millionaires. The report said there were 920,000 new millionaires created in 2014, bringing the global total to 14.6 million.
The same week, Boston Consulting Group released its count saying there were 2 million new millionaires created last year, bringing the total to 17 million.
Add all that to a study last fall from Credit Suisse that said the world's millionaire population was roughly 35 million, and was expected to reach 53 million by 2019. Not to be outdone, Knight Frank, the real estate firm, said there are approximately 17.8 millionaires globally.
Measurements of millionaires by individual country vary even more. Almost all the reports say the U.S. has the most millionaires. But while Capgemini says there are 4.3 million millionaires in the U.S., Boston Consulting says there are 6.9 million, while Credit Suisse says there are 14.2 million. Spectrem Group, the Chicago-based wealth research firm, says the U.S. has 10.1 million millionaires.
The biggest differences seem to be in China. Capgemini says China's millionaire population reached 890,000 last year. Boston Consulting Group counted 3.6 million, while Credit Suisse said around 1 million.
What to make of these huge disparities? How many millionaires are there really?
It turns out, the numbers depend largely on definitions of "millionaire." Specifically, while some studies measure people, others measure households. And while some only count "investible assets" as wealth, others include homes.
Credit Suisse, for instance, says it defines millionaires as those with total wealth of $1 million or more. It says it measures both "financial" and "nonfinancial" wealth, in other words anyone with net assets of more than $1 million, i.e. your house, art collection and other assets.