A millionaire is an individual whose net worth or wealth is equal to or exceeds one million units of currency. It can also be a person who owns one million units of currency in a bank account or savings account. Depending on the currency, a certain level of prestige is associated with being a millionaire, which makes that amount of wealth a goal for some and almost unattainable for others.[1] In countries that use the short scale number naming system, a billionaire is someone who has at least a thousand times a million dollars, euros or the currency of the given country.

Many national currencies have, or have had at various times, a low unit value, in many cases due to past inflation. It is obviously much easier and less significant to be a millionaire in those currencies, thus a millionaire (in the local currency) in Hong Kong or Taiwan, for example, may be merely averagely wealthy, or perhaps less wealthy than average. A millionaire in Zimbabwe in 2007 could have been extremely poor.[2] Because of this, the United States Dollar (USD) is the most widely used currency standard to compare the wealth of people all over the world. Hence a person must have a net worth of at least one million USD to be recognised as a millionaire anywhere in the world.

At the end of 2018, there were estimated to be just over 14 million millionaires or high-net-worth individual (HNWIs) in the world. The United States had the highest number of HNWIs (4,900,000) of any country, while New York City had the most HNWIs (377,000) among cities.[3][4][5]


The word was apparently coined in French in 1719 to describe speculators in the Mississippi Bubble who earned millions of livres in weeks before the bubble burst.[6][7][8] (The standard French spelling is now millionnaire,[9] though the earlist reference uses a single n.[8]) The earliest attestation in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a letter of Lord Byron of 1816, which mentions it as a French term needed because of the "Lilliputian" value of francs.[7] Earlier English writers also mention the French word, including Sir William Mildmay in 1764.[10] The OED's first print citation is Benjamin Disraeli's 1826 novel Vivian Grey,[7] The anglicisation millionary was used in 1786 by Thomas Jefferson while serving as Minister to France; he wrote: "The poorest labourer stood on equal ground with the wealthiest Millionary".[11]

While statistics regarding financial assets and net worth are presented by household, the term is also often used to describe only the individual who has amassed the assets as millionaire. That is, even though the term statistically refers only to households, common usage is often in reference only to an individual.

Net worth vs. financial assets

There are multiple approaches to determining a person's status as a millionaire. One of the two most commonly used measurements is net worth, which counts the total value of all property owned by a household minus the household's debts. According to this definition, a household owning an $800k home, $50k of furnishings, two cars worth $60k, a $60k retirement savings account, $45k in mutual funds, and a $325k vacation home with a $250k mortgage, $40k in car loans, and $25k in credit card debt would be worth about $1,025,000; and every individual in this household would thus be a millionaire. However, according to the net financial assets measurement used for some specific applications (such as evaluating an investor's expected tolerance for risk for stockbroker ethics), equity in one's principal residence is excluded, as are lifestyle assets, such as the car and furniture. Therefore, the above example household would only have net financial assets of $115,000. Another term used is "net investable assets" or working capital. These practitioners may use the term "millionaire" to mean somebody who is free to invest a million units of currency through them as broker. For similar reasons, those who market goods, services and investments to HNWIs are careful to specify a net worth "not counting principal residence". At the end of 2011, there were around 5.1 million HNWIs in the United States,[12] while at the same time there were 11 million millionaires[13] in a total of 3.5 million millionaire households,[14] including those 5.1 million HNWIs.

In the real estate bubble up to 2007, average house prices in some U.S. regions exceeded $1 million, but many homeowners owed large amounts to banks holding mortgages on their homes. For this reason, there are many people in million-dollar homes whose net worth is far short of a million—in some cases the net worth is actually negative.


While millionaires constitute only a small percentage of the population, they hold substantial control over economic resources, with the most powerful and prominent individuals usually ranking among them. The total amount of money held by millionaires can equal the amount of money held by a far higher number of poor people. The Gini coefficient, and other measures in economics, estimated for each country, are useful for determining how many of the poorest people have the equivalent total wealth of the few richest in the country. Forbes and Fortune magazines maintain lists of people based on their net worth and are generally considered authorities on the subject. Forbes listed 1,645 dollar billionaires in 2014, with an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion, an increase from $5.4 trillion the previous year.[15] (see US-dollar billionaires in the world).

Sixteen percent of millionaires inherited their fortunes. Forty-seven percent of millionaires are business owners. Twenty-three percent of the world's millionaires got that way through paid work, consisting mostly of skilled professionals or managers.[16] Millionaires are, on average, 61 years old with $3.05 million in assets.[17]

Historical worth

Depending on how it is calculated, a million US dollars in 1900 is equivalent to $30.1 million (in 2018).[18]

  • $21.2 million using the GDP deflator,
  • $24.8 million using the consumer price index,
  • $61.4 million using the gold price[19]
  • $114.1 million using the unskilled wage,
  • $162.8 million using the nominal GDP per capita,
  • $642 million using the relative share of GDP,

Thus one would need to have almost thirty million dollars today to have the purchasing power of a US millionaire in 1900, or more than 100 million dollars to have the same impact on the US economy.


Dated ways of describing someone worth n millions are "n-fold millionaire” and "millionaire n times over". Still commonly used is multimillionaire, which usually refers to individuals with net assets of 10 million or more of a currency. By this definition there are approximately 584,000 US$ multimillionaires worldwide in 2017.[5] Roughly 1.5% of US$ millionaires can are "ultra-high-net-worth individuals" (ultra-HNWIs), defined those with a net worth or wealth of $30 million or more. There are approximately 226,000 US$ ultra-HNWIs in the world in 2017, according to Wealth-X.[20]

The rising prevalence of people possessing ever increasing quantities of wealth has given rise to additional terms to further differentiate millionaires. Individuals with net assets of 100 million or more of a currency have been termed hectomillionaires.[21] The term centimillionaire has become synonymous with hectomillionaire in America, despite the centi- prefix meaning the one hundredth part, not hundredfold, in the metric system.[22] Offshoots of the term include pent-hectomillionaire, referring to those who are halfway to becoming billionaires.[23] In discussions on wealth inequality in the United States, hectomillionaires are said to be in the richest 0.01%, prompting calls for a redistribution of wealth.[24]

HNWI population

High Net Worth Individuals.

HNWI Wealth Distribution (by Region)[25]
RegionHNWI PopulationHNWI Wealth
Global12 million$46.2 trillion
North America3.73 million$12.7 trillion
Asia-Pacific3.68 million$12.0 trillion
Europe3.41 million$10.9 trillion
Latin America0.52 million$7.5 trillion
Middle East0.49 million$1.8 trillion
Africa0.14 million$1.3 trillion

Global cities with the most super wealthy millionaires per capita (higher than $30 million)

According to wealth research group Wealth-X that released its latest UHNW Cities report, showing the residential footprint of the world's top ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individual cities.

Excluding Monaco – which has very high UHNWI density – Geneva has the highest density of super wealthy people per capita in the world. The city is known as the most compact metropolitan area, and also enjoys a concentration of affluence. Singapore has the second highest concentration, followed by San Jose, the center of Silicon Valley, and the largest city in Northern California. While New York City leads in terms of overall UHNW footprint, London has a similar number of UHNW "second homers" despite a considerably smaller population. Paris, perhaps surprisingly, features as the highest European city after London, Wealth-X said. Among suburbs and smaller towns, Beverly Hills has the highest overall number of UHNW residents, and Aspen has the highest concentration on a per capita basis, the report showed. Ultra-high net worth individuals are defined by Wealth-X as those whose total net worth is higher than $30 million (R400 million).[26] Fig below illustrates Cities with The highest millionaire density worldwide (higher than $1 million) .

Number of millionaires per country by Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse's "Global Wealth in 2019" measured the number of adult millionaires in the world. According to the report, the US has 18.6 million millionaires, highest in the world.[27]

Rank Country Number of
% of world total
1  United States 18,614,000 40%
2  China 4,447,000 10%
3  Japan 3,025,000 6%
4  United Kingdom 2,460,000 5%
5  Germany 2,187,000 5%
6  France 2,071,000 4%
7  Italy 1,496,000 3%
8  Canada 1,322,000 3%
9  Australia 1,180,000 3%
10  Spain 979,000 2%
11  Netherlands 832,000 2%
12   Switzerland 810,000 2%
13  India 759,000 2%
14  South Korea 741,000 2%
15  Taiwan 528,000 1%

Number of millionaires per country by various sources

Rank Country Number of Millionaires Source
 India 330,000 [28]
 Israel 105,000 [29]
 Turkey 100,000 [30]
 UAE 88,700 [31]
 Finland 50,000
 Bangladesh 45,000 [32]
 South Africa 43,600 [33]
 Pakistan 19,200 [34]
 Egypt 18,000 [35]
 Nigeria 15,400 [36]

Number of millionaire households per country by Boston Consulting Group

The following is a list of the countries with the most millionaire households in U.S. dollars worldwide according to the Boston Consulting Group's 2017 study.[37][38]

RankCountryNumber of
US$ millionaire
1 United States7,085,000
2 China2,124,000
3 Japan1,244,000
4 United Kingdom821,000
5 Canada485,000
6 Germany473,000
7  Switzerland466,000
8 France439,000
9 Taiwan370,000
10 Italy307,000
11 Australia263,000
12 Belgium240,000
13 Saudi Arabia236,000
14 Hong Kong228,000
15 Netherlands206,000

Number of millionaires per city The following is a list of the cities with the most US$ millionaires.[39][40][41]

RankCityNumber of
US$ millionaires
1 London357,200
2 New York City339,200
3 Tokyo279,800
4 Hong Kong250,700
5 Singapore239,000
6 San Francisco220,000
7 Los Angeles199,300
8 Chicago150,200
9 Beijing149,000
11 Frankfurt[42] 128,300
12  Osaka 117,700
13 Paris 110,900
14  Toronto 109,300
15  Zurich 109,200
16  Seoul 108,100
17  Geneva 104,300
18  Mexico City 86,700
19  Munich 78,900
20 Mumbai48,100
21 Istanbul[43] 27,300
22  Johannesburg 18,200
23  Cairo 8,900
24 Cape Town 8,200
25  Lagos 6,800
26 Nairobi, Kenya 6,800
27 Casablanca 2,300
28  Alexandria 1,800

European cities with the highest concentration of millionaires[44]

RankCityNumber of
US$ millionaires
1 Monaco31.1%
2 Zurich24.3%
3 Geneva17.7%
4 London3.4%
6 Frankfurt2.7%
7 Amsterdam2.7%

United States

There is a wide disparity in the estimates of the number of millionaires residing in the United States. A quarterly report prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Barclays Wealth in 2007 estimated that there were 16.6 million millionaires in the USA.[45] At the end of 2011, there were around 5.1 million HNWIs in the US,[12] while at the same time, there were 11 million millionaires[13] in a total of 3.5 million millionaire households,[14] including those 5.1 million HNWIs.

According to TNS Financial Services, as reported by CNN Money, 2 million households in the US alone had a net worth of at least $1 million excluding primary residences in 2005.[46] According to TNS, in mid-2006 the number of millionaire US households was 9.3 million, with an increase of half a million since 2005.[47] The study found that half of all millionaire households in the US were headed by retirees. In 2004 the United States saw a "33 percent increase over the 6.2 million households that met that criteria [sic] in 2003", fueled largely by the country's real estate boom.[48]

A report by Capgemini for Merrill Lynch on the other hand stated that in 2007 there were approximately 3,028,000 households in the United States who held at least US$1 million in financial assets, excluding collectibles, consumables, consumer durables and primary residences.[49]

According to TNS Financial Services, Los Angeles County, California had the highest number of millionaires,[50] totalling over 262,800 households in mid-2006.[47]

Top 10 counties by HNWIs (more than $1 million, in 2009)[51]
CountyStateNumber of
Los Angeles CountyCalifornia268,138
Cook CountyIllinois171,118
Orange CountyCalifornia116,157
Maricopa CountyArizona113,414
San Diego CountyCalifornia102,138
Harris CountyTexas99,504
Nassau CountyNew York79,704
Santa Clara CountyCalifornia74,824
Palm Beach CountyFlorida71,221
King CountyWashington68,390

See also


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