The rich are still getting richer

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The Independent Online
DESPITE LAST year's economic panic, the world's millionaires continued to get richer. The combined wealth of the six million wealthiest people reached $21.6 thousand billion (pounds 13.5 thousand billion), up by 12 per cent over last year and it is likely to grow by 9 per cent over the next five years, according to research conducted by Merrill Lynch, the investment bank, and Gemini Consulting, a management consultancy.

The newly rich tend to be sports, pop and media stars who are edging out the progeny of family dynasties. Your typical millionaire is increasingly young, nouveau riche and a globe-trotter.

Unlike "old money", they are keen to take a degree of control over their savings and are more sophisticated about the need to avoid tax.

The study suggests that the rich are richer than had been thought. New data from the US and Germany shows that wealth is concentrated in fewer hands than had been supposed.

The rich weathered last year's financial storm largely by sitting on their investments rather than selling shares as the market slumped, says Andy Stewart, a vice-president at Gemini. While the well-to-do in Asia and Latin America suffered from the severe downturn in equity markets and thousands lost their jobs, the rich generally were able to survive with their wealth intact. "Most increased their frequency of contact with their financial advisers and, for the most part,were told not to liquidate their equities. Surprise, surprise, the markets turned round," Mr Stewart said.

Researchers have started to include the rich from the former Eastern Bloc, who are expected to push the number of millionaires still higher.