A USD 2.1 trillion inheritance
The past 20 years of exceptional wealth creation will soon be followed by the largest-ever wealth transfer. We estimate that less than 500 people (460 of the billionaires in the markets we cover) will hand over USD 2.1 trillion, a figure equivalent to India’s GDP, to their heirs in the next 20 years. For most of Asia’s young economies, where over 85% of billionaires are first generation, this will be the first-ever handover of billionaire wealth.
The Gilded Age pauses
After more than 20 years of unprecedented wealth creation, the Second Gilded Age has stalled. The transfer of assets within families, commodity price deflation and an appreciating US dollar have emerged as significant headwinds. In 2015, in the markets we cover, 210 fortunes broke through the billion-dollar wealth ceiling and 160 billionaires dropped off, leading to a net increase in the billionaire population of 50 to 1,397. Yet their total wealth fell from USD 5.4 trillion to USD 5.1 trillion. Average wealth fell from USD 4 billion in 2014 to USD 3.7 billion in 2015. It is still too early to tell if 2015 signals a pause in the Gilded Age or something more.
Old legacies’ lessons for new billionaires
Of the billionaire fortunes that have fallen below the billion dollar mark since 1995, 90% were not preserved beyond the first and second generations. At a time of economic headwinds and imminent wealth transfer, Europe’s old legacies are a model for new billionaires to avoid this fate. Germany and Switzerland, in particular, are the countries with the greatest share of ‘old’ wealth. Asia’s family-orientated billionaires may wish to adapt the European model of wealth preservation to their own needs.
New philanthropic models
In the first half of the 20th century, entrepreneurial families such as the Carnegies and Rockefellers funded significant advances in areas such as education and health. By doing so, they displayed many traits associated with billionaires – chiefly business focused and smart risk-takers – to drive success. After over three decades of this new Gilded Age, billionaire philanthropy is growing all over the world. New philanthropic models are emerging (loans, guarantees, contracts, impact investing etc.) and the millennial generation is putting philanthropy at the heart of their family values. In spite of this the current Gilded Age may not match its predecessor’s record.