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What Is an Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individual?

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An ultra-high-net-worth individual (UHNWI) is someone that has a net worth or owns assets of more than $30 million.

An ultra-high-net-worth-individual (UHNWI) is someone that has a net worth or owns assets of more than $30 million. Assets of a UHNWI may be liquid or illiquid, such as real estate holdings. 

Definition and Examples of an Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individual

Individuals classified as “ultra-high-net-worth-individuals” own at least $30 million in net assets. The classification is important to banks and wealth management firms because they will use the distinction to identify clients for investment advisory and create products relevant to serving such clients.

In contrast, a high-net-worth individual (HNWI) is someone who has a net worth or owns liquid assets of $1 million or more. Their asset mix may include both liquid and illiquid investments, such as real estate or private equity.  

How Do Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals Work?

Kara Perez, founder of financial education company Bravely Go, told The Balance in a phone interview that many UHNWIs are business owners.

“About 40% of ultra-high-net-worth individuals have started their own businesses in the United States,” Perez said. “Most ultra-high-net-worth individuals are described as ‘self-made,’ although there are no shades of gray in the definition of ‘self-made.’ You either work for a company or you work for yourself, and working for yourself means ‘self-made.’”

Perez also points out that many UHNWIs asset allocation includes real estate properties.

“A lot of their assets are property,” Perez said. “About 27% of U.S.-based ultra-high-net-worth individuals hold 20% of their assets in property.”

Although real estate is considered an illiquid asset, a number of UHNWIs ultimately include it as part of their overall net worth. Whether they’re investing in commercial, residential, or one of the other types of real estate investments you can make, owning illiquid assets only contributes to the overall wealth of UHNWIs.

The majority of the world’s UHNWIs reside in the United States, with the highest density living in San Jose (one in every 727 people), according to the 2021 Wealth-X World Ultra Wealth Report.

San Jose and its surrounding cities are often referred to as “Silicon Valley.” Several technology companies operate from the area, as do venture capitalists. Stanford University is close by, and a lot of wealth is generated from the residents who live and work there. 

Very-high-net-worth individuals have a net worth of approximately $5-$30 million.

Managing the assets of high-, very-high-, and ultra-high-net-worth individuals can be a lucrative business for banks, financial advisors, and wealth management firms. By targeting each classification of individuals with unique services and products, firms and advisors may be able to generate quite a bit of revenue for their services.

Concerns of Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individuals

Besides the need to have their wealth managed, UHNWIs often need their lives managed. At times, UHNWIs will be a part of an ultra-high-net-worth family, whose lives, according to The Ultra High Net Worth Institute, are “extremely complex.” Their needs exceed those of affluent individuals, such as high-net-worth individuals.

Sometimes, UHNWIs will have family offices that manage a portfolio of estates or property such as yachts or private jets for the individual and their family. Services rendered by management firms include the navigation of family dynamics in estate planning and wealth transfer to their heirs. 

Protection and preservation of assets is an important component of wealth management at any tier, but also for UHNWIs. Insurance coverage becomes more complex with more assets as well. And, life insurance can contribute to the wealth transfer to heirs beyond the contribution of assets that constitute net worth.

Around 36% of UHNWIs are philanthropists. They can hire private firms to manage their charitable giving, make their larger donations or set up endowments.

Key Takeaways

  • An ultra-high-net-worth individual is a person who owns more than $30 million in liquid and illiquid assets.
  • The term “ultra-high-net-worth-individual” is a classification used by wealth management firms to target and acquire clients.
  • Approximately 40% of ultra-high-net-worth individuals in the United States are considered ‘self-made,’ which means they started their own businesses to increase their wealth.

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