Financial success is always, at its core, a comparison game. I’m sure many people in the financial blogosphere google, if not for themselves, for people in their group, to understand where they stand in the wealth pyramid. Am I in the top 10%? 5%? 1%? How many people are wealthier than me?
Having lived in several countries including Japan, I got interested in how many millionaires live in the country. It turns out getting recent estimates on this data is fairly difficult.
Defining a millionaire
Depending on the studies, a millionaire can be a person with more than a million USD in investable assets, or other studies include the price of their house as well, minus all debt. Some studies are unclear if they talk about households or individuals, although I fail to see how one could get accurate information for individuals vs households.
How many millionaires in Japan?
This thread on Quora gives numbers varying from 1.5 million millionaire households in Japan 2014, to 2.7 million in 2015. One of the answers mentions the Global Wealth report, a free annual study from Credit Suisse that has estimates on millionaire households worldwide.
Looking for the Credit Suisse’s global wealth report brings up this page, where the whole report for 2016 can be downloaded. At the time of this writing, the data is as fresh as it’s going to be.
According to Credit Suisse’s report, in 2016, there were 2.8 million (USD) millionaires in Japan. That’s a bit more than 2% of the population, and even more if we’re talking households. If you’re a USD millionaire in Japan, you are not part of Japan’s 1%.
I’m surprised at how many wealthy people live in Japan: most Japanese do not invest their money, and keep in in cash or poor-return savings accounts. This means many of these millionaires have built up to a million dollar or more in savings, without any help from the compounding effects of investment. Think about how rich they could actually be, had they invested that money!
Interestingly, the number of USD millionaires increased a lot in Japan at the time of the Credit Suisse’s study, because at that time the Yen had soared up 20% in 2016. At the time I’m typing this though, it’s down almost 15% from its high, meaning the number of USD millionaires in Japan probably mechanically decreased as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of millionaire households in Japan in 2017 staid roughly at the 2.7 million mark, or even decreased.