Number of Millionaires Declined Last Year

The financial crisis has taken a toll on the nation’s wealthiest, with almost a third of high-net-worth households losing millionaire status, according to a Spectrem Group report.

The number of U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more, not including primary residence (NIPR), fell 27% to 6.7 million in 2008, down from a record 9.2 million the year before, according to a report by Spectrem Group.

Spectrem said that is the lowest number of millionaires since 2003, when the millionaire population stood at 6.2 million. In addition, according to a press release of the results, the number of ultra-high-net-worth households, those with a net worth of $5 million or more (NIPR), dropped 28% to 840,000 in 2008, down from 1.16 million in 2007.

America has a lot fewer millionaires than when this economic crisis began, noted George H. Walper, Jr., president of Spectrem Group, in the release. The 2008 decline to 6.7 million—which reduced the millionaire ranks by 2.5 million households—shrinks the millionaire population close to levels seen in the last recession. “The culprit is not just the stock market, which we all know has dropped precipitously, but broad declines in the asset classes available to the nation’s wealthiest investors,” said Walper.

Affluent households, defined as those with $500,000 or more in net worth (NIPR), also declined 28% in 2008 to 11.3 million, down from 15.7 million in 2007.

The Spectrem report, “Affluent Market Insights 2009,” is based on surveys of 3,000 affluent households conducted throughout 2008 and insights from an online survey of 750 millionaire households conducted in November and December.