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The Super-Rich get Richer. Do we Really Care?

By any measure 2021 was a tough year for business. Small companies struggled to stay afloat, town centres were deserted, long-established businesses were forced to pull down the shutters for the last time…

…Unless, that is, you were a luxury car maker.

Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls Royce, has described 2021 as a “phenomenal year” – the best in the company’s 117 year history. The firm, owned by BMW and based in West Sussex, delivered 5,586 cars last year, up a remarkable 49% on the previous year. Britain’s other luxury car maker, Bentley, also reported a record year, with global sales up 31%.

So clearly not every business was pulling down the shutters in the face of the pandemic. In fact, 2020 and 2021 – the years of the pandemic – were the years when the super-rich went on (and on) getting richer and, very clearly, buying luxury cars.

The World Inequality Report said that 2020 saw the sharpest increase in billionaires’ wealth on record, suggesting an increase of £3tn in the past year.

Swiss bank UBS stated that billionaires not only benefited from the measures taken by governments to stimulate their economies, but also from betting on global stock market recoveries.

How much money they’ve made very much depends on what report you read, and on the current share price of companies like Tesla and Amazon – determining whether Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos is the current holder of the ‘world’s richest man’ title. Tesla boss Musk was estimated to have seen his fortune increase by $76bn last year – equivalent to an eye-watering £56bn.

One thing is certain: the number of billionaires will go on increasing (there are already more than 2,000) as the world recovers from the pandemic. We will continue to read about ‘unicorns’ – start up companies valued at more than $1bn – and ten years from now Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates will almost certainly be trailing in the wake of someone we haven’t yet heard of.

But – leaving the moral question of inequality to one side – does the number of billionaires and their relative wealth really matter to the vast majority of us?

The answer, surely, is no. What matters to us is our long-term financial planning, making sure that our savings and investments are aligned with our goals and that we are regularly updated on the progress of those savings and investments. That is what we have always delivered for our clients and – irrespective of what happens with billionaires’ wealth – that is what we’ll go on delivering. If world stock markets rise and make some people infinitely richer, so be it. The long-term return those markets deliver for our clients are – and always will be – far more important.

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