Our millionaires? They're middle age Ms Average

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 February, 2006, 12:00am

Women are catching up with men in the battle for millionaire status in Hong Kong, a profile of who owns what and why has revealed.

Last year 49 per cent of the city's 274,000 millionaires were women, compared with just 44 per cent for 2004.

A survey commissioned by Citibank was based on more than 3,000 telephone interviews with people aged between 21 and 79 late last year. The results were released last week.

The aim was to find the number of people with liquid assets worth more than $1 million. It turned out to be 274,000, or 5.3 per cent of Hong Kong adults, the same figure as 2004. But the rich got richer: the average amount of liquid assets is about $4 million compared with $3.4 million in 2004.

And women got a bigger slice of the cake. An average Hong Kong millionaire - let's say she's Goldie Hung - would be 45 years old. She's probably married with children.

Actually, the number of married millionaires fell to 83 per cent versus 87 per cent in 2004. Those married with children slipped from 76 per cent in 2004 to 70 per cent last year.

Of course, Goldie is not in the same street as Chinachem Group's Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum, who is Asia's richest woman with a fortune of US$4.2 billion. In fact, you might still see Goldie on the Western Market tram because she doesn't qualify for a Citybus over-60 half fare and she owns only 0.53 per cent of a car. Those with a complete car totalled 40.7 per cent, and 17 per cent of these were paying off a car loan.

However, Madam Average does own at least one property; the exact figure is 1.7 flats. She may or may not have a mortgage - 46 per cent are paying off their homes. Altogether 82 per cent of the rich own properties.

She probably lives on Hong Kong Island, along with 134,000 other millionaires, that's almost half of the total, or 1 in 7 people. And it's a fair bet she has her 1.7 flats in Southern District (35,000 millionaires, where 16 people in every 100 qualify) or in Eastern District (46,000, and 1 in 10 millionaires). Or even Wan Chai, which has 23,000 millionaires or 1 in every 5 people.

Now to the nitty-gritty - where does Goldie put her money?

The survey found that for those people who moved into the millionaire class and those who dropped out of the millionaire class on the past six months, the top two drivers for liquid assets were gain or loss on investments (49 per cent) and buying or selling property (25 per cent). Goldie had 36 per cent in bank deposits, stocks (32 per cent), mutual funds (16 per cent), bonds (8 per cent) and the rest in other investments.

A third of the rich put their success down to hard work, others to being smart in the market and others to property nouse. Only 4 per cent put it down to luck, and a fraction to family wealth.

Our Goldie may like money but she isn't greedy by a long chalk - she reckons $1 million to $5 million would be enough to retire on (54.5 per cent of the rich). Only 7.3 per cent were aiming at more $10 million and 20.3 per cent at $5-$10 million, and 18 per cent would be happy with a million or less. And Goldie's not going anywhere special when she retires - she likes Hong Kong (54 per cent). She's a good mum too, with regular savings to support her children's future education (77 per cent compared with 71 per cent in 2004). She promises she will try her best to help her children to be financially independent (72 per cent).

A survey of investment habits showed 77 per cent of millionaires invested in Hong Kong stocks, foreign exchange trading (68 per cent), foreign-exchange-linked deposits (32 per cent), mutual funds (52 per cent), bonds (23 per cent) and time deposits (65 per cent).

Key findings of the survey include that millionaires are prudent in investment and need flexibility in managing their finances.

Weber Lo Wai-pak, Citibank's chief operating officer and director of retail banking, said of the millionaires: 'Only 26 per cent indicated that they would take a risk in investment if presented with a good opportunity. But this is up from 20 per cent in 2004.'

In spite of the general caution, if the Hang Seng Index continues to climb, Goldie Hung could be on track for her first complete Toyota.