A high net worth individual (HNWI) is a person with large personal financial holdings. Traditionally, the term used was "millionaire," but in recent years, this alternative term has become the descriptor of choice. This type of person has financial assets worth more than $1 million US Dollars (USD).
High net worth is used to describe financial assets, discounting real-estate. This makes a large difference in the number of people who may be included inthis class: in 2003, there were nearly 2.2 million people in the United States who would be classified as having high net worth, while over 7.9 million people had assets including real estate worth in excess of a million dollars. In addition to the category of HNWIs, there is a second category, called ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs), made up of people with financial assets in excess of $30 million USD. In the global population, this second category makes up approximately 1% of the total high net worth population.
The prestige once associated with being in this group has diminished somewhat in the past few decades, as this level of wealth becomes more and more common, particularly in the United States. Throughout the US, one may find entire neighborhoods populated solely by high net worth individuals, and in some sectors of the business world, it is not uncommon for the average employee to be propelled to this status by their yearly income. With the depreciation of the dollar against many foreign currencies, large sections of foreign populations were also raised to the status simply as a result of the relative value of their wealth.
In addition to the advancement of a large sector of people to high net worth status, a not-insubstantial number of people have reached levels of "super millionaire" or "billionaire", both of which act to leave "normal" wealthy individuals feeling as though they are in a lower class. As of 2005, there were more than 600 US-dollar billionaires in the world, with the top 34 having in excess of $10 billion USD. With wealth at these levels, entire tiers of luxury exist that are inaccessible even to those who have only a few million dollars at their disposal.
Companies exist that cater exclusively to high net worth individuals and their lifestyles. Specialists can provide everything from personal real-estate, jewelry brokers, kidnap and ransom insurance, yachting, and financial investment advice.