12:53pm Friday 17 January 2020

Half of British households have 91 per cent of wealth

The report, which contains chapters by researchers from the University’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC), presents results from the new Wealth and Assets Survey and is published by the Office for National Statistics.

The Survey assessed the economic well-being of households in the period 2006/08 by gathering information on, among others, level of assets, savings and debt; saving for retirement; how wealth is distributed among households or individuals; and factors that affect financial planning.

Key findings of the report are that:

  • Private household net wealth in Britain totalled £9 trillion (£9 million million) in 2006/08
  • The wealthiest 10 per cent of households were 4.8 times wealthier than the bottom 50 per cent
  • The median household wealth was £204,500 (that is 50 per cent of households had this amount or less)
  • Households headed by someone with a degree or higher qualification had the highest median total wealth of £400,200; the ‘no qualifications’ group was the least wealthy with a median of £105,100
  • The wealthiest part of Britain was the South East with a median wealth of £287,900; the English region with the lowest median total wealth was the North West; the area with the lowest median was Scotland with £150,600
  • Over two-thirds of households owned their home
  • Thirty-five per cent of people had never saved, and only 23 per cent of these said they are likely to do so in the future
  • An estimated 62 per cent of households had a savings account, however 50 per cent had £3,500 or less in their account and 25 per cent had only £500
  • Nearly a half of all households, 48 per cent, owed money in some form of non-mortgage borrowing, including credit and store cards that were not settled in full each month

  • The likelihood of owing money was highest for households headed by someone aged 25 to 34 (68 per cent) and this group owed a median amount of £3,700
  • Households comprising lone parents with dependent children, or a head of household who was unemployed or caring for dependents were most at risk at falling into arrears
  • Only 40 per cent of men and 32 per cent of women contributed to a private pension, with 83 per cent expecting to receive a state pension and 59 per cent expecting to receive an occupational or private pension.

Speaking about the findings, Andrea Finney, Research Fellow at the PFRC and co-author of two of the report’s chapters, said:

‘The release of the survey’s findings is an important milestone for helping us to understand how total private wealth in Great Britain is made up and how it varies in different parts of the country and for different types of households. 

It is striking that the distribution of net financial wealth is more unequal than the other components of wealth. A large minority of households have little or no net financial wealth or owe more in borrowing or arrears than they own in savings or investments. Despite this, the vast majority people do not have a strong orientation towards spending and most of those who can save do save.’

Please contact Dara O’Hare for further information.

Further information:

  1. The Wealth and Assets Survey surveys all households in Britain and collects information about the economic well-being of households and individuals. In particular, it asks people about their assets and liabilities in order to estimate household and personal wealth. This includes information on property, financial, physical and private pension wealth; savings, debt, borrowing and arrears. The survey also asks people about their attitudes to debt, saving and retirement.
  2. Net total wealth is the sum of net property wealth, net financial wealth, physical wealth and private pension wealth. This excludes business assets owned by household members, for instance if they run a small business, and wealth held as rights to state pensions, which people accrue during their working lives and draw on in retirement.
  3. The median is the value of the middle item when data are arranged in ascending order. If the number of items is even the median is the average of the middle pair of values. For example, if the heights of nine people are placed in order, then half of the people will have heights below the fifth value, which is the median. The median is a useful alternative to the mean when data are not evenly distributed.
  4. The full report can be downloaded from the Office of National Statistics website.

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