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Number of Irish millionaires grows as 12pc of households have net wealth of €1m or more


Gains in the bottom 50pc of earners came largely from deleveraging, or paying down debts

Gains in the bottom 50pc of earners came largely from deleveraging, or paying down debts

Gains in the bottom 50pc of earners came largely from deleveraging, or paying down debts

The number of Irish millionaires in Ireland jumped by 2.5 times in the last eight years as soaring property prices and shrinking debts made Ireland’s wealthy richer than ever.

Approximately 223,000 households, or 12pc of the total in the country, have net wealth of €1m or more, meaning the value of what they own minus what they owe makes them paper millionaires, according to Central Bank data.

This is a huge jump from 2013 when only 87,000 households, or 5pc of the total, met the qualification.

The Central Bank said the explosion in wealthy households since then partly reflects overall gains in household wealth across all income groups in recent years, as employment grew, house values increased, and savings soared.

However, an analysis by a Central Bank economist also found that the richest households accounted for almost all the growth in asset values over the period, especially the top 10pc.

The wealth of that cohort comes not just from the value of their homes, but also business wealth and financial investments, whereas the gains in the bottom 50pc of earners came largely from deleveraging, or paying down debts.

“Overall, this declining indebtedness of the bottom 50pc plays a central role in falling net wealth inequality, however, one must be mindful of indications that some assets may have become increasingly concentrated among wealthier households in recent years, warranting further investigation,” said Pierce Daly, the author of the analysis.

The top 10pc of households were responsible for almost half of all the increase in Irish household wealth between 2013 and today, with the top 5pc accounting for most within the group.

About two-thirds of that wealth growth came from housing assets, with a third coming from business wealth and financial assets.

The so-called middle 40pc were much more reliant on housing wealth to boost overall net wealth, with 80pc tied up in real estate.

Household net wealth in Ireland officially topped €1trn for the first time in the first half of the year as a boom in house values pushed the figure over the landmark level.

Data published by the Central Bank in August showed that big increases in property revaluations, along with growing cash savings from the pandemic, boosted personal wealth to just over €1trn in the first quarter, up from €995bn at the end of 2021.

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Most of that total – €649bn – consisted of housing assets, pushing it far above the previous record high of €604bn in 2007, in the last days of the Celtic Tiger property boom.

Irish households, once among the most overleveraged in the world, are now at about the eurozone average for debt levels.

Record cash savings during the pandemic only increased net wealth as debt became a smaller portion of household balance sheets.

However, the Central Bank data does not capture the experiences of households at the individual level, which are dealing with challenging circumstances such as much higher energy, food and housing costs.

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