New Zealanders have leapfrogged Brits, Singaporians and Belgians to become the fifth wealthiest people in the world, according to a major new study.

The Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2016 provides a comprehensive overview of the world's wealth, covering all regions across the wealth spectrum.

It found that global wealth growth was weak in the past 12 months, rising 1.4 per cent to US$256 trillion. This just kept pace with population growth meaning wealth was unchanged for the first time since 2008, at about US$52,800 ($74,700) per adult.

New Zealand was one of the few countries to see significant jumps in the wealth of its citizens, who gained close to 15 per cent on average this year. This came from capital market appreciation combined with exchange rate improvement.


According to the report, Switzerland has the world's wealthiest citizens (US$562,000 per adult), followed by Australia (US$376,000), the United States (US$345,000) and Norway (US$312,000).

It was calculated that the average New Zealand adult owns US$299,000 ($422,700), up US$34,000 on last year. This means it jumps the United Kingdom, Singapore and Belgium in the rankings.

When revised for median wealth per adult, New Zealand was placed fourth after Switzerland, Australia, and Belgium.

"In contrast, the United States falls dramatically from third place according to mean wealth to 23rd place according to median wealth," the report said.

The report found that to be in the wealthiest 10 per cent, a person needs US$71,600. Half of the world's adults own less than US$2,222, while those in the bottom 20 per cent own less than US$248. Economic inequality has increased this year, with the top percentile estimated to own 50.8 per cent of global household assets.

Earlier this month, New Zealand was placed at the top of the Legatum Prosperity Index because of its "unrivalled ability to turn its wealth into prosperity" - a broader measure than just money.

The world's wealthiest citizens

1. Switzerland (US$562,000 per adult)

2. Australia (US$376,000)

3. The United States (US$345,000)

4. Norway (US$312,000)

5. New Zealand US$299,000