A couple of weeks ago, a report from Credit Suisse claimed that New Zealand had the highest median wealth in the world. At the time, I questioned the claim: could the average New Zealander really be wealthier than the average Swede, Australian or Dane? I also thought the figures were well out of line with what my own research was showing.
Turns out I was right to be sceptical. Both the Reserve Bank, whose data the report used, and I got in touch with the report’s authors, and they have confirmed there was an error in the New Zealand figures – due to problems, indeed, with the exchange rate conversion.
The report’s authors have said that the correct figures show the average New Zealander with wealth of around US$252,000, as opposed to the US$401,000 originally quoted. That puts us roughly in the middle of the pack with other Western countries, as one would expect. (And the point remains that those figures are still inflated by our massively over-valued housing market.)
The report’s authors will investigate correcting the online version of the report, and I’ll be contacting the New Zealand newsdesks who have run the story to see if they will do likewise.
The lesson from all this? If something doesn’t seem right, apply your ‘basic common sense’ test, even for well-regarded international reports.
On a related note, for the latest data on this country’s wealth and how unequally it is distributed, you can pick up a copy of my book Wealth and New Zealand from November 9.
Finally, thanks go to the Reserve Bank communications team for following up on this.