TESTIMONIALS. “By the sweat of their brow” or through their real estate ownership, three million French people are millionaires

France is the third country with the most millionaires behind the United States and China according to the annual report of the UBS bank. franceinfo was able to speak with some of them, who do not necessarily feel rich.

“The richer you are, the more discreet you are!” The words of Steve Burggraf, business leader, surely partly explain why very few French millionaires agree to answer questions about their fortune. However, they are numerous, 2,800,000, according to the annual wealth report published by the bank UBS. France is even the 3rd country in the world with the most, after the United States and China.

Money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness

He is one of the few to have undertaken the exercise. Steve Burggraf made his fortune by creating the Big Fernand hamburger chain. He resold the shares in 2019. He now runs Nautilus, a company specializing in canned shellfish and smoked fish. “I am very proud of this, it is the fruit of my work, the sweat of my brow”explains the man who is a multi-owner in Paris and the region, has beautiful cars, and a horse breeding farm.

“I don’t really like the term millionaire. I prefer to associate it with entrepreneurship.”

Steve Burggraf, founder of the Big Fernand restaurant chain

at franceinfo

“The money I have accumulated is the fruit of this work as an entrepreneur”he specifies. “Then, it’s not just a nice lifestyle. It’s money that I need to reinvest. It’s also my work tool, with a very unstable side. A millionaire one day doesn’t always mean millionaire!”

Steve Burggraf earns 12 to 13,000 euros monthly salary. But he remains discreet about the exact amount of his fortune, which according to him does not only have advantages. “I know people who have more money, even much more money than me, who are not really happy. Even as unhappy as if they could not make ends meet.”

Millionaire owners without knowing it

If France has nearly three million millionaires, it is mainly because of real estate. House prices have exploded in recent years, with many properties exceeding a million euros. As a result, owners find themselves millionaires. In Annecy, a thirty-year-old and her husband (they prefer to remain anonymous), both self-employed, own a house worth more than two million euros.

Their first acquisition, in 2015, is “a studio on the top floor of a town house”she describes. “It was only 14 m². In a year and a half, we made 50,000 euros in capital gains. This helped us buy our main residence. We then resold this apartment, earning almost 200,000 euros in capital gains. value. That we reinvested in the house project in which we currently live.”

The couple earns just under 15,000 euros per month. A comfortable salary. But like many millionaire owners contacted by franceinfo, they do not feel like millionaires. “I never really realized we were.”she specifies.

On paper, we are millionaires. But we are in debt. Concretely, the house belongs more to the bank than to us.

A resident of Annecy

at franceinfo

“We have a loan of around one million euros”she insists. “I have the feeling that we live a bit like everyone else, with a big loan to repay.”

In certain cases, in Haute-Savoie, near Annecy, or even on the Ile de Ré, farmers with building land are classified as millionaires, even though their income is rather low.

Wealth concentrated among the wealthiest

In its report, UBS bank notes that France is one of the rare countries in which the number of millionaires continues to increase. It is first of all a cyclical effect. The euro is stronger than the dollar on the markets, and the bank calculates fortunes in dollars, mechanically, more French people go above the million mark. Furthermore, France is the second European country where its inhabitants save the most, rather than consume.

“Several INSEE indicators show an increase in wealth inequalities and a concentration of high wealth among the wealthiest”analyzes Anne Brunner, director of studies at the inequalities observatory. “Financial wealth is also increasing very sharply, due to the ever-increasing concentration of corporate ownership (shares, shares, etc.), in the hands of a few. And the stock market is doing well! The CAC 40, bringing together the 40 largest French market capitalizations, has never been as high as in 2023.”

The number of French millionaires should continue to increase, even reaching four million by 2027, estimates the UBS bank.

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