For the ultra-rich, 2013 was a very good year

"It's good to be the king!" That line by Mel Brooks sums up the circumstances of the ultra-rich last year, according to the 2013 Wealth Report.

For the 0.1 percent -- those worth $30 million or more -- the sky was literally the limit, with dozens investing in space projects, including sub-orbital travel which will let people get from their penthouses in London to the Australian outback in just two-and-a-half hours.

There was no worrying about wage stagnation or the rising price of health care for the 167,669 people who control more than $20 trillion in assets, according to the report by London-based property consultants Knight Frank LLP. Three-quarters said their assets increased in value in 2013 and only 4 percent reported a loss.

And what did they do with their spare money? For one thing, Rolls-Royce had a record-setting year in 2013, selling 3,630 cars. Diamonds, like the 56.9 carat "Pink Star" which sold for a record $83 million last year, were the fifth most-popular item for the wealthy to collect, after wine, watches, art and jewelry.

They also bought a lot of property, both commercial and residential. Much of the residential property is for investment, as the ultra-rich owned an average of 2.4 homes each. Overall, their preferred place of residence are cities (86 percent), they love water views and are most likely to move to the United Kingdom. If you've got a little place in London with a view of the Thames, now may be the time to sell.

All of this isn't to say that the ultra-wealthy are without financial concerns: A third of those surveyed said global economic conditions pose the biggest risk to their money.

But Lawrence Wong, a senior executive at Bank of China International Limited, said in the report, "Even if things do slow down a bit I don't think there is cause for concern."

"U.S.-China trade keeps on growing, business is becoming more transparent and Chinese ultra-high net-worth individuals are becoming more comfortable dealing with international markets," he added.

That attitude explains why 58 percent said those same global economic conditions were likely to have a positive effect on their wealth.

The U.S., Germany and Japan are still home to most of the well-to-do, but other areas are catching up. In nine years China is expected to have 322 billionaires. Don't worry about America though: By that time the U.S. will have 503, 86 more than we do today.

If you don't yet qualify for the +$30 million club, don't despair. It is a growing field. The total number of the ultra-rich increased by 3 percent last year, or 5,000 people. By 2023 there are expected to be 47,444 more.

  • Constantine von Hoffman On Twitter»

    Constantine von Hoffman is a freelance writer and writing coach. His work has appeared in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, NPR, Sierra magazine, Brandweek, CIO, The Boston Herald, TheStreet.com, CSO, and Boston Magazine.

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