If California had a theme song, it could very well be the O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money.”
From 2019 through 2021, the number of Golden State residents bringing in more than $50 million jumped a whopping 158 percent, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. At the end of 2021, there were 3,182 of those ultra-wealthy California taxpayers, up from just 1,231 at the beginning of 2019. And in total, the state added a record-breaking 116,000 millionaires during those two years—more than were added in the previous decade combined.
“We’ve never seen an absolute growth in the number of millionaires like this data,” Cristobal Young, a professor at Cornell University who’s studied wealth migration, told Bloomberg. “Ultimately, California is a great place to make money.”
In addition to that boost, California saw over 288,000 residents report more than $1 million in income in 2021. Compare that with New York’s paltrier 80,000 millionaires that year. And Californians are still seeing their wealth increase: So far this year, when looking at Bloomberg Billionaires Index data, the state’s 113 billionaires on the list added an eye-popping $270 billion from January through July. (The index includes more billionaires in California than in any country other than China.)
That growth occurred even though some high-profile billionaires have moved out of the state recently, such as Elon Musk and Larry Ellison. Others, however, can’t quit all that California has to offer, including high-earning industries like Hollywood and Silicon Valley, elite colleges like Stanford and UCLA, and—of course—the beaches and year-round sunshine. For many, those benefits far outweigh any downsides, like the state’s high income tax rate.
“There’s no question I’m paying a ridiculous amount of tax for many, many years now, but hey, that’s my problem, if I don’t like it I can quit,” Dominic Ng, the millionaire CEO of East West Bancorp, told Bloomberg.
The proliferation of ultra-rich residents has led to an influx of businesses catering to this elite set. For example, the members’ club Core is opening in San Francisco next year. With initiation fees of $15,000 to $100,000 and annual dues in the thousands, the space will offer a private bar, a restaurant, a gym, and more in the center of the NorCal city, despite recent headlines that hotels and residents were leaving the Bay Area. “If people were telling us ‘I’m planning my exit,’ we wouldn’t come here,” said Francesca Giessmann, Core’s membership coordinator.
It sounds like a good deal of California’s ultra-wealthy, then, are leaving their hearts—and their money—in San Francisco.