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I am imagining a small country with a relatively small population; say around five million people, where by law everyone living there needs to be a millionaire or a multimillionaire/billionaire.

So since everyone living in my fictional country is rich, what could the average price for basic needs such as food, energy, basic clothing, hygiene products, etc. be, compared to the average prices in real life?

I might be wrong but my reasoning is that if everyone in a certain location can afford to have a very high standard of living then everything will be much more expensive than the average but maybe not. I don't know much about economics.

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    $\begingroup$ Only millionaires? No service staff? You'd have to have everything including the service industry automated in that case so you're going to need some really advanced robots and AI compared to what we have now, & if everyone is fabulously wealthy they can afford their own, which means everyone will end up living on their own ranch or compound provided for by their own robot slaves and automated mini factories, there may very literally be no economy worth speaking of in that situation & thus no cost of living because no one needs anything anyone else has, Asimov already explored this. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 2 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ Ah! "a small country", so the service staff can travel in every day then? take a look at Monaco, it's half way there already, cost of goods are capped to a degree by the ability to go shopping in the country next door. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 2 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ You want to look up the country of Monaco. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 2 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ Zimbabwe circa 2010. there was no requirement for residency, but everyone was millionaire, billionaire or trillionaire. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Apr 3 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ You're describing NZ currently, check out our current house prices... $\endgroup$ Apr 3 at 1:17

10 Answers 10

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. . . YEN!

enter image description here

Such a country already exists my friend. One of the most populous and powerful countries on the planet.

May I introduce the Mysterious Island Nation of Japan (Nippon)

enter image description here

Average monthly rent is about 50,000¥ per person. That means 600,000¥ per year. And that's just for rent. I suspect most people spend that again on groceries, utilities, medicine, clothes, and leisure activities. That comes to at least 1,200,000¥ per person.

Japan is full of millionaires.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a smartass answer and exactly because of that you get my +1. $\endgroup$ Apr 2 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ Hmm I've a more extreme example.. there's only 123 Yen in a Dollar. But you'd need 23,208 Vietnamese Dong to pay for a Dollar. So a million Vietnamese Dong is 43 Dollar. BNP per capita of Vietnam is about 7.000 Dollar, which means the average Vietnamese worker earns about 162 million per year. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Apr 2 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Daron being a millionaire is usually defined as having a million in wealth. Not income or disposable income. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millionaire $\endgroup$
    – NPSF3000
    Apr 3 at 2:00
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    $\begingroup$ For those saying wealth is about savings: "As of 2020, average savings held by households comprising two or more people in Japan amounted to approximately 17.9 million Japanese yen, an increase from around 16.6 million Japanese yen in 2011". Japan is ALL about the savings. $\endgroup$ Apr 3 at 4:38
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    $\begingroup$ Look at all these children bickering over which currencies worth less, come on mature already anyway I think banana notes win hands down no contest haha take that suckers! na-na na-na boo-boo... $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Apr 3 at 6:11
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If only millionaires are allowed to live there, then either they heat their own microwave dinner, or the cooks have a hell of a commute. That would be thinkable for a place like Monaco, if it wanted to try, but perhaps not for a country of 5 million.

So the logical approach would be that only millionaires are allowed to live there in their own right, or become citizens. Non-millionaires are only allowed in if they are in service to the millionaires, or other jobs which cannot be outsourced. In that case, one might assume that workers are paid slightly more than in their home society, to make up for the aggravation of working in a country that will deport them as soon as they become unemployed, or retire, and that might not even allow their family to come.

Young professionals might work there as expats for a few years, save much of their salary, and then return home to start their own business, or raise a family. But then Germany had an idea like that, and guess what, the workers wanted to stay and raise their family in the host country. Gastarbeiter became immigrants, many of them without resolving the citizenship issues.

Senior professionals would have to be paid a lot to leave their family at home. Enough to afford regular commutes. Or the family members get make-work jobs to allow them in.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for service, they'll need workers. Expats, gastarbeiter, immigrants... issue is always travel. In the 19th and 20th century, to prevent a mix of population, Dutch colonial authorities in Indonesia used to arrange kampongs for indigenous servants to live in. These were separate neighborhoods, with far less space than Dutch folks had. Similar arrangements were found during 80s and 90s apartheid in South Africa, where a season-bound labor force was arranged to live in separate "home lands". The current day Palestinian Territories is another example of a labor force kept near, but separate. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Apr 2 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ Monaco is closest to what the OP seems to be describing, with a "small country" essentially what you end up with there is a giant super rich gated community, all of the service staff commute in daily from outside and everything else is outsourced & 'off-shored' .. so it doesn't really have an economy of its own as such, but is better characterised as part & parcel of the larger economy of its neighbouring countries. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 3 at 4:15
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    $\begingroup$ What if the Super-Monaco country is simply gerrymandered into a giant narrow-spoked star, so there's plenty of room outside the country (in between the spokes) for the cooks to live without getting too far from their workplaces? ;) $\endgroup$ Apr 3 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ Some of the oil economy Arab countries are trying this right now. $\endgroup$
    – Karen
    Apr 4 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Quuxplusone Super Monaco Brothers is a great game but very hard too. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 4 at 20:56
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Nowadays it is common that if you wish to immigrate to a country, you need to either have a job offer or, in lieu of that, a proof of funds so that you can support yourself for at least one year on your own.

So, for comparison, a country like Canada currently requires most immigrants applying for permanent residence to demonstrate that they have a minimum of 13,213.00 CAD in 2022. That's about 10,551.16 USD right now and is supposed to last you for a whole year. As someone who lives there, I can tell you that being able to live for a year with that amount is a complete and utter [redacted], unless you are willing to share accommodations with wild animals and hunt for your own food. At least it's Canada, so even the bears are somewhat nice.

With that said, Monaco requires you to deposit around half a million Euros in a Monegasque bank before you can even apply for residency. You read that right, half a million Euros. That is about 552,250.00 USD right now. However, some banks will require double that amount to open an account for a foreigner. That is supposed to last you one year, but I suspect even so the local folk would still look down on you for being cheap.

So yeah, just look at the general conditions of living in Monaco and you should have an idea of what it is to live in a filthy rich place.

By the way, many people manage to live in Monaco on a job offer. Say you want to be someone's butler, supposedly you can live on 11,000 USD a month (about 62 USD/hour on most months), but that is really Spartan and you won't be a permanent resident.

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To put things slightly differently, you may have a country where the citizens are required to be super rich compared to the rest of the world's population... but they'll still need servants, lackeys, chauffeurs, minions, gofers and the like, who won't necessarily be citizens even though they might be residents.

The other thing about rich people is that they don't get to be rich by spending money. They might invest their money, but they tend to either not spend as much, or not stay rich. If you don't consider this to be a thing, consider the footwear economy (originally proposed by Terry Pratchett).

My wife buys 30 dollar shoes every few months, and wears them until they wear out, then buys another pair. Over 20 years, she might have bought 60 pairs for 1800 dollars. I wear 500 dollar R.M. Williams boots... but a pair lasts me 10-20 years, so I might buy 1 or 2 pairs in that time. So over that time, who has spent less on footwear, the person who buys cheap footwear, or the person who buys expensive footwear?

So, considering that rich people (who stay rich) don't need/want to spend a lot more money long term than the rest of us, and won't want to be spending any more than necessary on their employees, it can be argued that the cost of living won't be significantly different to that of living in any other places with the same standard of living, otherwise not many rich people will want to live there.

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Inflation, can cause the value of money to go down so far that the value of a million units becomes a pittance.

This process, hyperinflation, can make millionaires out of everybody, and yes, it is more likely to happen in countries without infrastructure to guard against it, like small nations.

See Weimar Republic, Germany

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Wealthy, but somewhat ordinary

A million $ sounds like a lot of money, but thanks to inflation isn't as it may have been in the past.

A good example of this is Australia, where the median wealth is ~$238,000 USD - it's a wealthy society with strong social safety nets, but otherwise resembles many other countries. Not exactly the OP scenario, but not far off.

The claims that somehow there wouldn't be any service staff seem gross exaggerations - a wealthy populace still needs service staff, so such roles would be paid enough to attract workers.

Or is it?

What is more interesting is how this would be implemented, and the societal attitudes.

For example, how would immigration be handled? Would non-millionares be denied entry?

Similarly, what if you lose wealth, and become a non-millionaire? Would you be imprisoned?

Most importantly how would society justify these actions to themselves, and what kind of culture would it create?

Is this a risk-averse society, only for the reasonably wealthy? Or is this a place where risks are taken and losers are exiled to make their fortune before returning?

Are government services exemplary, or extremely limited relying on the private sector?

This will be far more interesting, than the exact wealth of individuals.

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The end of NPSF3000's answer is basically the same questions I'd be asking. You say "only millionaires are allowed to live here"... so what happens if a citizen becomes a non-millionaire? Do they get deported, or killed, or otherwise very-bad-consequences? If so, then I wonder how different this would be from the real world, in which (I vaguely, viscerally, believe; and I don't think I'm alone in believing) there are bad consequences for letting your net worth reach \$0? In other words, is this world isomorphic to our world except that every citizen at birth stuffs \$1 million cash into their mattress and then lives the same life they would have had otherwise?

However, in the real world, there really aren't terribly terrible consequences for hitting \$0 net worth. For one thing, you can always get a loan, if your credit is good. If I have only $900,000 in my mattress, but I also have a \$200,000 bank loan (or the capability to get one), will your country still count me as a millionaire?

How do you even measure net worth? Right now my (real-world) bank reports that my net worth is negative, because I have more large loans outstanding than (they believe) I currently have assets-on-hand. But I also have a job with income, so my credit is good. I also have a certain amount of equity in a house, which the bank doesn't care to track as part of my "net worth": would your country count a house or a job as part of the net worth that goes into "being a millionaire"? Would your government outsource the tracking of net worth to some kind of credit bureau, or would the government try to track net worth itself, or what?

Actually, you know who frequently has a net worth in the deep negative numbers? Children. Would you need a rule that nobody's allowed to have kids until they and their spouse have a combined net worth of \$3 million, so that they could put $1 million into the kid's trust fund at birth?

What happens if a couple with net worth \$3.5 million accidentally end up with twins?

Does this country have a functioning government? (It must, right? or who'd enforce this specific rule?) If so, then the bookkeeping would become a lot simpler if the government just decreed that every citizen would henceforth "own" \$1 million from the government's own vaults — sort of like "40 acres and a mule" crossed with the elevator pitch for Tether. Then no citizen would ever be in danger of becoming not-a-millionaire, and everyone could just go about their business as usual.

In short, this whole idea seems like it needs a lot of details fleshed out; it's very complicated to implement. And because it's so complicated to implement, it raises the important question of whywhy does your country work this way? What's the benefit? Why would anyone go to all this trouble?

Figure out the why (in-universe), and you might get a lot further along in answering the rest of the how.

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Unfortunately, the answer here depends heavily on your definition of 'living there'. For this answer, I took 'millionaires' to just mean 'people with large wealth relative to the rest of the world'

If you define 'living there' by citizenship, then it would be very similar to many current countries. Except that anyone who isn't a citizen would lack the ability to be active in government or have other rights and privilege's of citizenship. In the US, many people live just fine without having citizenship.

If you define 'living there' by some duration of stay, then the answer would change drastically based off of how long that duration is and the size of the country, how open or closed the borders are, how available and efficient transportation is. Imagine the US only allowed millionaires to spend more than 24 hours in the country, then you may still have individuals commuting into the US for work, but only around the borders. In fact, some people already commute into the US for work. However the further inland you go, the bigger the changes would be to current reality.

If you were 10+ hours traveling time away from a border, nearly no one would live there. The cost of living would be insane... the only people you could hire would be other millionaires who also would have to be paid a rate to justify them living and working in the middle of the country instead of living an easy life near a border where they could say... go to starbucks with a barista who is not a millionaire commutes in daily.

Those are basically the two extremes, with your world being somewhere between the two depending on your definition of 'living there'. If you extend the duration of time a non-millionaire could be living in the country up from 1 day, you approach the other answer where non-millionaires live in the country permanently just don't have the privilege's of citizenship.

If you make the country smaller and smaller, with efficient and open borders and transportation, then you have a world that drifts from the towards the non-millionaires living as semi-permanent residents just without citizenship. They would merely spend 15 minutes commuting into the country (if it were small enough.)

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Think Quality of Life, not Wealth

Others have mentioned that being a "millionaire" is simply a question of how money is denominated, and a simple law re-denominating the local currency can make anyone with even a single cent into a millionaire. I'll assume that you don't mean this, but are actually referring to "rich" or "wealthy" people.

The reality is that "wealth" is defined as a measure of disparity. Someone is wealthy if they have significantly more resources than others in their community. If everyone in your country is able to afford the latest Xbox, gourmet coffee machine, sports car, and a house in the suburbs, but nobody can afford a private helicopter, you don't have a country where everyone is wealthy, but a country with a decent quality of life. I will guess that you are probably thinking more of quality of life measures, so look into that.

Earth on Star Trek is probably one of the best fictional examples of a society with a very high quality of life (nobody has to work if they don't want to, everyone gets free healthcare, food, and college, nobody is stuck living on the streets, doctors hand out organ-regenerating pills like it was candy, etc.), but where nobody really qualifies as rich because money isn't a thing anymore.

By contrast, a hypothetical lower quality of life medieval-like society in which only the super-rich can afford indoor plumbing would mean that indoor plumbing, and not sports cars or Malibu condos, would be the prominent status symbol of wealth. The fact that sports cars wouldn't exist in the setting doesn't negate the idea that some citizens are wealthy and some are not, because the measure is one of disparity. The difference between them and us is that their quality of life is much lower, not their wealth.

So, think high quality of life in your society, not wealth. In your society, everyone can afford a personal helicopter, yacht, homes on both coasts, and a sports car for each day of the week. Only some people in your society can afford one of those 100 billion super yachts or one of those 500 billion private spaceships that your society's nascent space industry is starting to market. Those are your "rich" people.

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    $\begingroup$ "wealth" is defined as a measure of disparity - well, by Karl Marx, yes. That's pretty much the thesis of Das Kapital. But I guess we'd see a lot more communists if such a country would ever come into existence $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    Apr 5 at 14:50
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Let's assume that the statement "everybody is rich" means rich compared to other countries when you convert the currencies. (Another definition of "rich" could be how much of a given basic subsistence item like flour and oil one can buy from a month's income or the median wealth, but you are, I think, asking about that price.)

Examples are basically all industrial nations compared to less developed countries, or Switzerland compared to the rest of Europe.

The effects are clearly visible: Wages as well as the cost of living (e.g. in Switzerland) are higher than in the poorer countries (e.g. Germany). Average Western incomes can sustain a more luxurious life in many African or Asian countries. There is no reason to assume that the effect would not continue if the wealth is driven to a greater extreme.

Prices rise partly together with wages in the inflation that Daron's tongue-in-cheek answer describes; but it is only partly so because imports still are cheap. Simple items like basic foods will be somewhat more expensive than in other countries because higher costs for transportation and wages inland result in a surcharge. But basic items will still be cheaper relative to incomes than in other countries.

Prices for limited resources will react stronger to rich buyers, as can be seen in the housing market of the U.S. bay area. There is only so much area but a steadily growing income and population, resulting in extreme real estate price hikes.

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