Steve Patterson: Rich? Maybe on paper, but few can get the cash – or spend it if they did

WHAT people have to realise is that these figures don't represent cash in the bank.

Those on the Rich List who have accumulated their wealth through business often find realising the value of their wealth in cash terms difficult.

A lot of value in business is tied up in share values, based on an assessment of future profits rather than actual assets, so turning that into real wealth is not as easy as it sounds.

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So although the figures sound massive, these very wealthy people may only have a fairly modest amount of money they can actually spend. And as the old saying goes, you can only buy so many hot dinners – so whether you've got 50 million or 950m, the actual amount probably doesn't mean that much.

So somebody like Sir David Murray who, according to the list has seen his wealth drop by 390m, will not have to tighten his belt too much.

Most of his wealth was based on the value of his companies, so he'll have been well aware that the value of his firms would come down during the recession. He'll also see his wealth rise again as the economy improves, so it is possible it won't affect him hugely.

For these people, it is also the case that building up a business is more important to them than simply accumulating wealth. There is obviously a certain amount of prestige that comes from making it in to the Rich List. But although the wealth of the richest people has gone up, it has also been quite a difficult time for some.

Governments are putting in place stricter regimes over things like tax havens, so sheltering wealth has become more of a problem.

Another problem for the rich is spending all the money. It is unlikely anyone on this list could actually spend the money they have in a lifetime, so it's about protecting their wealth for future generations of their family.

• Steve Patterson is managing director of Glasgow-based Intelligent Pensions