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You read that right. There are 80 people who are as rich as the 3.6 billion poorest. With 7 billion people on the Earth, that means these 80 people control half of the world’s wealth. Sit back and think about that for a minute. So who are these people and how did they make their money? Better yet, is there any hope of you becoming a member?
In this post, we will see how wealthy these 80 people are and how they made their fortune. We will also provide some actionable steps for you to one day join this wealthy bunch.
But first, I want to take a minute to look at the expanding wealth gap and the impact it can have.
Table of Contents
The Wealth Gap Is Expanding
The numbers below come from Oxfam, a global non-profit organization working for social change. Along with help from Credit Suisse, they found that 80 people control half the world’s wealth. And that gap is growing faster by the year.
Just look at the chart below for proof. Back in 2010, it took close to 400 billionaires to equal half the world’s wealth. We are now down to just 80 billionaires.
As this trend continues, by the end of 2016 the richest 1% will own more than 50% of the world’s wealth. In other words, 1% of the population will control more money than the other 99%. That is just plain CRAZY! And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other crazy stats like it:
- If you have $10 in your pocket and have no debt, you are richer than 25% of Americans
- If you woke up this morning healthy, you are better off than 1 million others who won’t live through the week. (See more of this in the video below).
So why is an expanding wealth gap bad news? To understand this, we first need to know what we are talking about.
We aren’t talking about standard of living. Even the poorest people in America have a higher standard of living than most other countries. And the poor today have a much higher standard of living than middle class Americans 100 years ago.
So the wealth gap isn’t about standard of living, it is about the opportunity to play this game of life.
The rich have the means to send their kids to the best colleges, regardless of cost. They have the means to take advantage of any opportunity that comes their way.
The poor don’t have this advantage. You can even argue women don’t have this advantage when speaking of salary.
And with the rich in power, they create laws that only further benefit themselves. Take a look at the tax code and all the loopholes as an example.
That is why the expanding wealth gap is a problem. Not everyone has a chance at making it because those that are rich are doing everything they can to further grow their wealth.
The List Of 80 Billionaires
OK, this is what you came for, who are these 80 people? Below is a fancy chart I created that lists their names and net worth. But below that is where the fun begins.
You can learn more about these billionaires, including:
- whether they are self-made or they inherited their wealth
- wealth vs GDP
Breakdown of Billionaires
So how do these 80 billionaires look in cool pie charts? Here is the gender breakdown. I would have expected to see some more women on the list.
The next chart is the nationality of the billionaires. The US leads the list by far with 33 while Germany comes in second place with 7 of the top 80 billionaires. It’s almost looking like the medal count of the Olympics. The only exception is that China isn’t on the heels of the U.S.
Next let’s look at the billionaires who are self-made versus those born into wealth. I put anyone who inherited their wealth into the inherited category. This is because they started out with the benefit of having money.
As you can see, the majority are self-made billionaires. Those that inherited their wealth may choose to not work. But they won’t go broke because they have to spend a crap load of money when they have $20 billion or more.
This is a vast difference from those that win the lottery and are instant millionaires. In these cases, the odds are great the lottery winners will go broke because sadly, a few million doesn’t allow for you to drastically increase your spending every year.
Here is an interesting chart of these billionaires versus GDP. What is GDP? Think of it as the value of a country. It’s the value of all the goods and services a country produces in a given year. For example, in 2015, the GDP of the US (according to the World Bank) was close to $18 trillion. Below are the countries whose GDP is less than these 80 billionaires. In other words, these 80 people have more money than the countries below produce.
I know the charts above were awesome. But the biographies of the billionaires are even more interesting. For example, you know Bill Gates is the man behind Microsoft. But I bet you didn’t know he wrote a code so he and fellow classmates could play tic-tac-toe against a computer.
Below are other interesting and obscure facts about the 80 billionaires. (Note I was going to include every billionaire on the list. But there are a handful of people on this list who I couldn’t find any interesting facts about. To save you the time, I kept them off my list.)
Bill Gates: Not only did he write that code I mentioned above, but he wrote a payroll code for Information Sciences, Inc. as well. When his high school found this out, they were impressed. They had him write a program to schedule classes for the school year. Here is the kicker: he edited the code so he was in classes that had a disproportionate number of girls!
Amancio Ortega: I have to admit, I never heard of this guy and as I read up on him, I know why. Armancio made his money with Inditex, a Spanish fashion group that owns Zara.
So why haven’t I heard of him? He keeps a low profile. Real low. Up until 1999, no photograph had ever been published of Armanico. He lives a simple life. He goes to the same coffee shop every day and eats his lunch in the cafeteria with his employees.
You could even say he is a billionaire because he doesn’t spend his money. He wears a blue blazer, white dress shirt and grey pants.
Talk about fitting a millionaire profile!
Warren Buffett: Most everyone knows who Warren Buffett is. He is a value investor and owns many companies. Some of which include Geico, Fruit of the Loom, The Pampered Chef and Dairy Queen. But here are some things you didn’t know about him:
- On his first tax return he took a $35 deduction for his bike and watch that he used on his paper route.
- He taught Investing Principles, a night course at the University of Nebraska (Omaha). The average age of his students was twice his age.
- He still lives in the house he bought in 1957 for $31,500.
Carlos Slim Helu: For those that don’t know, Carlos is the “Warren Buffett of Mexico” because he has stakes in so many companies. His biggest though is America Movil, which is Latin America’s largest mobile phone company. The interesting thing about Carlos though is what happened back in 1982.
Back then, the Mexican economy relied heavily on oil. As oil prices fell and interest rates rose, many of the companies in Mexico started to struggle. Carlos began buying these companies for pennies (or pesos) on the dollar. This is how he jump-started his wealth creation. It just goes to show you that when the market drops, you need to be buying and not selling out of fear.
Mark Zuckerberg: When Mark was in high school, he created “ZuckNet”. It was a software program that allowed computers at his father’s dental offices to talk to each other. They could even talk to the computers at home too. Sound like anything familiar? Maybe like instant messenger? Well, a year later, AOL Instant Messenger came out.
Larry Ellison: Is the founder and former CEO of Oracle. The interesting thing about him is that he owns 2 military jets. A SIAI-Marchetti S.211 and a decommissioned MiG-29. The US government has refused to allow him to import the decommissioned MiG. He also gave Acura NSX sports cars as gifts in the past.
Michael Bloomberg: He is best known for being the mayor of New York City from 2001 – 2014. But before that, he founded the financial data and media company Bloomberg. They created the Bloomberg terminals you see at most finance companies.
He has two daughters and they are featured in a documentary film, Born Rich. It is about the children of the wealthiest of Americans.
Liliane Bettencourt: She is one of the principal shareholders of L’Oreal cosmetics. She inherited the company when her father passed away. Even though she inherited the company, she began working for L’Oreal at age 15 as an apprentice.
An interesting fact about Liliane is that in 2012 she sold her private island D’Arros Island. The price tag? 60 million GBP.
Larry Page: Larry is a co-founder of Google and is the firms current CEO. Some interesting facts:
- Both of his parents worked in computer programming/computer science. His father is even considered a “pioneer in computer science and artificial intelligence.”
- He invented Google PageRank
- In college he created an inkjet printer out of Lego’s and then installed the drivers to make it work!
Alice Walton: Alice is the daughter of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. She is the 2nd richest woman in the world. Notable facts about Alice include her marrying an investment banker at age 24, then getting divorced 2 1/2 years later. A short time after that, she remarried, this time to the man that built her swimming pool. That marriage did not last either.
Wang Jianlin: He is the world’s largest owner of movie theaters in the world (he owns other things as well). In September of 2013, he flew in celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Beckinsale, and John Travolta to help launch a mini-Hollywood in the coastal city of Qingdao, China.
Jorge Paulo Lemann: He is a Swiss-Brazilian banker (what a combo!) and was a five-time Brazilian national tennis champion. He also played at Wimbledon.
Karl Albrecht: He recently passed away and kept a low profile. So low that almost nothing is known about him. He founded the supermarket chain Aldi and reportedly played golf on his own course.
Sheldon Adelson: Sheldon is the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands corporation. He started his first business when he was 12, when he bought a license to sell newspapers in Boston. Over his career, he started over 50 businesses and became a millionaire in his late 20’s. In his 30’s, he built and lost his fortune twice.
George Soros: This man broke the Bank of England. Literally. In the early 1990’s he was speculating a lot in currencies and felt that the British Pound was priced wrong. He began to short sell his position (estimated at over $10 billion – yes with a “B”) which ended up costing the UK Treasury 3.4 billion.
His profit in the end was around $1 billion dollars and this event went down in history as Black Wednesday.
Steve Ballmer: He was Microsoft’s 30th employee and was the CEO until 2014. He currently owns the NBA’s LA Clippers franchise and sits courtside at their home games. He also loves Fergie:
Jacqueline Mars: She is an heir to the Mars candy company. Nothing of interest here, just my burning questions of:
- Do they get all the free candy they want?
- Do they even eat candy or are they sick of it, assuming they can get as much as they want for free?
- Is trick-or-treating at their house like winning the lottery?
- Do they have a pool filled with M&M’s instead of water?
Theo Albrecht, Jr.: Nothing interesting about Theo. But I did find out something fascinating about his father.
In 1971, Theo Sr. was kidnapped and held for seven million German marks (about $2 million USD). The two men were caught but only half of the money was recovered. This lead Theo Sr. to try to claim the entire ransom as a tax deductible business expense! And you thought Donald Trump did some shady things with his tax returns.
Michael Dell: While in high school, Michael sold subscriptions to the Houston Post. He realized that those most likely to buy a subscription were those buying a house and laying roots in the area.
He then went through marriage and mortgage applications and targeted those people. That year he made more than his economics and history teachers, $18,000.
Susanne Klatten: Susanne inherited her wealth from her parents. Of interest was an attempted kidnapping of her in 1978. What is up with Germans and kidnapping?
Paul Allen: He was one of the founders of Microsoft and scored a perfect 1600 on his SATs. He dropped out of Washington State University and convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard to start Microsoft.
Carl Icahn This man is a corporate raider. What does this mean? If you ever saw the movie Wall Street and know Gordon Gekko, then you know what I mean. This guy has taken over company after company. He has also and tried but failed many times too. Just check out this Wikipedia page for proof. I’d love to list all these takeovers and attempts, but this post would balloon in size. Here is just a sampling for you:
- US Steel
- Mylan Labs
- Time Warner
- Lionsgate Films
- Oshkosk Corp
Dieter Schwarz: Nothing super exciting about Dieter. He does own the supermarket chain Lidl. It’s a discount chain in the same vein of Aldi. If you live on the U.S. east coast, you will start seeing these stores as they are expanding into the U.S. market.
Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor: Sadly, Gerald recently passed away. As I was looking for interesting things about him and I found out he was dead, this scene from Major League immediately popped into my head:
Alisher Usmanov: He is a Russian businessman. The interesting thing here is he hired a UK based PR firm to edit and clean up his Wikipedia profile. The PR firm removed criminal convictions and other controversies.
Vladimir Potanin: He grew up in an upper class Russian family. He attended prestigious schools to get his education. He grew his wealth through the shady loan-for-shares program. His former business partner Mikhail Prokhorov, owns the New Jersey Nets basketball team.
What was the loans-for-shares program? Back when Russia was communist, people could not own property. It was against the law. But when the Soviet Union fell, the government sold off state owned businesses. Private investors were the ones buying these businesses. If you were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, you made a killing.
While no longer in the top 80 world’s richest people, I have to make note of Masayoshi Son. He is one of the richest men in Japan even though he lost over $70 billion during the dot-com bust. Yeah, $70 billion. Imagine losing $70 billion and still having over $10 billion dollars.
How You Can Become One Of The World’s Richest People
It was fun looking at the biographies of the world’s richest people. But the question now is how do you join them?
First, you have to know that anything is possible. You have to believe and have a dream, otherwise there is no point.
Second, the most common path to billionaire status is through starting your own business. Plain and simple. When you start your own business, it has the ability to grow and produce millions of dollars each year. In some cases, even billions.
You also get the added benefit of taking tons of write-offs on your taxes. Look at Donald Trump of proof of this. If you clicked through the article I linked to above, you will see how much he wrote off. As a result, we was able to avoid paying taxes for many years. All within the scope of the law.
Looking at this from a business standpoint, what he did was smart. It is what 99.9% of other business owners would do as well. Heck, you take every deduction you can get your hands on too. I know I do!
So, your first step is to start your own business. You can read my detailed post about how to be a successful entrepreneur here. You can start any business you want. You can check out my money making post as it has some great tips. It might even spark some ideas for your own business to start.
Once you have an idea, it is time to get to work.
Understand that when starting a business, you have some options. You can invent a new product or service that people need or want. Or you can innovate an existing industry. Look at Ikea as an example.
The furniture industry has been around for years, but Ikea has been able to carve out a successful niche.
Once you have an idea for a business, there are still things you need to know.
Always be learning: You can never rest when starting a business. There is always someone else out there hungry for success. If you get lazy and stop trying to learn and improve, you are going to get left behind. And your business will fail.
Be patient: Businesses take time to grow. You won’t be the next Bill Gates overnight. It can take many years before you start taking a large salary from your business. It will be years before your business achieves revenues in millions of dollars.
From there, you do have to be smart about investing and spending. Let’s tackle spending first. When you become a billionaire, you don’t have to watch every penny. But as you start out your journey, it is smart to be mindful of your spending.
Don’t give up: Most businesses will fail. It is a fact of life. But if your business fails it doesn’t mean you will never become a billionaire. Or a successful business owner. It just means that you need to try again. Maybe people weren’t ready for your new product. Maybe your market research was flawed. Whatever the case, don’t throw in the towel for good. Your current business might not be a success but your next one may be. Look at the graph before for inspiration.
Look at all the jobs and businesses these billionaires had. It wasn’t just one idea that led them to billionaire status. It was many failures and a lot of learning along the way.
When it comes to your business profits, keep as much as you can and reinvest as much as you can into your growing business. This goes back to the point about always learning. Having cash on hand will allow you to keep ahead of your competitors.
Now we need to talk about investing. You can become a billionaire through investing.
The main stumbling block most investors face is getting lured in by flashy investments. They seem like can’t miss investments, but they miss more often than not.
With that said, you aren’t becoming a billionaire by following a buy and hold investing strategy. Unless of course you already have millions to invest.
To become a billionaire through investing, you are going to have to take a hands on approach. This means following the market, setting stop-loss orders, and trading often.
Even then, you need to take your investing one step further. You will need to look into angel investing. This is where you invest in startups. When they succeed, you earn a handsome return.
The catch is that you need to have some assets to invest in the first place. Another catch is that many startups fail, so you have to be smart when investing in them.
To begin investing with the goal of becoming a billionaire, you need to have an investment plan. Take to time to complete this step and you won’t end up like Masayoshi Son and lose $70 billion in a market collapse.
While an investment plan won’t stop you from losing money, it will help guide you. And it will increase the chances of success.
A few other points about investing:
- Understand taxes: You will want to set up every tax deferred account you can get your hands on. You want to also contribute the maximum amount each year. This will help you to keep as much money as possible and avoid paying taxes.
- Be smart about risk: You can take a lot less risk once you have a couple million dollars. I talk about this in my compound interest post. Even with less risk, you can still make tons of money in the stock market. If you have $100 million dollars invested in bonds that earn 4% a year, you would make $400,000 in interest. Sign me up!
So there you have it, the 80 richest people in the world and some actionable tips on how to join them. The biographies of these men and women are interesting. What I can’t get over is that just 80 people control so much of the world’s wealth. That is just crazy.
But I think we can learn something from these people too.
Mainly, that you find what you enjoy and you do it. So many of the tech guys on this list were playing with computers as kids and now are billionaires. This isn’t to say if you loved playing GI Joes as a kid you can start a trillion dollar toy company. But you should do something that interests you.
Another take away is that many of these people made it on their own. While some did inherit their wealth, many are self-made. While you or I might not ever appear on the Forbes List, we still can use sound principles to create and grow wealth. Doing so will allow us to realize our financial dreams.
I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.