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20 Surprising Facts about the World's Richest People


In the 20th and 21st centuries, opportunities abound for people to make millions (and even billions) of dollars, creating their own personal fortune. Most notably, new technology industries have sprung up. Many of these are B2B firms, but one can’t discount Evan Spiegel’s Snapchat or Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook – direct-to-consumer tech offerings that have made billions of dollars. Rich people have a considerable amount of power due to their vast personal fortunes.

They are able to control every aspect of their own lives, as well as try to make a difference in the lives of others. Of course, there are a few eccentric and solitary types who are among the richest, but don’t make too many public appearances. The wealthiest people in the world all operate in their own unique fashion. You may be interested in the lifestyle, particularly if you have your own startup or idea that you think will make it big. If so, you will probably want to check out this article. Read on to learn Twenty Surprising Facts about the World’s Richest People.

The Ten Richest People Have Incredible Purchasing Power

When you combine the net worth of the ten wealthiest people, and then divide it by the annual gross world product (the total value of all transactions made in the entire world for a year), you will come up with a value of about 0.65%. While this may seem like an insignificant number, you must keep the total population of the world in mind. The fact that ten people out of 7.6 billion own enough wealth for it to even be significant compared to every financial transaction in the world is crazy enough. To put that into perspective, the top ten wealthiest individuals would be able to, with their combined wealth, buy every smartphone sold on the entire planet for about six years straight. The amount of purchasing power that such a small group holds is mind-blowing.

There is Significant Inequality in the Distribution of Wealth

You may know that the top 1% owns a considerable amount of the goods and property available on the market. In fact, they own about half of the world’s total wealth. Expanding the target group to the top 10% shows that they own 88% of all assets on Earth. In stark contrast is the economical bottom half of the global population, who combined own less than 1% of the total wealth of the world. It is likely that this gap between classes is responsible for much of the anti-elite, populist rhetoric that is common in modern politics. While this can occasionally take the form of anti-immigration or racist attitudes, it also can inspire revolutionary grassroots movements. For example, Senator Bernie Sanders had a distinctly anti-rich, anti-corporation, and pro-worker platform when he made a Democratic primary bid in 2016.

It Is Getting More Difficult for Young People to Build Wealth

The richest people in the world tend to be older. In fact, most of the world’s billionaires are at least 40 years old. Discounting obvious exceptions like Zuckerberg and Spiegel, millennials are having trouble building themselves up to join the one percent – something that is especially obvious when you examine the current financial situation of America. In the United States, the cost-of-living is rising at a significantly greater rate than that of hourly wages. Property prices are also increasing much faster than average worker earnings. Overall, people under the age of 35 tend to spend more than they save – the only age group to display this so-called negative saving.

On the other hand, millennials have a distinct advantage when it comes to starting a new, tech-based business. The younger generation was born just in time to take advantage of the Golden Age of the Internet. After all, the World Wide Web isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So, the huge firms that make their home on the ‘Net will remain at the forefront of their respective fields for years to come. This means it is a perfect time for anyone with an idea to get into the market, as it is still relatively unsaturated compared to where it will be as the Internet fully matures.

Millennials Represent 3.2% of the World’s Richest

Though millennials as a whole may have more trouble saving, they still represent a significant portion of ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals – which most define as those who own more than $30 million in assets. So, while they may have it a bit tougher, those who do make it will often make huge strides in their fields, rather than simply moderate success. Combined, the millennials in the UHNW group are worth about $334 billion. This means that Mark Zuckerberg represents about a fifth of this wealth all on his own. It’s a good thing that Zuckerberg kept at his business – even though he no longer works for Facebook – as he has enough money now to retire for centuries. This is something that any millennial with aspirations and a talent for coding could accomplish. It just takes the right idea at the right time.

The United States Has the Most Millionaires

If you examine the average wages worldwide, you can come to the conclusion that you must be worth at least $1 million to be considered a global one-percenter. The United States has the most millionaire households, with approximately 5.8 million of them across the entire country. Japan and China closely follow, with approximately 1.5 million and 1.3 million millionaire households respectively. Despite its status as the country with the most millionaires, the United States does not have the most per capita. Instead, this honor belongs to Qatar. Their biggest businesses are banking and oil – a powerful combination that allowed at least 1 in 10 Qatar citizens to become millionaires in recent years.

The Ultra-Rich Give Away More than Ten Percent of their Worth

The wealthiest individuals in the world are also quite fond of charitable giving. In fact, the average UHNW philanthropist will donate around $25 million throughout the course of their life. This comes in to a little more than 10 percent of their lifetime worth, as the average UHNW-class net worth is $240 million at their time of death. There are a lot of tax incentives related to charitable donations, but most of these people donate to make a difference as well. Many of the charitable contributions that are given by one-percenters are focused on long-term initiatives. The richest philanthropists seek to establish non-profit businesses with their money. The end goal is to create a non-profit that can fund itself, thus accomplishing their charitable goals without running out of money. Some of the most common charity themes that the richest people in the world embrace are in the environmental, social, healthcare, and political realms.

The Rich are at Risk for Wealth Fatigue Syndrome

Many people believe that all of their problems would be solved with money. After all, with a virtually unlimited budget, you could buy whatever you want with no consequences, right? Well, it turns out that not having a reason to limit yourself and your spending can actually be quite addicting. Manfred Kets de Vries, a psychoanalyst, has proposed the existence of a disorder called Wealth Fatigue Syndrome. This is caused by too much wealth, as everything else in life loses value when money is virtually unlimited. A lot of the richest people may engage in destructive behaviors or risk-taking – including excessive shopping, gambling, or impulsive purchases. This is a coping method for the boredom and depression that come along with being incredibly rich.

The City with the Most Billionaires is Beijing

For a long time, New York City was known as the billionaire capital of the world. They were at the top of the list for many years. However, a few other nations are coming up in the financial sector of global affairs. For example, China’s massive exporting businesses have generated tons of income for the country. As of 2017, Beijing was home to 94 billionaires. This was eight more than in New York City, meaning that Beijing stayed on the top of the list for the second year running. They also have a very high overall concentration of wealth in the area – even more so than the Silicon Valley region of California. As China’s economy continues to boom, we can only expect their share of the world’s wealth to increase – perhaps even displacing the United States.

Only About One in Ten Billionaires are Female

With 227 females on the list of 2024 billionaires, that means that approximately 11% of them are female. This is a figure that hasn't changed much since the 1990s, when the biggest pushes for more women in executive positions were happening. At this rate, it could take a while for equality to occur. According to Professor Zucman of the National Bureau of Economic Research, it would take about a century for 50% of billionaires to be women if the current growth rates continue. This is due to the unconscious bias that the system exhibits against women. It could also be due to plain discrimination. For more women to penetrate the so-called “diamond ceiling”, a vast societal overhaul would have to occur. This is more likely to happen steadily over time than overnight.

More Than Half of Billionaires are College-Educated

There is a fairly persistent myth that dropping out of high school or college leaves you with the same chance to become a billionaire as an educated person. After all, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both dropouts who went on to make billions of dollars. You may be surprised to hear that these cases are not the norm – they’re not even close to it. In fact, 52% of all of the world’s billionaires have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 34% also have a postgraduate degree. Only 14% of them have less than a college degree – meaning that it is far more likely to become wealthy if you choose to pursue an education. Just remember: Jobs and Gates dropped out because it was slowing them down – and they dropped out of Reed and Harvard respectively.

Most of the Richest People Made their Money in Established Industries

Another myth that surrounds the ultra rich is that they are creators of brand-new products. This is sometimes true but is generally not the case. Instead, around 80% of all billionaires made their money in “red oceans” – competitive and mature markets – where they saw an untapped opportunity. One perfect example of this type of entry into a market is the tale of Dietrich Mateschitz. He is an entrepreneur most closely associated with Red Bull. Through creative marketing and a proprietary formula, Mateschitz managed to penetrate a market that was already dominated by several other brands. He also spawned the ‘energy drink’ type of beverage in the United States.

Finance and Investment Are the Fields of Most Billionaires

There is a misconception that technology is the biggest field for billionaires in the 21st century. While tech is growing fast and comes 4th on the list of the richest industries, right behind real estate, fashion and retail, and, at the top, finance and investment. While it may overtake these industries in the near future, it hasn’t yet achieved a higher position. All of the richest people have their own individual thoughts and ideas on different things. However, they are likely to share one trait – working on something they are passionate about and love. They will also attempt to fix a problem that has not yet been addressed by another company. Either way, the money came naturally over time. Another valuable trait is motivation. Mark Zuckerberg could have sold Facebook to Yahoo back in 2006 for $1 billion. Now he owns multiple billion dollars-worth of assets.

The Richest Person In All of History was an African King

Jeff Bezos recently made the news for becoming the new richest man in the world, usurping Bill Gates. However, his current wealth is only about a quarter of that of the richest man in history’s – adjusted for inflation, of course. The African king Mansa Musa I had approximately $400 billion when he died (Jeff Bezos is worth $115 as of February 2018). Mansa Musa I ruled West Africa’s Malian Empire. In today’s world, this region is taken up by Ghana, Timbuktu, and Mali itself. He became so rich due to controlling more than half of the gold and salt in the entire world. With his fortune, he ended up building some old mosques that stand to this day. Unfortunately, most of his money was squandered by his successors due to civil war and foreign invasion.

Psychological Problems Can’t Stop the Most Successful People

A lot of the time, people see mental disorders as crippling illnesses. While some are, especially if left untreated, entrepreneurs will occasionally turn them to their advantage. For example, Steve Jobs built Apple from the ground up – always having a keen attention to detail. He was actually so obsessed with having the details perfect that it is suspected that Jobs was suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, the perfect design of Apple products helped bring them to prominence – thus, OCD really worked out for Jobs after all. Peter Thiel – the founder of PayPal – has also voiced his support for those with mental issues. He even called Asperger’s advantageous, citing their lack of socialization as decreasing the prevalence of groupthink. More original ideas have come out of those suffering from this disorder than those without.

The Richest People Tend to Donate Money to the Conservative Party

Regardless of the country that they hail from, the top percentile of earners almost always donates more to the conservative party. For example, the United States Grand Ole Party (Republican party) gets most of their donations from rich individuals and corporations. In the United Kingdom, the conservative Tories also received a large share of donations from a small group of ultra-rich men. While the richest people may not agree with the entirety of the conservative platform, it is a wise business decision to get them in office. They generally lower taxes on corporations and loosen restrictions. This is enough of a reason to get them to send considerable donations to the conservative party of their country.

CEOs Currently Make 140 Times More than the Typical Worker

The most up-to-date data on CEO-to-worker income ratios was released on the 1st of February, 2018. It was required to be released due to the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. The purpose of this act was to shine light on income inequality, and hopefully spur some of these CEOs into action. With each CEO making 140 times what a typical worker makes on average, income inequality is quite clear. The goal of the Dodd-Frank was to get certain changes to be made. For example, if corporate boards reel in their compensation packages and instead invest that money into their businesses and firms, they will end up making more in the long run. Plus, they will have happier employees who will perform higher-quality work.

The Richest Man Would Need to Spend Millions a Day to Go Broke

Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world, with a net worth of approximately $115 billion. This is a ludicrous amount of money, and far too much for a person to spend in a lifetime. In order to make it through this amount of money, Bezos would need to spend more than $3 million dollars per day to go broke in 100 years. Another measure you might look at is this: Bezos could give $10 to every single person on the planet, and he would still have $40 billion left to play around with. This amount of money is insane – what does a person even do with so much cash? Well, as it turns out, pretty much whatever you want. With billions of dollars, the world is your proverbial oyster.

Money Disappears Within Generations

For an example of how money can disappear quickly if mishandled, we will turn to the story of Stephen Lovell. When he was growing up, his grandparents were incredibly well-off. They had a personal fortune of at least $70 million due to his grandfather’s clothing company. They ended up leaving the money to his parents. Unfortunately, a combination of alcohol, bad luck, and terrible decisions led them to lose every cent within years. In fact, according to the Williams Group, about 70% of wealthy families will lose it all by the second generation. At least 90% of them lose it by the third. Thus, even an inherited sum of money will take skill to handle. If it isn’t used well, it will disappear quickly.

Most American Billionaires are Self-Made

While this is not the case all around the globe, about 62% of American billionaires are entirely self-made. They consist mostly of financiers, investors, and bankers – though entrepreneurs make up a sizable portion as well. Thus, the idea that most rich Americans were born with a silver spoon in their mouth is not quite the case. Instead, Americans embrace the dream that brought so many people to this continent in the first place. It is often said that the United States is a nation of entrepreneurs because it is in our blood. The very first Americans were mostly entrepreneurial as well, adventuring to the new world in search of their own personal fame and fortune. These traits no doubt rubbed off on subsequent generations.

Most European Billionaires Inherited Their Wealth

Europe is mostly about old money. More than half of the billionaires living in Europe inherited their wealth from a family member. Oftentimes, these personal fortunes also date back several generations. It is also important to mention that around 20% of these fortunes were four or more generations old. Another interesting fact is that the companies that ended up making all of this money are also older than US companies. The median age of a European company is about 91, compared to the median age of 76 in the United States. The Old World means old money, too.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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