Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Top 10 Richest People in the World

Many of 2015's top 10 richest people in the world plan to give away most of their money.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, the first- and third-richest people in the world, are good friends. Photo: Ethan Bloch, Flickr

It's good to have goals. If you're aiming to be among the top 10 richest people in the world, you might be interested in learning who you might have to displace. It can be instructive to review a list of the top 10 richest people in the world for other reasons, too, such as learning how they achieved their wealth and just how wealthy they are.

Forbes magazine is a big help here, as it regularly lists the richest people in the world. The magazine goes beyond the top 10, too, keeping tabs on all billionaires and prominently listing the top 500. Let's see what Forbes' data shows us.

The top 10 richest people in the world
First off, here are the top 10:
Net Worth
Source of Wealth
Bill Gates
$79.2 billion

Carlos Slim Helu & family
$77.1 billion
Warren Buffett
$72.7 billion
Berkshire Hathaway

Amancio Ortega
$64.5 billion
Larry Ellison
$54.3 billion

Charles Koch
$42.9 billion
David Koch
$42.9 billion
Christy Walton & family
$41.7 billion

Jim Walton
$40.6 billion
Liliane Bettencourt & family
$40.1 billion

Source: Forbes

Here are some interesting things about these folks and their fellow billionaires:

  • Anyone thinking that the U.S. has the vast majority of the world's richest people will find gobs of non-Americans on the list. Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu, for example, is ranked No. 2, while Spain's Amancio Ortega is in 4th place, with Liliane Bettencourt of France in 10th. Forbes' 2015 list of more than 1,800 billionaires includes 71additions to the list from China.
Many Americans haven't heard of Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu, but he's the world's second-richest man. Photo: ITU Pictures, Flickr
  • There are a record number of billionaires under age 40 on the big Forbes list, at 46. Still, that's not a lot, reflecting the fact that it's not easy to become a billionaire quickly. Some noteworthy names on the list include Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, which develops faster, inexpensive blood tests, among other things, along with founders of companies such as Airbnb, Snapchat, and Uber.
  • As you might expect, not all of the billionaires are self-made ones. Many, such as Walton family members, inherited their wealth. Others, such as the famous right-wing supporters Charles and David Koch, inherited great wealth and then increased that wealth significantly. Almost 1,200 on the overall list are self-made, with about 230 having inherited their wealth. (Some 400 are like the Kochs.)
  • Many of these billionaires have signed on to the Giving Pledge campaign created by Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett, promising to give away at least half of their fortune. Some of the pledgers include Netflix founder Reed Hastings and Patty Quillin, Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely.
  • The people tied for last place on the list of 500 are still rather wealthy, with a net worth of about $3.5 billion. Steven Spielberg, with a net worth of about $3.6 billion, is near them, in 481st place.
It's unlikely that any of us will become one of the top 10 richest people in the world, but that doesn't mean we need to give up our dreams of financial security. By saving aggressively and investing effectively (perhaps just via a simple, inexpensive broad-market index fund) for a long time, many of us can at least become millionaires. That will take us most or all of the way toward a comfortable retirement.