The typical billionaire: Not quite what you think

The typical billionaire: Not quite what you think

Singapore - There are now 1,810 billionaires on the planet. Most readers would be able to name Bill Gates as being the richest among them, but what else does one know about the world's wealthiest people?

For example, did you know that there are more school drop-outs among the world's richest than there are doctorate holders? That these billionaires were also hit by the devastating effects of the global financial crisis? Or that those born under the star sign of Aquarius seem predisposed towards prosperity?

Gocompare.com, a British financial-services comparison website, has compiled whimsical nuggets along with more serious facts in its Billionaires League report, which makes for fascinating reading.

The Billionaires League, which draws its data from Forbes, says the folks who make up the world's richest have not really changed in the last 20 years.

The average age of billionaires has gone up by 20 years in the last two decades, suggesting that the group comprises more or less the same people; they are just getting older. If the trend continues, the average billionaire will be in his 70s in 2019, and older than 100 by 2051.

Self-made billionaires have, however, fared better than those who inherited their fortune. The combined net worth of self-made billionaires rose 515 per cent in 20 years to US$1.6 trillion. Their net worth fell 38 per cent in the year after the financial crisis, but rose 117 per cent in the eight years following it.

The number of female billionaires remained stable throughout the crash and then went up from nine to 12 in the seven years following the crisis.


Billionaires' League by Gocompare

Nearly nine in 10 (87 per cent) of the billionaires featured in Forbes' Top 100 since 1996 are married. Most have between two and three children, with 5 per cent having none and 21 per cent, five or more children.

In terms of education, the bulk (56 per cent) hold only a Bachelor's degree; less than a quarter (23 per cent) have a Masters. Dropouts make up 14 per cent, and doctorate holders, only 7 per cent.

And, even though the world's top billionaire is bespectacled, the bulk (59 per cent) of Forbes' Top 100 have perfect eyesight.


Billionaires' League by Gocompare

America's billionaires rank above all other nations', with their combined net worth in the US$1 trillion range. American billionaires also form the largest proportion, at 40 per cent, of the world's wealthiest.

Russian billionaires were hit the hardest at the height of the global financial crisis; they lost 85 per cent of their net worth in a single year. Their fortunes have since recovered to US$92.3 billion, and they now rank just behind Germany's billionaires, who have a combined net worth of US$149.9 billion.

None of the billionaires were able to insulate themselves entirely from the financial crash of 2008; all lost some 40 per cent of their fortunes in a single year.

Microsoft's Bill Gates is the world's wealthiest billionaire, with a net worth of US$76.8 billion.

This wasn't always the case. He ranked behind Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim in 2008 and between 2010 and 2014. Mr Slim has been named by Forbes as 2015's biggest billionaire loser; his net worth fell from US$74.0 billion in 2011 to US$57.2 billion this year.

Battling for the top spot with these two men over the last two decades has been American tycoon and investor Warren Buffett. He has a net worth of US$65.4 billion and is now ranked second, behind Mr Gates.

The digital media boom of the 21st century has boosted the affluence of its key players.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos outdid them all to take the top spot this year, with a net worth of US$56.8 billion.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is second with US$46.9 billion, while Google's Larry Page (US$36.1 billion) and Sergey Brin (US$35.3 billion) round up third and fourth place.

Media moguls Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch suffered a reversal in fortunes in the last two decades, with 2008 - the year of the global financial crisis - being the inflexion point. From there, Mr Bloomberg's wealth grew and reached US$41.3 billion this year, against Mr Murdoch's US$11.8 billion.

Gocompare.com even made an exercise of checking these billionaires' birthdays - and found the biggest number of billionaires in Forbes' Top 100 between 1996 and 2015 born early in the year, under the sign of Aquarius.

The next highest number were of the star sign Taurus, then Capricorn and Leo. The smallest number were Cancerians.


Billionaires' League by Gocompare


This article was first published on November 15, 2016.
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