The guide to being a billionaire

What does it take to be a billionaire?

Aside from the obvious one-billion-plus-US dollars, what are the must-have trappings that go hand in hand with a billionaire lifestyle? As a billionaire, where should one own property, run businesses, go to university, and what passions does one pursue?

Although some of the world's billionaires are household names, most of them lead lives that are shrouded in mystery. As the top 2,170 richest people in the world with a combined net worth of US$6.5 trillion (S$8 trillion), these are individuals who - for the most part - fiercely guard their privacy.

But new research published today has lifted the lid on this secretive segment of the ultra affluent population. Wealth-X, the world's leading ultra high net worth (UHNW) intelligence provider, has partnered with Switzerland's UBS to present the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census: the first comprehensive study on the world's billionaire population.

Using hand-curated intelligence, the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census reveals the passions, lifestyles and philanthropic interests of the ultra wealthy, along with information on how many houses they own on average, where they base their enterprises and their popular hobbies.

Of course, when it comes to people there is no such thing as an average, but within the billionaire population there are certain traits and trends that this type of individual will typically adhere to.

Here Wealth-X identifies some of the typical billionaire behavioural patterns and reveals the profile of the average billionaire. So whether you have the bank account to match or not, at least you can behave like a member of the billionaire club.

Nationality: European

The majority (766) of the world's 2,170 billionaires are based in Europe, although European billionaires have less money on average than their American counterparts. In North America, there are 552 billionaires with total wealth of US$2.15 trillion; in Europe they have a combined US$2.12 trillion in assets. This puts paid to the notion of Asian wealth dominating the global stage. Although the billionaire population in this region is the fastest growing - having soared 3.7 per cent last year compared to a fall of the same size in Europe - Asia's population of billionaires still ranks third with 508 billionaires and US$1.18 trillion in assets.

Wealth: US$3 billion

Although the Carlos Slims and the Bill Gates of the billionaire crowd are the ones getting the headlines, the average wealth of the typical billionaire is actually only US$3 billion. Globally there are 111 individuals with a net worth above US$10 billion, and their collective net worth is over US$1.9 trillion - greater than the GDP of Canada. Fifty four per cent of billionaires have a net worth of between US$1 billion and US$2 billion, however this segment accounts for less than a quarter of total billionaire wealth.

Source of Wealth: Self-Made

The world's billionaires are enterprising souls. Self-made billionaires make up 60 per cent of the total population and a fifth have inherited their wealth. The rest have part-inherited, part-made their own fortunes. All four of the world's "mega-billionaires", who each have a fortune of US$50 billion and above, are self-made. These are Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Amancio Ortega and Warren Buffet.

Gender: Male

When it comes to billionaires, it is still very much a man's world. Eighty-seven per cent of billionaires are male. However their female counterparts are on average slightly richer, at US$3.2 billion compared to the average male at US$3 billion. But the majority of female billionaires - 71 per cent - have inherited their money, while only 17 per cent are self-made. The fortunes of male billionaires are 64 per cent self-made versus 15 per cent inherited.

Children: 2.1

Most billionaires have modest-size families of 2.1 children, although 15 per cent have four or more children and one Middle Eastern billionaire has a staggering 24 children. Eighty-six per cent of the billionaire population is married.

City of Business: New York

New York is the business city of choice for the world's wealthiest, although Asia takes eight of the top 20 spots on the list of the most popular cities for billionaires - the most of any region. New York, with 96 billionaires - including the city's mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose net worth stands at US$21.4 billion - is followed by Hong Kong with 75 and Moscow with 74.

University: Harvard University

Harvard University has produced the most billionaires, with a total of 52 billionaire alumni including Jorge Lemann, who has assets totalling US$20.5 billion. Ranking second is the University of Pennsylvania, with 28 billionaire alumni.

Real Estate: US$78 million and Four Houses

The average billionaire holds US$78 million in real estate and owns four homes, each one worth around US$20 million. Contrary to popular opinion of billionaires being jet-setters, most of them are actually still based in their hometowns. A notable example of this phenomenon is the "Oracle of Omaha" Warren Buffet, whose multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway is headquartered in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.

Top Toy: US$78 million Yacht

Billionaires have lots of expensive toys but above all their favourite luxury assets are yachts. The total luxury holding of billionaires is US$126 billion, including yachts, planes, art, and jewellery, antiques and fashion and collectable cars and excluding real estate. On average, billionaires invest US$78 million in yachts. Software billionaire Larry Ellision, for example, is an avid yachting enthusiast and owner of Oracle Team USA, two-time winner of the prestigious America's Cup race.

This article was first published by Wealth-X.