Billionaires Suffer From Volatile World Economy

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA
By

The world’s wealthiest people have seen their fortunes tumble by hundreds of billions of dollars due to volatile stock markets, plunging oil prices and a strengthening dollar.

For the first time in seven years, the number of billionaires dropped – from a peak of 1,926 in 2014 to 1,810 last year.

Their combined riches were $6.48 trillion, down $570 billion.

The average net worth of a billionaire also slumped from $3.9 billion to $3.6 billion.

The figures come from the annual US magazine Forbes Billionaire List.

Wealthiest man and woman

The rankings turned out as volatile as the world’s money and commodity markets:

  • 221 people lost their billionaire status
  • 198 won billionaire status for the first time
  • 29 billionaires died, while 29 who had lost billionaire status jumped back on to the list
  • 892 billionaires are less wealthy now than last year, but 501 increased their wealth

Microsoft founder Bill Gates held on to the top place with a wealth estimated at $75 billion – down nearly $5 billion from the year before.

Gates has hit the number one spot 17 times in the past 22 years and held the title as the world’s richest man for three years in a row.

The richest woman is Liliane Bettencourt, owner of cosmetics brand L’Oreal, with a wealth of $36.1 billion.

The youngest billionaires are Norwegian sisters Alexandra, aged 19, and Katharina Andreson, aged 20, worth $1.2 billion each. They are heirs to a tobacco company Ferd.

The combined riches of the world’s wealthy are insignificant to those of the richest men who have ever lived.

Research by historians and economists believe Roman Emperor August Caesar had a wealth of $4.6 trillion, while the legendary king Mansa Musa of Timbuktu is said to have had an immeasurable fortune.

Where billionaires live

The country with the highest tally of billionaires is the USA, with 540.

China has 251, while Hong Kong is home to another 69.

Also making the top rankings are Germany (120), India (84) and Russia (77).

Billionaires live in 67 different countries, with honours spilt evenly between the Asia Pacific (590) and the USA (540),

Europe has 489, Canada and the rest of the Americas excluding the USA has 101 and the Middle east and Africa 90.

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