The ultimate billionaire report


What does it take to become one of the richest people in the world? Here’s see what the data has to say:

Old Money

Over the last two decades, the median age of world’s top billionaires increased by almost 14 years. In other words, today’s richest are largely the same people that topped the list back in ‘96 – they just got older. Should this trend continue, an average billionaire will be well in his 70’s by the year 2019.

This fact is also supported by the dwindling numbers of self-made billionaires (as opposed to those who just inherited their wealth) featured in the top 100. Although we’re said to be living in the age of the startup unicorns, not too many entrepreneurs managed to join the ranks of Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos over the last 20 years.

It’s also worth noting that the number of female billionaires increased by 50% since 1996. They now hold 12 out of the top 100 spots.

School of Hard Knocks

Here’s some good news for the college dropout – out of the top 100 richest people in the world, 24 have no form of higher education to their name.

Of course, that’s still well below the national average for most developed countries. For example, about 62% of Americans over 25 didn’t finish or skipped college altogether. However, it does debunk the myth of formal education as the end-all of your professional career.

Some of the wealthiest people in the world today, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Ellison all decided to ditch class to work on their idea full time. It turns out they didn’t need a diploma to hit it big after all.

Top Dogs

It’s been a three-way tie for the title of the richest man in the world for almost a decade now. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim (Mexico’s telecommunication magnate) all managed to claim the belt at one point or another since the recession.

Interestingly enough, all 3 of them lost around 40% of their total wealth between 2008 and 2009. They came back swinging, effectively doubling their fortune over the last seven years. At the moment, Bill Gates holds the top spot once again with $79.2 billion, followed closely by Mr. Slim and Mr. Buffet.

In the world of tech, the battle rages on between the founders of Facebook, Google and Amazon. Currently, in first place with $34.8 billion to his name, Jeff Bezos made quite a comeback from his ‘modest’ $4.4 billion valuation in 2007. Trailing ever so slightly is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, with Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google pretty much sharing the bronze.

Recession Proof?

In terms of dealing with the global economic crisis, the world’s most affluent generally proved up to the task. Following the established trend, top 40 American billionaires increased their collective net worth by an incredible 641% over the last two decades, now standing at almost $1.1 trillion.

On the other hand, Russian billionaires were by far hit the hardest during the crisis, losing almost 85% of their combined net worth between ‘08 and ‘09. They did, however, manage to quickly recuperate, surging from $37bn to $217bn by 2011.

The wealthiest individuals of UK and Germany seemed pretty much impervious to the market crash. In fact, the United Kingdom added another one of their own to the Top 100 billionaires list in the years following the recession.

Star signs and bald spots

What would a good billionaire report be without some befitting trivia?

Zodiac enthusiasts, take notice. The most common star sign among the world’s top billionaires in the last 20 years has been…wait for it…Aquarius! The water carrier is followed by Taurus and Capricorn as the world’s richest star signs, while Cancers take the cake as (statistically) the most unlikely billionaires.

The report also analyses whether hair loss affects your net worth in any significant way. While there are more bald billionaires in the top 100 now (21) compared to ‘96 (17), the numbers are still pretty aligned with the national medians. 23% of (male) Americans are affected by male pattern baldness, so there seems to be no lucrative reason to shave your head just yet.


You can check out more information about the world’s richest individuals on GoCompare’s interactive billionaire map. They analysed the last 20 years of ‘top 100 billionaires’ lists made by Forbes, seeing how things changed over time and whether there are any common denominators connecting the world’s wealthiest.