Seats at the Billionaires’ Table

According to Forbes’ ‘Billionaires’ List’ for 2022, the richest person in the world is currently Tesla boss, Elon Musk. Along with Tesla, Musk has co-founded Space X and a tunnelling start-up – the aptly named Boring Company – and is reportedly worth $219bn (£184bn).

Musk is followed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, worth $171bn (£143bn) and Bernard Arnault and family, whose fortune is based on fashion and retail and is estimated by Forbes at $158bn (£132bn).

Since that list was published, Musk has, of course, famously spent $44bn (£37bn) buying the social media company Twitter – a decision which will surely be hailed as genius or condemned as madness by the end of this year. Musk was forced to sell some of his shares in Tesla to fund the initial purchase, and last month sold shares worth a further £3bn.

So his position at the top clearly isn’t set in stone. In fact, seats at the billionaires’ table were harder to find in 2022. According to the Forbes report, the world has 87 fewer billionaires than last year: Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine meant there were 34 fewer Russian billionaires. The Chinese government’s crackdown on the tech sector has led to 87 fewer Chinese billionaires on the list.

…And it is not just last year. It’s interesting to look back ten years. The seats at the very top table are surprisingly fluid. Ten years ago, Mexican magnate Carlos Slim held the top spot. He then lost it to Bill Gates, who held the title for four years before losing it to Jeff Bezos. He managed four years, and then along came Elon Musk…

Musk, in fact, didn’t appear in Forbes’ top ten until 2021 when he was second on the list with a fortune put at $151bn (£124bn). Jeff Bezos’ first appearance was in 2016 – the same year that Facebook/Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg made an appearance. But while Musk and Bezos have continued to increase their fortunes, Zuckerberg – along with Carlos Slim – is no longer ranked in the top ten.

Who will be at the top next year? Or in ten years’ time? It is impossible to say: Elon Musk’s personal worth is closely tied to the price of Tesla shares. For others on the list, you suspect that artificial intelligence will propel someone a long way up the league table. And as we’ve seen with Russia and China, when you’re a billionaire, politics can play a significant part in whether you keep your wealth.

Sadly, none of our clients appear on Forbes’ list. But everyone’s financial planning is important – billionaire, first-time buyer or about to retire. Our commitment to provide the very best financial planning for all our clients will never waver – and remember that if there is anything you need to discuss with us, we are never more than a phone call or an email away.

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