The World’s Billionaires Have Doubled Their Wealth Since 2009. Just In Case You Didn’t Hate Them Already.

The World’s Billionaires Have Doubled Their Wealth Since 2009. Just In Case You Didn’t Hate Them Already.

Recession be damned: There are more billionaires today than there were during the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 — and they’re twice as rich, says a new report released Wednesday.

The Billionaire Census, jointly compiled by Swiss financial company UBS and Singapore-based firm Wealth-X, is a comprehensive survey of the world’s ultrarich — essentially a thumbnail view of their interests, assets and social networks.  The report’s findings are equal parts predictable (billionaires love yachts!) and intriguing (women are richer). As of 2013, there are 2,170 billionaires enjoying a collective fortune of $6.5 trillion. Over the past five years, they’ve increased in number by 60 percent, their combined wealth has doubled and they’re more liquid than ever.  

Just over the past year, billionaire wealth has increased in every region of the world, as depicted by the map below, with the biggest gains in Asia. Europe was the only region to lose billionaires (29, to be exact), but it still boasts among the richest in the world. What’s more: The global population is still growing — expected to reach 3.900 by the year 2020.


Billionaires, it seems, are taking over our world (what little of it they don’t already own, anyway).With that in mind, here are some of the report’s highlights, framed as your most pressing questions about the richest people on Earth.

Who are these people?

The average billionaire is a 67-year-old man worth about $3 billion — 18 percent of which is liquid (the recent financial crisis taught him a thing or two about carrying cash). He went to Harvard, or maybe to Penn State. His passions include art, aviation, real estate, traveling, and golf — in that order. He’s married, with two children and — though he owns four $20 million homes — he tends to spend most of his time in the city where his business is headquartered (probably New York).

Just 13 percent of billionaires are women, but they are an enviable minority — richer than their male counterparts by about $200 million on average.

How did they get so rich?

An astounding 60 percent of billionaires are self-made. Twenty percent have inherited their wealth (most of whom live in Europe) while another 20 percent managed to leverage inheritances into even greater fortunes. The world’s “mega-billionaires,” each of whom are worth upwards of  $50 billion, are self-made, according to the report: Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Amancio Ortega and Warren Buffet. Interestingly, only 17 percent of women billionaires are self-made. China boasts the highest number of self-made billionaires, at 89 percent.

Where do they live?

New York, Hong Kong, Moscow, London and Mumbai, in that order. The world’s super-rich tend to congregate in wealth “hot spots.” The majority live in the United States, which boasts more billionaires (515) than any other country. China has the second largest population — and the youngest cohort — with 157 billionaires.

Do they swim in a vault of golden coins, in the manner of Scrooge McDuck?

The report doesn’t say, but it does note that billionaires spend a lot of money on luxury goods, chiefly: yachts, private jets, and art, but also antiques, clothes, jewelry and collectible cars. They also give to charity, to the tune of $32 million each over the last three years. American billionaires tend to be the most giving, with education topping favorite causes. So don’t hate them completely.

The full report is here.