The combined net worth of the richest people in the world climbed $524 billion in 2013 — enough to give everyone on the planet about $73, and an amount far more than you will ever see in your entire life.
The figures come from Bloomberg's "Billionaires" list, a daily index of the fluctuations of the net worths of the richest people in the world. And they do fluctuate: Saudi Arabia's Alwaleed al Saud, the richest man in the Middle East, lost $140 million in value between December 30 and 31st. But overall, 2013 was a very, very good year for the richest people in the world, whose combined net worth rose to $3.7 trillion. (Alwaleed closed out the year with a healthy $32.4 billion in assets.)
How much money is that 3.7 trillion? Using the for-some-reason-standard "stretching dollar bills end-to-end" metric, it's enough to stretch ones from Earth to the Sun almost four times. If you were traveling at the speed of light, it would take you half an hour to cover the distance. But in more colloquial terms, it is a ridiculous amount of money. According to Credit Suisse's 2013 Global Wealth Report, the world — in total — contains $241 trillion in wealth. So 300 people — .000004 percent of the global population — control 1.5 percent of all of the world's wealth. It is more than the 2012 GDP of every single country except the United States and China.
Going further! Kiva is a microlending site, at which people (often in third world countries) solicit loans to bolster their small businesses. Since Kiva's inception, lenders have provided $513 million to people seeking those loans, with 1.2 million recipients getting funding. If you took the net worth of those 300 billionaires, you could fund every loan in the history of Kiva 7,200 times over — potentially providing a benefit to 8.65 billion people. That is more people than exist on the planet.
And 2014 is looking good for these lucky 300. From Bloomberg:
“The rich will keep getting richer in 2014,” John Catsimatidis, the billionaire founder of real estate and energy conglomerate Red Apple Group Inc., said in a telephone interview from his New York office. “Interest rates will remain low, equity markets will keep rising, and the economy will grow at less than 2 percent.”
Catsimatidis, political types might remember, ran in the New York City Republican primary, hoping to be the city's second mega-rich billionaire mayor in a row. He lost very badly after his campaign theme — "CATS" — failed to resonate.
But Catsimatidis has a consolation prize: his estimated $3.1 billion net worth. Which puts him fairly low on the list of the world's richest. The richest, by a healthy amount, is once again America's own William Henry Gates III, the former head of Microsoft. At the end of 2013, his net worth stood at $78.5 billion — a little more than the country of Oman produced in 2012. Gates is in somewhat rarified company for another reason: he made his own money. Sixty-one of the top 200 people on Bloomberg's list inherited their fortunes. Four of the top 14 have the last name "Walton."
What better way to start the year, though, than to make you feel hopelessly insecure about your own economic status, a tiny droplet in the vast ocean of global wealth? (There is no better way to start the year.) Enter your annual salary below and see how long it would take you to match the 300 richest people in the world. Or if you are too lazy to do that, we'll cut to the chase. You will never get there, so please try and seek comfort in the company of friends and family instead.
Good luck with that. If you want, Bloomberg calculates all of these billionaire's net worth on a daily basis. Seems like a good way to stay humble.