Billionaire Late Bloomers, by Age of Breakthrough
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Billionaire Late Bloomers, by Age of Their Breakthrough

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Billionaire Late Bloomers, by Age of Breakthrough

More often than not, individuals and media alike focus on the success stories of early bloomers.

These early-age accomplishments of some of the richest people in the world are highlighted as marvels. The early achievements of hoodie-wearing CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg or Evan Spiegel—who became billionaires at ages 23 and 25, respectively—come to mind.

But there’s also the case to be made for the late bloomer. According to the Census Bureau, a 35-year-old is three times more likely to found a successful start-up than someone aged 22.

The infographic above, from Virtual College, highlights 45 billionaires who had their breakthrough later in life, by the age of their respective breakthrough.

Billionaires With Career Breakthroughs at or After Age 35

Though these late successes span many different industries and countries, there are many consistent through lines.

The 45 billionaires highlighted had an average age of 41 and an average net worth of $10 billion.

BillionaireCompanyAge of BreakthroughNet Worth ($B)Nationality
Eduardo EurnekianCorporacion America56$1.3🇦🇷 Argentina
Issad RebrabCevital54$4.8🇩🇿 Algeria
Torstein HagenViking Cruises54$1.5🇳🇴 Norway
Ion TiriacBanca Tiriac51$1.7🇷🇴 Romania
Mike AdenugaGlobacom50$6.1🇳🇬 Nigeria
Hussain SajwaniDamac Properties49$2.4🇦🇪 UAE
Radhakishan DamaniDmart48$16.5🇮🇳 India
Robert KuokShangra-La Hotels and Resorts48$12.6🇲🇾 Malaysia
Ricardo PoCentury Pacific47$1.1🇵🇭 Philippines
Alain TarvellaAltarea Cogedim Group46$2.0🇫🇷 France
Seo Jung-JinCelltrion44$14.2🇰🇷 South Korea
James DysonDyson Ltd44$9.7🇬🇧 UK
Walter FariaGrupo Petropolis43$2.9🇧🇷 Brazil
Horst PaulmannCencosud43$3.3🇨🇱 Chile
Wolfgang MarguerreOctapharma Group42$9.1🇩🇪 Germany
Hansjorg WyssSynthes42$6.0🇨🇭Switzerland
Giorgio ArmaniGiorgio Armani S.p.A.41$7.7🇮🇹 Italy
Dietrich MateschitzRed Bull40$29.6🇦🇹 Austria
Sergei KatsievMegapolis40$1.7🇷🇺 Russia
Li XitingShenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics40$21.5🇸🇬 Singapore
Jim SimmonsRenaissance Technologies40$24.6🇺🇸 U.S.
Richard WhiteWiseTech Global39$3.5🇦🇺 Australia
Amancio OrtegaZara39$77🇪🇸 Spain
Barry LamQuanta Computer39$5.3🇹🇼 Taiwan
Arnon MilchanNew Regency Enterprises38$3.4🇮🇱 Israel
Taha MikatiInvestcom38$2.5🇱🇧 Lebanon
Arnout SchuijffAdyen38$3.5🇳🇱 Netherlands
Chuchat & Daonapa PetampaiMuangthai Capital38$3.5🇹🇭 Thailand
Jaime Gilinski BacalBanco De Colombia37$3.8🇨🇴 Colombia
Mohamed Al FayedGenevaco (Ritz Paris, Harrods)37$1.8🇪🇬 Egypt
Vardis VardinyannisMotor Oil Hellas37$1.4🇬🇷 Greece
German Larrea Mota-VelascoGrupo Mexico37$25.9🇲🇽 Mexico
Martin LorentzonSpotify37$6.0🇸🇪 Sweden
Tran Ba DuongTraco37$1.6🇻🇳 Vietnam
Strive MasiyiwaEconet Global37$1.5🇿🇼 Zimbabwe
Zygmunt Solorz-ZakPolsat36$3.2🇵🇱 Poland
Mehmet AydinlarAcibadem Healthcare Group36$1.3🇹🇷 Turkey
Joseph TsaiAlibaba Group35$11.6🇨🇦 Canada
Jack MaAlibaba Group35$48.4🇨🇳 China
Eduard KuceraAvast35$1.1🇨🇿 Czech Republic
Bidzina IvanishviliRossiysky Kredit35$4.8🇬🇪 Georgia
TahirThe Mayapada Group35$3.3🇮🇩 Indonesia
John ArmitageEgerton Capital35$2.6🇮🇪 Ireland
Tadashi YanaiUniqlo35$44.1🇯🇵 Japan
Richard HartRaynolds Packaging Group35$8.7🇳🇿 New Zealand

Here are just a few highlights of late career breakthroughs:

Jack Ma

Ma is best known for co-founding Alibaba and becoming one of China’s wealthiest people, but his start came rather unexpectedly. After failing to secure jobs as a fresh graduate and starting his own translation company, Ma went on a business trip to the U.S. and discovered the internet (and a lack of Chinese websites). Over time, he connected Chinese companies with American coders to create websites, and soon saw room in the market for a business-to-business marketplace, which became Alibaba. The company secured millions in investment and would go on to become one of China’s leading forces in tech, all without Ma writing a single line of code.

Amancio Ortega

As the former CEO of fashion chain Zara and its parent company Inditex, Ortega is Europe’s third wealthiest person. That success came after opening the first Zara store in 1975 with his then-wife Rosalía Mera, with their store focusing on cheaper versions of high-end fashion. Ortega fine-tuned the design and manufacturing process to produce new trends more quickly, helping to pioneer the concept of “fast fashion,” and soon becoming a fashion powerhouse.

Jim Simons

Simons was once lauded as the world’s greatest investor, largely due to his outlandish returns of over 60% before fees. But he actually started in the academic field, acquiring a PhD in mathematics—he worked in many faculties, and even as a codebreaker for the NSA. Eventually, Simons utilized his mathematical knowledge on Wall Street, where he had his breakthrough in 1982 by starting his model-based hedge fund—Renaissance Technologies, and built a net worth of $24.6 billion.

Dietrich Mateschitz

One of the 60 richest people in the world, Austrian businessman Mateschitz got his start in marketing for Unilever and then cosmetics company Blendax. His breakthrough came on a business trip to Thailand, where the 40-year-old discovered that the local energy drink Krating Daeng helped his jet lag. Mateschitz and the drink’s creator, Chaleo Yoovidhya, each put up $500,000 to turn the drink into an exported energy brand, and Red Bull was born.

James Dyson

Before Dyson was a household name of vacuums, fans, and dryers, The UK’s James Dyson was an industrial engineer with many ideas for inventions. After getting frustrated with the bags of Hoover vacuum cleaners, Dyson had the idea for a bagless cyclone vacuum, and developed one after more than 5,000 prototypes over five years (and supported by his wife’s salary). At first he couldn’t find a manufacturer or success in the UK, so Dyson instead sold his vacuums in Japan and ended up winning the 1991 International Design Fair Prize there. Thirty years later, Dyson’s success led to a royal knighting and becoming the fourth richest person in the UK.

Late Bloomers: The Rule Not The Exception

It’s helpful to remember that these stories might be incredible and successful on a grand scale, but they are not entirely unique.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the majority of successful businesses have been founded by middle-aged people and the average age of a company’s founder at the time of founding is 41.9 years. Experience definitely pays dividends, and the saying that “life is a marathon, not a sprint” seems especially true for this list of late breakthrough billionaires.

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Charted: U.S. Consumer Debt Approaches $16 Trillion

Robust growth in mortgages has pushed U.S. consumer debt to nearly $16 trillion. Click to gain further insight into the situation.

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Charted: U.S. Consumer Debt Approaches $16 Trillion

According to the Federal Reserve (Fed), U.S. consumer debt is approaching a record-breaking $16 trillion. Critically, the rate of increase in consumer debt for the fourth quarter of 2021 was also the highest seen since 2007.

This graphic provides context into the consumer debt situation using data from the end of 2021.

Housing Vs. Non-Housing Debt

The following table includes the data used in the above graphic. Housing debt covers mortgages, while non-housing debt covers auto loans, student loans, and credit card balances.

DateHousing Debt
(USD trillions)
Non-Housing Debt
(USD trillions)
Total Consumer Debt
(USD trillions)
Q1 20035.182.057.23
Q2 20035.342.047.38
Q3 20035.452.107.55
Q4 20035.962.108.06
Q1 20046.172.138.30
Q2 20046.342.128.46
Q3 20046.642.208.84
Q4 20046.832.229.05
Q1 20057.012.199.20
Q2 20057.232.269.49
Q3 20057.452.359.80
Q4 20057.672.3410.01
Q1 20068.022.3610.38
Q2 20068.352.4010.75
Q3 20068.652.4611.11
Q4 20068.832.4811.31
Q1 20079.032.4611.49
Q2 20079.332.5311.86
Q3 20079.562.5812.14
Q4 20079.752.6312.38
Q1 20089.892.6512.54
Q2 20089.952.6512.60
Q3 20089.982.6912.67
Q4 20089.972.7112.68
Q1 20099.852.6812.53
Q2 20099.772.6312.40
Q3 20099.652.6212.27
Q4 20099.552.6212.17
Q1 20109.532.5812.11
Q2 20109.382.5511.93
Q3 20109.282.5611.84
Q4 20109.122.5911.71
Q1 20119.182.5811.76
Q2 20119.142.5811.72
Q3 20119.042.6211.66
Q4 20118.902.6311.53
Q1 20128.802.6411.44
Q2 20128.742.6411.38
Q3 20128.602.7111.31
Q4 20128.592.7511.34
Q1 20138.482.7511.23
Q2 20138.382.7711.15
Q3 20138.442.8511.29
Q4 20138.582.9411.52
Q1 20148.702.9611.66
Q2 20148.623.0211.64
Q3 20148.643.0711.71
Q4 20148.683.1611.84
Q1 20158.683.1711.85
Q2 20158.623.2411.86
Q3 20158.753.3112.06
Q4 20158.743.3712.11
Q1 20168.863.3912.25
Q2 20168.843.4512.29
Q3 20168.823.5412.36
Q4 20168.953.6312.58
Q1 20179.093.6412.73
Q2 20179.143.6912.83
Q3 20179.193.7712.96
Q4 20179.323.8213.14
Q1 20189.383.8513.23
Q2 20189.433.8713.30
Q3 20189.563.9513.51
Q4 20189.534.0113.54
Q1 20199.654.0213.67
Q2 20199.814.0613.87
Q3 20199.844.1313.97
Q4 20199.954.2014.15
Q1 202010.104.2114.31
Q2 202010.154.1214.27
Q3 202010.224.1414.36
Q4 202010.394.1714.56
Q1 202110.504.1414.64
Q2 202110.764.2014.96
Q3 202110.994.2415.23
Q4 202111.254.3415.59

Source: Federal Reserve

Trends in Housing Debt

Home prices have experienced upward pressure since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is evidenced by the Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which has increased by 34% since the start of the pandemic.

Driving this growth are various pandemic-related impacts. For example, the cost of materials such as lumber have seen enormous spikes. We’ve covered this story in a previous graphic, which showed how many homes could be built with $50,000 worth of lumber. In most cases, these higher costs are passed on to the consumer.

Another key factor here is mortgage rates, which fell to all-time lows in 2020. When rates are low, consumers are able to borrow in larger quantities. This increases the demand for homes, which in turn inflates prices.

Ultimately, higher home prices translate to more mortgage debt being incurred by families.

No Need to Worry, Though

Economists believe that today’s housing debt isn’t a cause for concern. This is because the quality of borrowers is much stronger than it was between 2003 and 2007, in the years leading up to the financial crisis and subsequent housing crash.

In the chart below, subprime borrowers (those with a credit score of 620 and below) are represented by the red-shaded bars:

Mortgage originations by Credit Score

We can see that subprime borrowers represent very little (2%) of today’s total originations compared to the period between 2003 to 2007 (12%). This suggests that American homeowners are, on average, less likely to default on their mortgage.

Economists have also noted a decline in the household debt service ratio, which measures the percentage of disposable income that goes towards a mortgage. This is shown in the table below, along with the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate.

YearMortgage Payments as a % of Disposable IncomeAverage 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate
200012.0%8.2%
200412.2%5.4%
200812.8%5.8%
20129.8%3.9%
20169.9%3.7%
20209.4%3.5%
20219.3%3.2%

Source: Federal Reserve

While it’s true that Americans are less burdened by their mortgages, we must acknowledge the decrease in mortgage rates that took place over the same period.

With the Fed now increasing rates to calm inflation, Americans could see their mortgages begin to eat up a larger chunk of their paycheck. In fact, mortgage rates have already risen for seven consecutive weeks.

Trends in Non-Housing Consumer Debt

The key stories in non-housing consumer debt are student loans and auto loans.

The former category of debt has grown substantially over the past two decades, with growth tapering off during the pandemic. This can be attributed to COVID relief measures which have temporarily lowered the interest rate on direct federal student loans to 0%.

Additionally, these loans were placed into forbearance, meaning 37 million borrowers have not been required to make payments. As of April 2022, the value of these waived payments has reached $195 billion.

Over the course of the pandemic, very few direct federal borrowers have made voluntary payments to reduce their loan principal. When payments eventually resume, and the 0% interest rate is reverted, economists believe that delinquencies could rise significantly.

Auto loans, on the other hand, are following a similar trajectory as mortgages. Both new and used car prices have risen due to the global chip shortage, which is hampering production across the entire industry.

To put this in numbers, the average price of a new car has climbed from $35,600 in 2019, to over $47,000 today. Over a similar timeframe, the average price of a used car has grown from $19,800, to over $28,000.

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Visualizing the Distribution of Household Wealth, By Country

A majority of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the U.S. and China. Here’s a look at the distribution of household wealth worldwide.

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Wealth Distribution Across the Globe

Visualizing the Distribution of Household Wealth, By Country

A majority of the world’s wealth is concentrated in just a few countries. In fact, almost a third of household wealth is held by Americans, while China’s population accounts for nearly a fifth.

Using data from Credit Suisse, this graphic by Eleonora Nazander shows the distribution of household wealth worldwide, highlighting the wealth gap that exists across regions.

Top 10 Wealthiest Countries

To help simplify things, this graphic shows how much household wealth each country would have if the world only had $100.

As the graphic illustrates, the top 10 wealthiest countries would hold an estimated $77, or 77% of global household wealth. Here’s a breakdown of what their cut of $100 would be:

CountryTotal Wealth ($B)Share of $100
🇺🇸 United States$105,990$29.40
🇨🇳 China$63,827$17.71
🇯🇵 Japan$24,992$6.93
🇩🇪 Germany$14,660$4.07
🇬🇧 United Kingdom$14,341$3.98
🇫🇷 France$13,729$3.81
🇮🇳 India$12,614$3.50
🇮🇹 Italy$11,358$3.15
🇨🇦 Canada$8,573$2.38
🇪🇸 Spain$7,772$2.16
Total$278 Trillion$77.09

The U.S. comes in first place, holding $29.40, or almost a third of total wealth, while China comes in second, accounting for $17.71.

This makes sense considering the high concentration of ultra-wealthy individuals in both countries—China and the U.S. are home to more than half of the world’s billionaires, and eight of the 10 richest people on the planet are Americans, including the world’s richest, Elon Musk.

Japan ranks third on the list, accounting for $6.93. Like the U.S. and China, Japan also has a high portion of ultra-high net worth citizens, or individuals with a net worth of $30 million or more.

Interestingly, India ranks seventh on the list, despite having the third-highest number of billionaires worldwide and a massive population of 1.4 billion. One contributing factor to this could be the country’s relatively high levels of poverty.

Wealth Inequality

It’s important to note that, while the U.S. and China hold a majority of the world’s wealth, both countries still struggle with wealth inequality.

Currently, the top 1% of U.S. households hold 31.7% of the country’s household wealth. And while China has made progress on poverty in the last decade through rapid economic growth, the wealth gap between the country’s rich and poor has widened in recent years.

Governments in both countries have announced plans to tackle wealth inequality. For instance, the Biden administration is working to pass legislation that would increase taxes on businesses and wealthy Americans. Meanwhile, the Chinese government announced its five-year plan to crack down on private enterprise, in an attempt to break up monopolies and ultimately achieve “common prosperity.”

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