How Long it Took Billionaires to Earn Their First $1 Million
Everyone has to start somewhere.
While the modern fortunes of people like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates seem stratospheric in size, even the world’s richest self-made billionaires had to crawl before they could walk.
After all, the journey to becoming ultra-wealthy hinges on earning that very first $1 million – the initial pillar of wealth that helps provide the security and confidence to go all-in on later ventures and investments.
The Typical Journey
Today’s infographic comes to us from Slotsia, and it compares the timelines of the wealthiest self-made billionaires showing how long it took them to each earn their first $1 million.
As it turns out, joining the Two Comma Club is rarely an overnight endeavor.
On average, it took about eight years to get to the $1 million mark, with the most common age for hitting the milestone at age 36, and business ventures being the top source of this wealth.
Milestone Time, by Years
Of the top 100 billionaires on he planet, 65 of them are self-made – and here’s how long it took each of them to earn their first $1 million:
|Time to hit $1 Million||Self-made billionaires||% of total|
Impressively, about 25 self-made billionaires, including people like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma, and Wang Jianlin, were able to make this initial fortune in under five years.
Meanwhile, other founders like Phil Knight of Nike, took 16 years to hit the mark.
Milestone Time, by Industry
While the set of data is limited, here’s how long it took to hit the first million based on industry:
|Time to hit $1 Million||Industry|
|5.2 years||Metals & Mining|
|5.8 years||Real Estate|
|9.5 years||Media & Entertainment|
|9.5 years||Gambling & Casinos|
|10.0 years||Finance & Investments|
|11.25 years||Food & Beverage|
|14.3 years||Fashion & Retail|
|15.0 years||Construction & Engineering|
Billionaires in the telecom and tech sectors were the fastest to $1 million, while those in fashion, construction, and manufacturing businesses took much longer to get to the promised land.
Of course, reaching the first financial milestone is only one step in a much longer journey.
For further reading, see how long it took for the world’s wealthiest to make the jump from millionaire to billionaire.
How Do Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation?
This interactive graphic shows a breakdown of how average Americans spend their money, and how expenses vary across generations.
How Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation
In 2021, the average American spent just over $60,000 a year. But where does all their money go? Unsurprisingly, spending habits vary wildly depending on age.
This graphic by Preethi Lodha uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to show how average Americans spend their money, and how annual expenses vary across generations.
A Generational Breakdown of Overall Spending
Overall in 2021, Gen X (anyone born from 1965 to 1980) spent the most money of any U.S. generation, with an average annual expenditure of $83,357.
|Generation||Birth Year Range||Average Annual Expenditure (2021)|
|Silent||1945 or earlier||$44,683|
|Boomers||1946 to 1964||$62,203|
|Generation X||1965 to 1980||$83,357|
|Millennials||1981 to 1996||$69,061|
|Generation Z||1997 or later||$41,636|
Gen X has been nicknamed the “sandwich generation” because many members of this age group are financially supporting both their aging parents as well as children of their own.
The second biggest spenders are Millennials with an average annual expenditure of $69,061. Just like Gen X, this generation’s top three spending categories are housing, healthcare, and personal insurance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, members of Generation Z are the lowest spenders with an average of $41,636. per year. Their spending habits are expected to ramp up, especially considering that in 2022 the oldest Gen Zers are just 25 and still early in their careers.
Similarities Across Generations
While spending habits vary depending on the age group, there are some categories that remain fairly consistent across the board.
One of the most consistent spending categories is housing—it’s by the far the biggest expense for all age groups, accounting for more than 30% of total annual spending for every generation.
|Generation||Average Spend on Housing (2021)||% of Total Spend|
|Silent (1945 or earlier)||$16,656||37.3%|
|Boomers (1946 to 1964)||$21,273||34.2%|
|Generation X (1965 to 1980)||$26,385||31.7%|
|Millennials (1981 to 1996)||$24,052||34.8%|
|Generation Z (1997 or later)||$15,449||37.1%|
Another spending category that’s surprisingly consistent across every generation is entertainment. All generations spent more than 4% of their total expenditures on entertainment, but none dedicated more than 5.6%.
|Generation||Average Spend on Entertainment (2021)||% of Total Spend|
|Silent (1945 or earlier)||$2,027||4.5%|
|Boomers (1946 to 1964)||$3,476||5.6%|
|Generation X (1965 to 1980)||$4,694||5.6%|
|Millennials (1981 to 1996)||$3,457||5.0%|
|Generation Z (1997 or later)||$1,693||4.1%|
Gen Zers spent the least on entertainment, which could boil down to the types of entertainment this generation typically enjoys. For instance, a study found that 51% of respondents aged 13-19 watch videos on Instagram on a weekly basis, while only 15% watch cable TV.
Differences Across Generations
One category that varies the most between generations and relative needs is spending on healthcare.
As the table below shows, the Silent Generation spent an average of $7,053 on healthcare, or 15.8% of their total average spend. Comparatively, Gen Z only spent $1,354 on average, or 3.3% of their total average spend.
|Generation||Average Spend on Healthcare (2021)||% of Total Spend|
|Silent (1945 or earlier)||$7,053||15.8%|
|Boomers (1946 to 1964)||$6,594||10.6%|
|Generation X (1965 to 1980)||$5,550||6.7%|
|Millennials (1981 to 1996)||$4,026||5.8%|
|Generation Z (1997 or later)||$1,354||3.3%|
However, while the younger generations typically spend less on healthcare, they’re also less likely to be insured—so those who do get sick could be left with a hefty bill.
Mapped: The World’s Billionaire Population, by Country
Collectively, worldwide billionaire wealth is nearly $12 trillion. This map breaks down where these 3,311 billionaires live around the globe.
Visualized: The World’s Billionaire Population
The world’s billionaires—only 3,311 individuals—represent almost $11.8 trillion in wealth. The global billionaire population continued to grow in 2021, increasing by 3%. Over the same period, billionaire wealth also increased by 18%.
This map uses data from the Wealth-X Billionaire Census to visualize where the world’s billionaires live and breaks down their collective wealth.
Note on methodology: The report uses proprietary data from Wealth-X. Billionaire status is determined by assessing an individual’s total net worth, including publicly and privately held businesses and investable assets. To determine a billionaire’s location, Wealth-X used their primary business address.
Billionaires by Region
We’ll begin by zooming out to look at how various continents and world regions rank in terms of their billionaire population.
North America is home to most billionaires, worth $4.6 trillion. The U.S., unsurprisingly, accounts for the majority of this wealth, with 975 billionaires and a collective net worth of $4.45 trillion.
|Rank||Region||Number of billionaires||Collective Billionaire Wealth|
|#1||North America||1,035||$4.6 trillion|
|#4||Middle East||191||$519 billion|
|#5||Latin America and the Caribbean||146||$465 billion|
In regional terms, Europe’s billionaire wealth is growing the fastest, up 22% year-over-year in 2021. In contrast, the year-over-year change in the Middle East was -12.5%.
Asia is inching towards Europe, holding almost a quarter of all billionaire wealth worldwide, compared to Europe’s 26.5%.
Wealth in Africa will also be important to watch in coming years. Although only home to 46 billionaires currently, the change in billionaire wealth increased by almost 17% year-over-year. Additionally, while they no longer live there, a number of the world’s billionaires hail from African countries originally.
Billionaires by Country
Now, let’s look at the ranking broken down by the top 15 countries:
|Rank||Country||Number of Billionaires||Collective Billionaire Wealth|
|#1||🇺🇸 US||975||$4.45 trillion|
|#2||🇨🇳 China||400||$1.45 trillion|
|#3||🇩🇪 Germany||176||$602 billion|
|#4||🇮🇳 India||124||$384 billion|
|#5||🇬🇧 UK||120||$266 billion|
|#6||🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||114||$287 billion|
|#7||🇨🇭 Switzerland||111||$365 billion|
|#8||🇷🇺 Russia||107||$475 billion|
|#9||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||71||$192 billion|
|#10||🇫🇷 France||68||$294 billion|
|#11||🇮🇹 Italy||68||$207 billion|
|#12||🇨🇦 Canada||60||$131 billion|
|#13||🇧🇷 Brazil||52||$159 billion|
|#14||🇸🇬 Singapore||50||$99 billion|
|#15||🇦🇪 UAE||45||$181 billion|
China is an obvious second in billionaire wealth to the United States, with famous billionaires like Zhang Yiming ($44.5 billion) of TikTok and Zhong Shanshan ($67.1 billion), whose wealth primarily comes from the pharmaceutical and beverages industries.
That said, Chinese billionaire wealth actually decreased 2% last year. It was India that came out on top in terms of growth, seeing a 19% increase in 2021.
Billionaires by City
Looking at cities, New York is home to the most billionaires—with 13 added billionaire residents last year—followed by Hong Kong.
|Rank||City||Country||Number of Billionaires|
|#1||New York City||🇺🇸 U.S.||138|
|#2||Hong Kong||🇭🇰 China||114|
|#3||San Francisco||🇺🇸 U.S.||85|
|#7||Los Angeles||🇺🇸 U.S.||59|
|#13||São Paulo||🇧🇷 Brazil||34|
Billionaire Wealth in 2022
Billionaires have significant power and influence, not in the least because their collective wealth is equivalent to about 11.8% of global GDP.
In recent billionaire news, Gautam Adani’s wealth has been soaring, most recently hitting the $145 billion mark, making him the third-richest person in the world according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. However, not all billionaires are holding on to their wealth. Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, recently transferred ownership of his company to an organization that fights climate change.
Over the last decade, billionaires have been grown their fortunes considerably, with wealth increasing at a faster rate than the growth in the number of billionaires themselves. According to Wealth-X, collective billionaire net worth grew by an astonishing 90% in the last 10 years.
But in the shorter term, the situation is often more volatile. With markets reeling in 2022, Bloomberg reported that billionaires lost a record $1.4 trillion over the first half of the year. Once the year is over and the final numbers are in, it will be interesting to see how the billionaire landscape shapes up in comparison to the more long-term trend.
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