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The Jump from Millionaire to Billionaire, and How Long That Takes

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Some people say that making the first million is the hardest.

Others, like oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens have quipped that the first billion is a “helluva lot harder”.

Regardless of which is true, it’s interesting to examine how long it took the world’s wealthiest to reach the million and billion dollar benchmarks, as well as how many years were in between.

Millions to Billions

Today’s infographic comes to us from Betway, and it provides a study of the 100 wealthiest billionaires that topped the 2018 edition of the Forbes Rich List.

The Jump from Millionaire to Billionaire, and How Long That Takes

Based on the top 100 billionaires studied from the Rich List, the average age for hitting millionaire status is 37. Meanwhile, the billion dollar mark is hit on average at the age of 51.

This puts the average time period to go from millionaire to billionaire at 14 years.

Making the Jump, by Industry

Even with this small sample size, it’s clear that how fast this jump happens depends greatly on industry.

Tech entrepreneurs were by far the fastest on the list to go from millionaire to billionaire, with an average time of only 7.3 years. That number is averaged down by entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos, who has singlehandedly been able to amass an impressive empire of companies and assets in a very short period of time.

Tech EntrepreneurMillionaire (Age)Billionaire (Age)Difference
Jeff Bezos33352 years
Bill Gates26315 years
Mark Zuckerberg22231 year
Larry Ellison42497 years
Larry Page25305 years
Sergey Brin26315 years
Ma Huateng33363 years
Jack Ma354510 years
Steve Ballmer30388 years

Other industries don’t have the same luxuries as tech, where products can go from Zero to One at such high speeds.

In the automotive, construction, and real estate industries, for example, there are costly physical assets to deal with, as well as fiercer competition. At the same time, innovations are often more incremental, and companies cannot be scaled as fast.

Making the Jump, by Country

Interestingly, the jump from millionaire to billionaire took the longest in the United States, with a period of 14.1 years on average for self-made billionaires.

CountryTime to go from $1M to $1B
Russia9.0 years
China9.9 years
Japan11.0 years
United States14.1 years

While this may seem counter-intuitive, there are a couple of caveats worth mentioning.

For starters, the sample size is extremely small at just the top 100 billionaires, which means that a country like Russia has only so many in the mix. This low sample size can distort figures, and not be particularly representative of a true average.

Further, economies like Russia and China have recently transitioned from more controlled economies to more market-driven ones. This has allowed oligarchs and well-connected individuals to take advantage, while amassing new wealth at astonishing rates.

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The World’s Most Powerful Reserve Currencies

Here are the reserve currencies that the world’s central banks hold onto for a rainy day.

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The World’s Most Powerful Reserve Currencies

When we think of network effects, we’re usually thinking of them in the context of technology and Metcalfe’s Law.

Metcalfe’s Law states that the more users that a network has, the more valuable it is to those users. It’s a powerful idea that is exploited by companies like LinkedIn, Airbnb, or Uber — all companies that provide a more beneficial service as their networks gain more nodes.

But network effects don’t apply just to technology and related fields.

In the financial sector, for example, stock exchanges grow in utility when they have more buyers, sellers, and volume. Likewise, in international finance, a currency can become increasingly entrenched when it’s accepted, used, and trusted all over the world.

What’s a Reserve Currency?

Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it breaks down foreign reserves held by countries — but what is a reserve currency, anyways?

In essence, reserve currencies (i.e. U.S. dollar, pound sterling, euro, etc.) are held on to by central banks for the following major reasons:

  • To maintain a stable exchange rate for the domestic currency
  • To ensure liquidity in the case of an economic or political crisis
  • To provide confidence to international buyers and foreign investors
  • To fulfill international obligations, such as paying down debt
  • To diversify central bank portfolios, reducing overall risk

Not surprisingly, central banks benefit the most from stockpiling widely-held reserve currencies such as the U.S. dollar or the euro.

Because these currencies are accepted almost everywhere, they provide third-parties with extra confidence and perceived liquidity. This is a network effect that snowballs from the growing use of a particular reserve currency over others.

Reserve Currencies Over Time

Here is how the usage of reserve currencies has evolved over the last 15 years:

Currency composition of official foreign exchange reserves (2004-2019)
🇺🇸 U.S. Dollar 🇪🇺 Euro🇯🇵 Japanese Yen🇬🇧 Pound Sterling 🌐 Other
200465.5%24.7%4.3%3.5%2.0%
200962.1%27.7%2.9%4.3%3.0%
201465.1%21.2%3.5%3.7%6.5%
201961.8%20.2%5.3%4.5%8.2%

Over this timeframe, there have been small ups and downs in most reserve currencies.

Today, the U.S. dollar is the world’s most powerful reserve currency, making up over 61% of foreign reserves. The dollar gets an extensive network effect from its use abroad, and this translates into several advantages for the multi-trillion dollar U.S. economy.

The euro, yen, and pound sterling are the other mainstay reserve currencies, adding up to roughly 30% of foreign reserves.

Finally, the most peculiar data series above is “Other”, which grew from 2.0% to 8.4% of worldwide foreign reserves over the last 15 years. This bucket includes the Canadian dollar, the Australian dollar, the Swiss franc, and the Chinese renminbi.

Accepted Everywhere?

There have been rumblings in the media for decades now about the rise of the Chinese renminbi as a potential new challenger on the reserve currency front.

While there are still big structural problems that will prevent this from happening as fast as some may expect, the currency is still on the rise internationally.

What will the composition of global foreign reserves look like in another 15 years?

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Visualizing Global Attitudes Towards Retirement

Around the world, people have different attitudes towards what to expect in their retirement years. Does the reality match those expectations?

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Global Attitudes Towards Retirement

There’s a reason retirement is often referred to as the golden years.

Many view retirement as a welcome reward following a successful career. The transition, however, is not always easy. An enjoyable retirement is often dictated by the amount of money people have set aside.

Today’s infographic from Raconteur visualizes attitudes towards retirement around the world, comparing expectations and actualities for retirement income.

Does reality meet their expectations?

Income Expectations Vary by Country

A global survey by asset manager Schroders—looking at 22,000 investors from 30 countries—highlights that retirement income often falls short of expectations.

Here’s what non-retirees (55+ in age) expect to make in retirement as a percentage of their salary, compared to the actual incomes generated by retirees:

CountryExpectation (% of salary)Actual (% of salary)Difference
🇵🇱 Poland10356-47
🇯🇵 Japan8137-44
🇮🇩 Indonesia10565-40
🇨🇱 Chile*9357-36
🇭🇰 Hong Kong8044-36
🇷🇺 Russia*6632-34
🇸🇬 Singapore6742-25
🇰🇷 South Korea6745-22
🇿🇦 South Africa8059-21
🇧🇪 Belgium7554-21
🇦🇺 Australia7152-20
🇸🇪 Sweden8366-17
🇫🇷 France7861-17
🇺🇸 U.S.7458-16
🇧🇷 Brazil8874-14
🇨🇭 Switzerland6855-13
🇬🇧 U.K.6653-13
🇨🇳 China*8067-13
🇨🇦 Canada7161-10
🇩🇰 Denmark7468-6
🇮🇹 Italy8074-6
🇳🇱 Netherlands7569-6
🇪🇸 Spain7368-5
🇩🇪 Germany6765-2
🇹🇭 Thailand*6664-1
🇦🇹 Austria64673
🇮🇳 India719625
🇵🇹 Portugal467226
🇹🇼 Taiwan*6811749

*Denotes countries with small sample sizes.

Not having enough money at retirement is a nearly universal issue, and 51% of employees with a workplace pension are worried that they won’t make enough to live their ideal retirement life.

Of course, there are always notable exceptions to every rule.

In India, for example, the reality of retirement is often better than anticipated. Non-retirees expect that 71% of their annual salary will provide what is needed to live comfortably in retirement, but in practice they get 96% of their salary in retirement—far higher than they thought.

Most Important Aspirations

The world is divided when it comes to working into retirement. The majority of people want to spend their retirement doing non-work related activities:

  • Traveling: 60%
  • Spending more time with friends and family: 57%
  • Pursuing new hobbies: 49%
  • Volunteer work: 27%

That said, 59% of employees in Italy, the U.S., and Australia expect to continue working while retired, while only 32% in the Netherlands have the same expectation. This may be partially due to the strength of the Dutch pension system, which is rated as one of the best in the world.

A Changing Retirement Landscape

The reality of retirement continues to evolve by country and by generation.

Today, only 15% of the population in developed countries is above 65 years of age—but by 2050, the proportion will more than double. People between the ages of 40 and 50 are known as the “Sandwich Generation” because they are simultaneously supporting their retired parents and their own children.

While increasing life expectancy affords people the luxury of spending more time with loved ones, will we be able to afford to live longer?

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