The Richest People in History
(Up until the Industrial Revolution)
Click here for a larger, more legible version of the infographic that you can explore in-depth.
When we think of wealth today, we often think of the massive personal fortunes of business magnates like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffett. However, it is only since the Industrial Revolution that measuring wealth by one’s bank account has been a norm for the world’s richest.
For most of recorded human history, in fact, the lines around wealth were quite blurred. Leaders like Augustus Caesar or Emperor Shenzong had absolute control of their empires – while bankers like Jakob Fogger and Cosimo de Medici were often found pulling the strings from behind.
This infographic focuses on the richest people in history up until the Industrial Revolution – and in the coming weeks, we will release a second version that covers wealth from then onwards (including figures like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jeff Bezos, etc.).
Is This List of People Definitive?
While it is certainly fun to speculate on the wealth of people from centuries past, putting together this list is exceptionally difficult and certainly not definitive.
Firstly, much wealth in early periods is tied to land (Genghis Khan) or entire empires (Augustus, Akbar), which makes calculations extremely subjective. What is most of Asia’s land worth in the year 1219? What separates personal fortune from the riches of an empire that one has full control of? There are a wide variety of answers to these questions, and they all influence the figures chosen to be represented.
Secondly, records kept from Ancient eras are scarce, exaggerated, or based on legends and oral histories. Think of King Solomon or Mansa Musa – these are characters described as immeasurably rich, so trying to put their wealth in modern context is fun, but certainly not guaranteed to be historically accurate.
Lastly, wealth and conversion rates can be approached in different ways as well. Take Crassus in the Roman Republic, who had a peak fortune of “200 million sesterces”. Well, that’s a problem for us in modernity, because that stash could be worth anywhere from $200 million to $169.8 billion, depending on how calculations are done.
So, enjoy this list of the wealthiest historical figures, but keep in mind that it is mostly for fun – and that the list of the wealthiest people in history changes depending on who you ask!
About the Money Project
The Money Project uses intuitive visualizations to explore ideas around the very concept of money itself. Founded in 2015 by Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals, the Money Project will look at the evolving nature of money, and will try to answer the difficult questions that prevent us from truly understanding the role that money plays in finance, investments, and accumulating wealth.
How Americans Make and Spend Their Money, by Education Level
How do different types of education (high school, bachelor’s degree, etc.) correspond to level of income and household expenditures?
Months ago, we showed you a set of data visualizations that highlighted how people make and spend their money based on income groups.
Today’s post follows a similar theme, and it visualizes differences based on education levels.
Below, we’ll tackle the breakdowns of several educational groupings, ranging from high school dropouts to those in the highest education bracket, which is defined as having achieved a master’s, professional, or doctorate degree.
Income and Spending, by Education
The data visualizations in today’s post come to us from Engaging Data and they use Sankey diagrams to display data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that shows income and expenditure differences between varying levels of education in America.
The four charts below will show data from the following categories:
- Less than high school graduate
- High school graduate
- Bachelor’s degree
- Master’s, professional, or doctorate degree
It should be noted that the educational level listed pertains to the person the BLS defines as the primary household member. Further, people in households can be at different ages and at different stages in their career – for example, someone with a Master’s degree could be 72 years old and collecting pension payments, and this impacts the data.
Less than High School Graduate – $28,245 in spending (98.5% of total income)
These contain an average of 2.2 people (0.7 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.5 seniors)
The average household in this category brings in $17,979 of salary income, as well as an additional $7,503 from social security programs.
Almost all money (98.5%) is spent, and on average these households are actually pulling money from savings (or taking out loans) to make ends meet. The biggest expenditure categories include: housing (23.5%), foot at home (12.3%), household expenses (8.4%), and gas/insurance (8.2%).
High School Graduate – $35,036 in spending (87.3% of total income)
These contain an average of 2.3 people (1.0 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.4 seniors)
The average household here brings in $29,330 of salary, as well as $9,008 from social security.
These households spend 87.3% of their income, while putting $3,113 (7.8%) away in savings each year. The biggest expenditure categories include housing (21.7% of spending), food at home (10.1%), gas/insurance (10.0%), and vehicles (7.7%).
Bachelor’s Degree – $63,373 in spending (68.6% of total income)
These contain an average of 2.5 people (1.5 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.4 seniors)
Households with at least one person with a Bachelor’s degree earn $81,629 per year in salary, as well as nearly $11,000 stemming from a combination of social security, dividends, property, and other income.
Roughly 68.6% of income is spent, with 16.6% going to savings. Top expenditures include housing (22.4%), gas/insurance (8.8%), household expenses (7.9%), and food at home (7.6%).
Graduate Degree – $83,593 in spending (62.9% of total income)
These contain an average of 2.6 people (1.5 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.4 seniors)
Finally, in the most educated category available, the average amount of salary coming into households is $116,018, with roughly an additional $17,000 coming in from other sources such as social security, dividends, property, and other income.
Here, 62.9% of income gets spent, and 17.3% gets put towards savings. The most significant expenditure categories are housing (23.3%), household expenses (8.4%), gas and insurance (7.2%), and food at home (6.9%).
A Changing Role for Education?
For now, there is a clear link between certain types of college degrees and higher salaries.
However, as total student debt continues to hit record highs of $1.5 trillion and as more remote educational options proliferate online, it will be interesting to see how these charts are impacted in the coming years.
By the year 2030, do you think education will still have the same strength of correlation with income levels?
How the Modern Consumer is Different
We all have a stereotypical image of the average consumer – but is it an accurate one? Meet the modern consumer, and what it means for business.
How the Modern Consumer is Different
There is a prevailing wisdom that says the stereotypical American consumer can be defined by certain characteristics.
Based on what popular culture tells us, as well as years of experiences and data, we all have an idea of what the average consumer might look for in a house, car, restaurant, or shopping center.
But as circumstances change, so do consumer tastes – and according to a recent report by Deloitte, the modern consumer is becoming increasingly distinct from those of years past. For us to truly understand how these changes will affect the marketplace and our investments, we need to rethink and update our image of the modern consumer.
A Changing Consumer Base
In their analysis, Deloitte leans heavily on big picture demographic and economic factors to help in summarizing the three major ways in which consumers are changing.
Here are three ways the new consumer is different than in years past:
1. Increasingly Diverse
In terms of ethnicity, the Baby Boomers are 75% white, while the Millennial generation is 56% white. This diversity also transfers to other areas as well, such as sexual and gender identities.
Not surprisingly, future generations are expected to be even more heterogeneous – Gen Z, for example, identifies as being 49% non-white.
2. Under Greater Financial Pressure
Today’s consumers are more educated than ever before, but it’s come at a stiff price. In fact, the cost of education has increased by 65% between 2007 and 2017, and this has translated to a record-setting $1.5 trillion in student loans on the books.
Other costs have mounted as well, leaving the bottom 80% of consumers with effectively no increase in discretionary income over the last decade. To make matters worse, if you single out just the bottom 40% of earners, they actually have less discretionary income to spend than they did back in 2007.
3. Delaying Key Life Milestones
Getting married, having children, and buying a house all have one major thing in common: they can be expensive.
The average person under 35 years old has a 34% lower net worth than they would have had in the 1990s, making it harder to tackle typical adult milestones. In fact, the average couple today is marrying eight years later than they did in 1965, while the U.S. birthrate is at its lowest point in three decades. Meanwhile, homeownership for those aged 24-32 has dropped by 9% since 2005.
A New Landscape for Business?
The modern consumer base is more diverse, but also must deal with increased financial pressures and a delayed start in achieving traditional milestones of adulthood. These demographic and economic factors ultimately have a ripple effect down to businesses and investors.
How do these big picture changes impact your business or investments?
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