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The Richest People in the World in 2021

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richest people in the world June 2021

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Visualizing the Richest People in the World

Over $633 billion has been amassed by the 10 richest people in the world since March 2020.

To put that into perspective, that’s more than sevenfold the wealth accumulated by the top 10 in the time period prior. As just one example, Elon Musk witnessed his wealth increase at least 520% in the last year. Meanwhile, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has earned an additional $74 billion.

With data from the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List, we navigate how the wealth of various uber-affluent groups have changed since the beginning of the pandemic.

The 10 Richest People in the World

With a net worth of $193 billion, Bernard Arnault is the wealthiest in the world, surpassing Jeff Bezos in late May.

Arnault, chairman of LVMH—a brand that owns Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Dom Perignon— has seen his wealth grow $117 billion since March 2020. Contributing to this growth is the meteoric rise of LVMH shares, which have boomed roughly 110% over the time frame.

Based on data as of June 1, 2021 here are the ten wealthiest individuals worldwide:

RankNameSource
Net Worth June 2021
Net Worth Mar 2020Change 2020-2021
1Bernard Arnault & familyLVMH$193$113$117
2Jeff BezosAmazon$187$76$74
3Elon MuskTesla, SpaceX$156$25$131
4Bill GatesMicrosoft$127$98$29
5Mark ZuckerbergFacebook$119$55$56
6Warren BuffettBerkshire Hathaway$109$68$41
7Larry PageGoogle$104$59$49
8Larry Ellisonsoftware$104$51$45
9Sergey BrinGoogle$100$49$51
10Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & familyL'Oréal$89$49$40
Total Change$633

Top 10 Wealth Growth

Since the onset of the pandemic, Elon Musk has seen his wealth grow the fastest out of the top 10. Over the first quarter of 2021, Tesla deliveries reached 184,000—a company record.

At one point, Musk even briefly surpassed Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the world. This is impressive, since Jeff Bezos’s wealth ballooned over 65% in the same time frame. Similarly, Zuckerberg, Gates, and Buffett have all seen double or triple-digit growth.

richest people in the world growth 2021

Following Musk is Bernard Arnault, who runs luxury conglomerate LVMH. Despite 2020 profits falling 28%, the French magnate has made over $117 billion. In January, LVMH closed a $15.8 billion acquisition of jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co.

On average, the top 10 richest saw gains of 132% over the course of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the majority were in tech.

Who’s In and Who’s Out?

Among the newest to join the billionaire’s club is Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of Bumble at 31 years old.

Wolfe Herd is the youngest American woman to take a company public ever, with Bumble’s February 2021 IPO raising $2.2 billion. Bumble is the second-largest dating company to go public after Match Group, which owns 45 dating companies including Tinder.

By contrast, last year’s youngest billionaire, Kylie Jenner, fell off the list after allegedly inflating her net worth. Interestingly, the Kardashian’s took great lengths to show Forbes the extent of her wealth, including showing them their tax returns along with invitations to their mansions.

Still, Jenner’s net worth stands at roughly $700 million.

A New Gilded Age?

Given the staggering growth of the ultra-wealthy in recent years, today’s wealth concentration is now comparable to America’s Gilded Age.

At the time, John D. Rockefeller was the richest person in the world—worth roughly $285 billion in today’s terms. His businesses produced 1.6% of total U.S. economic output.

By comparison, Bernard Arnault, at $193 billion, still has a little ways to go just yet.

The data and graphics were last updated on May 10th, 2021.

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Green

Visualized: The Power of a Sustainable Investment Dollar

Do sustainable investments make a difference? From carbon emissions to board diversity, we break down their impact across three industries.

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Sustainable Investment

Visualizing the Power of a Sustainable Investment Dollar

Sustainable investments are booming.

Between January and November 2020 alone, investments in sustainable ETF and mutual funds grew 96%. The UN Principles of Responsible Investment now has over 3,000 signatories representing over $100 trillion in assets. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission established a Climate Risk Unit to analyze climate risk across derivative markets, and as of March 2021, new sustainability disclosures have come into effect in Europe.

But how do we know if sustainable investments have made a difference?

To answer this question, the above infographic from MSCI examines the effect of a sustainable investment dollar by looking at real-world examples.

A Sustainable vs. Unsustainable Dollar

To start, investing legend Benjamin Graham has compared the stock market to a “voting machine.” Just as consumers vote with their purchasing decisions, investors vote with their investment dollars. Especially in the short term, as more dollars flow to sustainable companies, this builds their exposure and access to capital.

In the long term, meanwhile, the market can be compared to a weighing machine. The market recognizes companies with profitable business models that improve their intrinsic value over time. Ultimately, this allows sustainable companies to expand and continue operating.

Given the rising momentum in both green assets and climate targets, here is how investment dollars have influenced and driven change across three industries.

1. Clean Energy vs. Fossil Fuel

Over the last several years, the energy sector has been associated with many of the problems causing climate change. For this reason, many investors are seeking out greener energy alternatives. But how does moving investment dollars from an ESG laggard to an ESG leader support the environment and society?

First, here is a brief explainer of ESG laggards and leaders:

  • ESG laggards: companies with the weakest environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in their sector.
  • ESG leaders: companies with the strongest environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in their sector.
Industry laggard: U.S. oil & gas companyIndustry leader: U.S. utilities company
Scale of carbon-intensive business lines equal to 73% of its operation47% lower CO2 emissions than the industry average
This is the equivalent of adding 26 million cars on the road annuallyThis is the equivalent of removing 9.9 million cars off the road annually
1 of 20 oil and gas companies are responsible for contributing to one third of GHG emissions since 1965Uses 3X as many renewable sources than industry average
3X fewer jobs are created vs. energy efficient sector, resulting in lower productivityThis is roughly the same as saving over 9 million pounds of coal burned
MSCI ESG Rating: CCCMSCI ESG Rating: AAA

Source: MSCI ESG Research

Based on the above example, investors have the ability to finance powerful green initiatives that reduce emissions by almost half, relative to their peers.

2. Safe vs. Unsafe Working Conditions

Weak safety protocols are a key sustainability issue for the industrial sector. Here’s how two companies compare:

Industry laggard: South African mining companyIndustry leader: U.S. mining company
11 fatalities in 2019Zero fatalities in 2019
Faced lawsuits from miners surrounding lung diseases contracted from dust exposure in gold mines
Settlement cost: $350 million
Board-level oversight monitors health and safety performance
Lags behind peers in high incident ratesLeads peers in low incident rates
Lags behind peers in setting incident reduction targetsLeads industry in lost time incident rate & total recordable injury rate
MSCI ESG Rating: CCCMSCI ESG Rating: A

Source: MSCI ESG Research

Despite the risks involved in the sector, investors can choose to support companies that take greater precautions to protect their workers.

3. Building Trust vs. Losing Trust

Over the last several years, the financial sector has faced increased scrutiny over fraudulent activities. Moving investment dollars from an ESG laggard to ESG leader may make a difference:

Industry laggard: U.S. bankIndustry leader: Dutch bank
$3 billion settlement in creating fictitious accounts to meet aggressive sales targetsSustainable finance portfolio valued at over $20 billion
Drop in top-tier bank ratings13% annual increase in climate finance
Board effectiveness questionedIncludes over 60 green loans, mobilizing environmentally friendly projects
Resignation of board membersOver 55% of board is female
MSCI ESG Rating: CCCMSCI ESG Rating: A

Source: MSCI ESG Research

From board diversity to green loans, a sustainable investment dollar supports companies that are actively advancing society and the environment.

Sustainable Investment: The Time to Act

Recently, investor dollars and shareholder activism have been closely linked.

Between 2018 and 2020, large institutional investors filed 217 shareholder proposals on climate change alone, putting increased pressure on companies. Meanwhile, 270 proposals were filed on corporate political activity and 228 on fair labor and equal employment opportunity over the same timeframe. Across all ESG proposals, $2 trillion in assets were pushing for more equitable corporate action.

Through the power of a dollar, investors can send a clear signal to companies: the time for sustainable investing is now.

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Debt

Visualizing the Snowball of Government Debt

After an unprecedented borrowing spree in response to COVID-19, what does government debt look like around the world?

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Visualizing the Snowball of Government Debt in 2021

As we approach the second half of 2021, many countries around the world are beginning to relax their COVID-19 restrictions.

And while this signals a return to normalcy for much of the global economy, there’s one subject that’s likely to remain controversial: government debt.

To see how each country is faring in the aftermath of an unprecedented global borrowing spree, this graphic from HowMuch.net visualizes debt-to-GDP ratios using April 2021 data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Ranking the Top 10 in Government Debt

Government debt is often analyzed through the debt-to-GDP metric because it contextualizes an otherwise massive number.

Take for example the U.S. national debt, which currently sits at over $27 trillion. In isolation this figure sounds daunting, but when expressed as a % of U.S. GDP, it works out to a more relatable 133%. This format also allows us to make a better comparison between countries, especially when their economies differ in size.

With that being said, here are the top 10 countries in terms of debt-to-GDP. For further context, we’ve included their 2019 and 2020 values as well.

Rank (2021)CountryDebt-to-GDP (2019)Debt-to-GDP (2020)Debt-to-GDP (April 2021)
#1🇯🇵 Japan235%256%257%
#2🇸🇩 Sudan200%262%212%
#3🇬🇷 Greece185%213%210%
#4🇪🇷 Eritrea189%185%176%
#5🇸🇷 Suriname93%166%157%
#6🇮🇹 Italy135%156%157%
#7🇧🇧 Barbados127%149%143%
#8🇲🇻 Maldives78%143%140%
#9🇨🇻 Cape Verde125%139%138%
#10🇧🇿 Belize98%127%135%

Source: IMF

Japan tops the list with a ratio of 257%, though this isn’t really a surprise—the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio first surpassed 100% in the 1990s, and in 2010, it became the first advanced economy to reach 200%.

Such significant debt burdens are the result of non-traditional monetary policies, many of which were first implemented by Japan, then adopted by others. In the late 1990s, for instance, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) set interest rates at 0% to counter deflation and promote economic growth.

This low cost of borrowing enables businesses and governments to accumulate debt much more freely, and has seen widespread use among other developed nations post-2008.

What are the Risks?

Given that a majority of countries in this visual are red (meaning their debt-to-GDP ratios are over 50%), it’s safe to say that government borrowing is common practice.

But are large government debts a cause for concern?

Some believe that excessive borrowing will lead to higher interest costs in the long run, which could detract from economic growth and public sector investment. This theory is unlikely to become a reality anytime soon, however.

A recent report by RBC Wealth Management reported that the cost of servicing U.S. federal debt actually decreased in 2020, thanks to the low borrowing costs mentioned previously.

Perhaps a more prescient question would be: how long can the world’s central banks keep interest rates at near-zero levels?

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