The World’s Richest Families in 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped the world’s wealthiest families from growing their fortunes. Over the past year, the richest family—the Waltons—grew their wealth by $25 billion, or almost $3 million per hour.
This graphic, using data from Bloomberg, ranks the 25 most wealthy families in the world. The data excludes first-generation wealth and wealth controlled by a single heir, which is why you don’t see Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates on the list. Families whose source of wealth is too diffused or opaque to be valued are also excluded.
The Full Breakdown
Intergenerational wealth is a powerful thing. It often prevails through market crashes, social turmoil, and economic uncertainty, and this year has been no exception.
Here’s a look at the 25 most wealthy families in 2020:
|1||Walton||Walmart||215||Consumer services||🇺🇸 Bentonville, Arkansas|
|2||Mars||Mars||120||Consumer goods||🇺🇸 McLean, Virginia|
|3||Koch||Koch Industries||109.7||Industrials||🇺🇸 Wichita, Kansas|
|4||Al Saud||N/A||95||Industrials||🇸🇦 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia|
|5||Ambani||Reliance Industries||81.3||Industrials||🇮🇳 Mumbai, India|
|6||Hermès||Hermès||63.9||Consumer services||🇫🇷 Paris, France|
|7||Wertheimer||Chanel||54.4||Consumer services||🇫🇷 Paris, France|
|8||Johnson (Fidelity)||Fidelity Investments||46.3||Financials||🇺🇸 Boston, New York|
|9||Boehringer, Von Baumbach||Boehringer Ingelheim||45.7||Health care||🇩🇪 Inglheim, Germany|
|10||Albrecht||Aldi||41||Consumer services||🇩🇪 Rhineland, Germany|
|11||Thomson||Thomson Reuters||40.6||Communication||🇨🇦 Ontario, Canada|
|12||Hoffmann, Oeri||Roche||38.8||Health care||🇨🇭 Basel, Switzerland|
|13||Mulliez||Auchan||38.4||Consumer services||🇫🇷 Lille, France|
|14||Cargill, MacMillan||Cargill||38.1||Industrials||🇺🇸 Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|15||Johnson (SC)||SC Johnson||37.3||Consumer services||🇺🇸 Racine, Wisconsin|
|16||Van Damme, De Spoelberch, De Mevius||Anheuser-Busch InBev||36.8||Consumer goods||🇧🇪 Belgium|
|17||Quandt||BMW||34.7||Consumer services||🇩🇪 Munich, Germany|
|18||Cox||Cox Enterprises||33.1||Communication||🇺🇸 Atlanta, Georgia|
|19||Rausing||Tetra Laval||32.9||Materials||🇬🇧 London, England|
|20||Newhouse||Advance Publications||31||Communication||🇺🇸 New York, New York|
|21||Chearavanont||Charoen Pokphand Group||30.7||Diversified||🇹🇭 Bangkok, Thailand|
|22||Ferrero||Ferrero||30.5||Consumer goods||🇮🇹 Alba, Italy|
|23||Kwok||Sun Hung Kai Properties||30.4||Real estate||🇭🇰 Hong Kong|
|24||Pritzker||Hyatt Hotels||29.6||Consumer services||🇺🇸 Chicago, Illinois|
|25||Lee||Samsung||29||Diversified||🇰🇷 Seoul, South Korea|
*Note: The Al Saud’s net worth is based on cumulative payouts royal family members were estimated to have received over the past 50 years.
The Waltons are the richest family on the list by far, with a net worth of $215 billion—that’s $95 billion more than the second wealthiest family. Sam Walton, the family’s patriarch, founded Walmart in 1962. Since then, it’s become the world’s largest retailer by revenue.
When Sam passed away in 1992, his three children—James, Alice, and Rob—inherited his fortune. Now, the trio co-owns about half of Walmart.
In second place is the Mars family, with a net worth of $120 billion. The family is well-known for their candy empire, but interestingly, about half of the company’s value comes from pet care holdings. Mars Inc. owns several popular pet food brands, including Pedigree, Cesar, and Royal Canin—and it expanded its pet presence further in 2017 when it acquired VCA, a company with almost 800 small animal vet hospitals across the U.S. and Canada.
The Koch family is the world’s third-richest family. Their fortune is rooted in an oil firm founded by Fred C. Koch. Following Fred’s death in 1967, the firm was inherited by his four sons—Frederick, Charles, David, and William. After a family feud, Frederick and William left the business, and Charles and David went on to build the mega industrial conglomerate known as Koch Industries.
Despite being affected by the oil crash this year, the Koch family’s wealth still sits at $109.7 billion. Before David’s passing in 2019, he and his brother Charles were heavily involved in politics—and their political efforts were the subject of much scrutiny.
Richest Families, by Sector
It’s important to note that many of these families have diversified their investments across a variety of industries. For instance, while the Koch family’s wealth is largely concentrated in the industrial sector and commodities, they also dabble in real-estate—in May 2020, they made a $200 million bet on U.S. rental homes.
That being said, it’s interesting to see where each of these families started, and which sectors have bred the highest number of ultra-wealthy families.
Here’s a breakdown of each sector and how many families on the list got started in them:
|Sector||Number of Families||Total Wealth, $B|
The top sector is consumer services—8 of the 25 families are heavily involved in this sector. Walmart helped generate the most wealth out of families in this space, while luxury brands Hermès and Chanel were the source of fortune for the next two wealthiest families.
Industrial is the second largest sector, with 4 of the 25 families involved. It’s also one of the most lucrative sectors—out of the top five wealthiest families on the list, three are in industrials. The Koch family is the wealthiest family in this category, followed by the Al Saud family and the Ambani family, respectively.
Communications and consumer goods are tied for third, with 3 of the 25 families in each. The Thomsons, who founded Thomson Reuters, are the wealthiest family in communications, while the Mars family has the highest net worth in the consumer goods sector.
Resilient, but not Bulletproof
Despite a global recession, most of the world’s wealthiest families seem to be doing just fine—however, not everyone on the list has been thriving this year.
The Koch family’s fortune dropped by $15 billion from 2019 to 2020, and the current political climate in Hong Kong has had a negative impact on the Kwok family’s real estate empire.
While intergenerational wealth certainty has resilience, how much economic and social turmoil can it withstand? It’ll be interesting to see which families make the list in 2021.
Bitcoin is Near All-Time Highs and the Mainstream Doesn’t Care…Yet
As bitcoin charges towards all-time highs, search interest is relatively low. How much attention has bitcoin’s recent rally gotten?
Bitcoin Near All-Time Highs vs. Search Interest
Just about every financial asset saw a huge drop in March, but few have had the spectacular recovery that bitcoin has had since then.
Up more than 300% from the March lows, bitcoin is within $1,000 of its all-time high ($19,891) established three years ago. While 2017’s run-up saw a huge surge in Google searches, interest this time around is less than a quarter of what it was back then.
This graphic overlays bitcoin’s price changes against Google search interest for “bitcoin” between 2017-Nov 2020, showing the muted relative search interest for its recent rally. Despite Google search interest being low, it is turning upwards, potentially hinting at a rise to cap off 2020.
Nobody’s Searching? Maybe Bitcoin is Already Mainstream
Bitcoin’s mainstream attention in 2017 was exceptional, and was likely the first time many people had even heard about the digital asset.
After doing all of their Google research back then, it’s possible that the general population is now well aware of the cryptocurrency and doesn’t need to search up the basics again. Add to this that bitcoin is now easily purchasable through popular services like Robinhood and Paypal, and you have fewer people who need Google to figure out the intricacies of bitcoin wallets and transactions.
While people might not be searching for information on bitcoin, the media has certainly picked up on its movement over the past year. Mainstream coverage regarding the cryptocurrency is currently at a relative all-time high for the past 12 months.
Even if current mainstream coverage isn’t far from previous peaks, it’s still likely that people are seeing an increase in bitcoin content in their news feeds following the recent surge.
This rally is also attracting increased talk on social media sites like Twitter. That said, while there has been a rise in the volume of bitcoin-related tweets in November 2020, numbers are still quite low compared to the amount of tweets in 2017.
Daily tweet volume reached above 60,000 recently, but is still far from the +100,000 daily tweets that were being sent at the top of 2017’s bull run.
Where in the World is Google Search Interest for Bitcoin?
Even if worldwide search interest isn’t as high as it was in 2017, there is one country where bitcoin is being googled more now: Nigeria.
Since 2015, the Nigerian Naira has lost more than 50% of its value against the U.S. dollar. This, coupled with the country’s high share of unbanked citizens means that alternative currencies and payment methods have steadily risen in popularity and utility.
FinTech startups like Chipper Cash are providing Nigeria and other African nations with no-fee P2P payment services, along with the ability to trade bitcoin. The service is also beta testing the buying and selling of fractional shares of popular U.S. stocks.
Started up in 2018, Chipper Cash’s monthly payment values are now over $100 million, and the company has attracted investment from top VC funds like Bezos Expeditions as they provide a valuable service in an emerging market.
If Bitcoin is Mainstream, Where Does It Go From Here?
While bitcoin is proving itself to be a useful medium of exchange around the world, it’s still primarily a speculative asset. As 2020 saw massive increases in money supply across the board, bitcoin reacted best compared to other speculative assets, with its ascent to $19,000 almost completely uninterrupted since the $10,000 price area.
Time will tell if 2017 is set to repeat itself, or if bitcoin is getting ready to set new all-time highs going into 2021.
Ranking Asset Classes by Historical Returns (1985-2020)
What are the best-performing investments in 2020, and how do previous years compare? This graphic shows historical returns by asset class.
Historical Returns by Asset Class (1985-2020)
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, is there one asset class to rule them all?
From stocks to bonds to alternatives, investors can choose from a wide variety of investment types. The choices can be overwhelming—leaving people to wonder if there’s one investment that consistently outperforms, or if there’s a predictable pattern of performance.
This graphic, which is inspired by and uses data from The Measure of a Plan, shows historical returns by asset class for the last 36 years.
Asset Class Returns by Year
This analysis includes assets of various types, geographies, and risk levels. It uses real total returns, meaning that they account for inflation and the reinvestment of dividends.
Here’s how the data breaks down, this time organized by asset class rather than year:
|U.S. Large Cap Stocks||U.S. Small Cap Stocks||Int'l Dev Stocks||Emerging Stocks||All U.S. Bonds||High-Yield U.S. Bonds||Int'l Bonds||Cash (T-Bill)||REIT||Gold|
*Data for 2020 is as of October 31
The top-performing asset class so far in 2020 is gold, with a return more than four times that of second-place U.S. bonds. On the other hand, real estate investment trusts (REITs) have been the worst-performing investments. Needless to say, economic shutdowns due to COVID-19 have had a devastating effect on commercial real estate.
Over time, the order is fairly random with asset classes moving up and down the ranks. For example, emerging market stocks plummeted to last place amid the global financial crisis in 2008, only to rise to the top the following year. International bonds were near the bottom of the barrel in 2017, but rose to the top during the 2018 market selloff.
There are also large swings in the returns investors can expect in any given year. While the best-performing asset class returned just 1% in 2018, it returned a whopping 71.5% in 2009.
Variation Within Asset Classes
Within individual asset classes, the range in returns can also be quite large. Here’s the minimum, maximum, and average returns for each asset class. We’ve also shown each investment’s standard deviation, which is a measure of volatility or risk.
Although emerging market stocks have seen the highest average return, they have also seen the highest standard deviation. On the flip side, T-bills have seen returns lower than inflation since 2009, but have come with the lowest risk.
Investors should factor in risk when they are looking at the return potential of an asset class.
Variety is the Spice of Portfolios
Upon reviewing the historical returns by asset class, there’s no particular investment that has consistently outperformed. Rankings have changed over time depending on a number of economic variables.
However, having a variety of asset classes can ensure you are best positioned to take advantage of tailwinds in any particular year. For instance, bonds have a low correlation with stocks and can cushion against losses during market downturns.
If your mirror could talk, it would tell you there’s no one asset class to rule them all—but a mix of asset classes may be your best chance at success.
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