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.
Mapped: Personal Finance Education Requirements, by State
Only 22.7% of U.S. students are required to take a personal finance course. Which states have the highest levels of personal finance education?
The Percentage of Students Receiving Personal Finance Education
When you graduated from high school, did you know how to create a budget? Did you have an understanding of what stocks and bonds were? Did you know how to do your own taxes?
For many Americans, the answer to these questions is probably a “no”. Only 22.7% of U.S. high school students are guaranteed to receive a personal finance education. While this is up from 16.4% in 2018, this still represents a small fraction of students.
This graphic uses data from Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) to show the percentage of high school students required to take a personal finance course by state.
A Closer Look at State-level Personal Finance Education
A standalone personal finance course was defined as a course that was at least one semester, which is equivalent to 60 consecutive instructional hours. Here’s the percentage of students in each state who have a required (not optional) personal finance course.
|State/Territory||% of Students Required to Take Personal Finance Course|
Eight states currently have state-wide requirements for a personal finance course: Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Iowa, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. Naturally, the level of personal finance education is highest in these states.
Five states have begun the process of implementing a requirement, with Florida being the most populous state yet to guarantee personal finance education for high schoolers. The state previously required schools to offer a personal finance course as an elective, but only 5% of students took the course.
Outside of the guarantee states, only 9.3% of students are required to take a personal finance course. That number drops to 5% for schools that have a high percentage of Black or Brown students, while students eligible for a free or reduced lunch program (i.e. lower income students) also hover at the 5% number.
Why is Personal Financial Education Important?
The majority of Americans believe parents are responsible for teaching their children about personal finance. However, nearly a third of parents say they never talk to their children about finances. Personal finance education at school is one way to help fill that gap.
People who have received a financial education tend to have a higher level of financial literacy. In turn, this can lead to people being less likely to face financial difficulties.
People with low levels of financial literacy were five times more likely to be unable to cover one month of living expenses, when compared to people with high financial literacy. Separate research has found that implementing a state mandate for personal finance education led to improved credit scores and reduced delinquency rates.
Not only that, financial education can play a key role in building wealth. One survey found that only one-third of millionaires averaged a six-figure income over the course of their career. Instead of relying on high salaries, the success of most millionaires came from employing basic personal finance principles: investing early and consistently, avoiding credit card debt, and spending carefully using tools like budgets and coupons.
Expanding Access to Financial Education
Once the in-progress state requirements have been fully implemented, more than a third of U.S. high school students will have guaranteed access to a personal finance course. Momentum is expanding beyond guarantee states, too. There are 48 personal finance bills pending in 18 states according to NGPF’s financial education bill tracker.
Importantly, 88% of surveyed adults support personal finance education mandates—and most wish they had also been required to take a personal finance course themselves.
When we ask the next generation of graduates if they understand how to build a budget, it’s more likely that they will confidently say “yes”.
Charted: U.S. Consumer Debt Approaches $16 Trillion
Robust growth in mortgages has pushed U.S. consumer debt to nearly $16 trillion. Click to gain further insight into the situation.
Charted: U.S. Consumer Debt Approaches $16 Trillion
According to the Federal Reserve (Fed), U.S. consumer debt is approaching a record-breaking $16 trillion. Critically, the rate of increase in consumer debt for the fourth quarter of 2021 was also the highest seen since 2007.
This graphic provides context into the consumer debt situation using data from the end of 2021.
Housing Vs. Non-Housing Debt
The following table includes the data used in the above graphic. Housing debt covers mortgages, while non-housing debt covers auto loans, student loans, and credit card balances.
|Total Consumer Debt
Source: Federal Reserve
Trends in Housing Debt
Home prices have experienced upward pressure since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is evidenced by the Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which has increased by 34% since the start of the pandemic.
Driving this growth are various pandemic-related impacts. For example, the cost of materials such as lumber have seen enormous spikes. We’ve covered this story in a previous graphic, which showed how many homes could be built with $50,000 worth of lumber. In most cases, these higher costs are passed on to the consumer.
Another key factor here is mortgage rates, which fell to all-time lows in 2020. When rates are low, consumers are able to borrow in larger quantities. This increases the demand for homes, which in turn inflates prices.
Ultimately, higher home prices translate to more mortgage debt being incurred by families.
No Need to Worry, Though
Economists believe that today’s housing debt isn’t a cause for concern. This is because the quality of borrowers is much stronger than it was between 2003 and 2007, in the years leading up to the financial crisis and subsequent housing crash.
In the chart below, subprime borrowers (those with a credit score of 620 and below) are represented by the red-shaded bars:
We can see that subprime borrowers represent very little (2%) of today’s total originations compared to the period between 2003 to 2007 (12%). This suggests that American homeowners are, on average, less likely to default on their mortgage.
Economists have also noted a decline in the household debt service ratio, which measures the percentage of disposable income that goes towards a mortgage. This is shown in the table below, along with the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate.
|Year||Mortgage Payments as a % of Disposable Income||Average 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate|
Source: Federal Reserve
While it’s true that Americans are less burdened by their mortgages, we must acknowledge the decrease in mortgage rates that took place over the same period.
With the Fed now increasing rates to calm inflation, Americans could see their mortgages begin to eat up a larger chunk of their paycheck. In fact, mortgage rates have already risen for seven consecutive weeks.
Trends in Non-Housing Consumer Debt
The key stories in non-housing consumer debt are student loans and auto loans.
The former category of debt has grown substantially over the past two decades, with growth tapering off during the pandemic. This can be attributed to COVID relief measures which have temporarily lowered the interest rate on direct federal student loans to 0%.
Additionally, these loans were placed into forbearance, meaning 37 million borrowers have not been required to make payments. As of April 2022, the value of these waived payments has reached $195 billion.
Over the course of the pandemic, very few direct federal borrowers have made voluntary payments to reduce their loan principal. When payments eventually resume, and the 0% interest rate is reverted, economists believe that delinquencies could rise significantly.
Auto loans, on the other hand, are following a similar trajectory as mortgages. Both new and used car prices have risen due to the global chip shortage, which is hampering production across the entire industry.
To put this in numbers, the average price of a new car has climbed from $35,600 in 2019, to over $47,000 today. Over a similar timeframe, the average price of a used car has grown from $19,800, to over $28,000.
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