Saturday, May 26, 2012

In 1966, the world's richest private citizen was Jean Paul Getty, at a mere $1.2 billion

Proof of the declining value of currency, more prosperous times for all, or of more uneven income distribution? In 1966, the Guinness World Record for richest human alive was J. Paul Getty, at a mere $1.2 billion, and his worth by the time of death only equaled $2 billion. Not only that, but the oil tycoon was the only billionaire in the US.

Even adjusting for inflation, Getty's bank account would have only been worth about $10 billion today. That's chump change compared to our list of billionaires in modern times:

  • Bill Gates $101 billion (peak worth reached in 1999)
  • Carlos Slim Helu $74 billion (peak worth reached in 2011)
  • Lakshmi Mittal $69 billion (peak worth reached in 2008)
  • Warren Buffett $66 billion (peak worth reached in 2007)
  • Mukesh Ambani $63 billion (peak worth reached in 2007)
The Forbes' list strives to include everyone with a net worth of a billion dollars or more. But even it tells a story about uneven distribution among the wealthy. The double-digits billionaires run out at #88; the total number of people on the list is 1,153.

It says odd things about our global economy that in the space of five decades, what would once be considered a fortune is barely enough to scrape by now.