The past year was very good to some of the richest people in the world. Many of the globe's wealthiest saw their net worth increase through entrepreneurship, investing, inheritances and other business endeavors. These individuals wisely put their money to good use and reaped the rewards of their wise stewardship in 2011. Let's take a look at how the world's richest people got a little richer over the past year.

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Bill Gates life is a testament to the wealth-building power of entrepreneurship. His tiny start-up company, Microsoft, has evolved into one of the largest technological companies in the world. He is proving that full-time philanthropists can still maintain a spot on Forbes richest list. Gates has given away billions of dollars over the past few years and no longer takes a salary from Microsoft, yet he remains the second wealthiest man in the world. Gates fortune increased from $53 billion to $56 billion dollars over the past year. (For more, see Are You An Entrepreneur?)

The multi-year run up in oil and gold prices has not just benefited oil and gold investors. Business owners like Elke Batista have reaped a nice return on investment from their oil companies' holdings. Batista has a conglomerate, with the majority of his holdings being in the energy and mining sectors. He has seen an 11% growth in his net worth over the past year, as it grew to $30 billion dollars. Elke Batiste is the wealthiest man in Brazil and has his eyes on the number one spot in the world.

Bernard Arnault may have become wealthy by inheriting his father's construction company, but wealth has not made him lazy. The richest man in Europe increased his fortune 49% over the past year due to aggressive expansion. Arnault aggressively expanded his empire by acquiring profitable businesses through takeovers and shrewd decision making. He increased his fortune from $27.5 billion dollars in 2010 to $41 billion dollars in 2011.

Real Estate
The drop in the North American real estate market has not affected the price of real estate around the world. As Lee Shau-Kee has proven, there is still money to be made in the global real estate market. Real estate prices in Hong Kong have risen 65% since 2009. Lee has seen his net worth double from $9 billion dollars in 2009 to $19 billion dollars in 2011. Lee is increasing his investment in the real estate sector with his recent $1.3 billion dollar investment in Henderson Land Development. (Owning property isn't always easy, but there are plenty of perks. For more, see Simple Ways To Invest In Real Estate.)

Inheriting wealth is one way that a person can rise from relative obscurity into the ranks of the rich and famous. Scott Duncan vaulted onto the Forbes billionaires list after the passing of his father last year. His father, Dan, was the head of the very profitable energy company, Enterprise Products Partners L.P. Scott inherited $3.1 billion dollars along with each of his three siblings. At the age of 28, he is now one of the youngest billionaires in the world.

The Oracle of Omaha used the financial recession to make investments that have paid off big time for himself and his company. Buffett's net worth has risen $13 billion dollars over the past two years to $50 billion dollars, and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, has seen its value rise 15% last year. Buffett wisely invested in iconic companies like General Electric and Goldman Sachs. Buffett's Goldman Sachs preferred stock investment in Goldman Sachs made him $15 a second. (We look at the Sage of Omaha's methodology for evaluating value stocks. For more, see Warren Buffett: How He Does It.)

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The Bottom Line
As you can tell, the world's wealthiest people were able to increase their fortunes by putting their money to good use. Of course, they say the first million is the hardest to make, so it's no surprise that these multi-millionaires are able to propel their fortunes to greater heights each year.

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