Rich & Powerful

The world’s richest and most powerful people all took different paths to build their wealth. Browse Investopedia’s expert-written library to learn how the world’s wealthiest made their fortunes.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are there any trillionaires?

    There are currently no individuals worth $1 trillion, but the world’s ultra-wealthy are closer to that milestone than they’ve ever been. In 1916, John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire thanks to his stake in Standard Oil. Microsoft founder Bill Gates became the first centibillionaire in 1999 right before the dot-com bubble burst. And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s net worth reached $100 billion in 2017 and $200 billion in 2021. As of March 2022, the world’s six richest people had a combined net worth of just over $1 trillion.

  • Who is the Wolf of Wall Street?

    The 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” is adapted from a memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort. In 1989, Belfort founded Stratton Oakmont, an over-the-counter brokerage, where he and associates bought penny stocks, pressured clients to purchase those same stocks—driving up the price in the process—and then sold the brokerage’s shares at a profit. It is estimated that the brokerage’s clients lost as much as $200 million in the process. Stratton Oakmont was forced to close in 1996, and in 1999 Belfort was sentenced to four years in prison for money laundering and securities fraud.

  • Who is the world’s richest family?

    The Waltons are the world’s richest family, with an estimated net worth of nearly $250 billion. The Waltons’ fortune is derived from their ownership stake in Walmart, the world’s largest company by many measures. Alice, Jim, and Rob Walton—the surviving children of Sam Walton, who opened the first Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962—are each consistently in the top 20 of the world’s richest people. Combined, they own approximately 48% of Walmart, which reported 2021 sales of over $550 billion.

  • How much is Donald Trump worth?

    Donald Trump’s real net worth has been a matter of near-constant speculation since he launched his bid for the presidency in 2015. Trump goes to great lengths to keep his finances private, which critics have taken as evidence that he’s much less wealthy than he claims. While his net worth is nowhere near the $10 billion he boasted of in 2015, the most recent estimates from Forbes put his net worth around $2.5 billion.

  • How did Richard Branson make his money?

    Richard Branson’s Virgin Empire began with Student magazine, which he dropped out of high school to found in 1968. In the early 1970s he began selling mail-order records out of the magazine’s office, the profits from which he put toward founding Virgin Records in 1972. Branson’s playbook has been the same ever since: use past successes as a springboard to new opportunities. Since founding Virgin Records, Branson has tried his hand at books, video, air travel, telecommunications, and space travel.

Key Terms

Explore Rich & Powerful

Fortune 500: What It Means to Be on the List
Michael Bloomberg
Who Is Michael Bloomberg?
Rothschild Family
A History of the Rothschild Family
Hand of a Person Casting a Vote Into the Ballot Box During Elections
Presidents Who Didn't Win a Second Term
Michael Milken
Who Is Michael Milken?
Midsection Businessmen Analyzing Charts on Laptop in Office
Top 5 Highest Paid Hedge Fund Managers
Midsection Businessmen Analyzing Charts on Laptop in Office
The World's 10 Most Famous Traders of All Time
Bill Gross
Who Is Bill Gross?
Who Is Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street?
How Did George Soros Break the Bank of England?
How Carlos Slim Built His Fortune
Warren Buffet arrives at "The Post" Washington, DC Premiere at The Newseum.
5 Top Investors Who Profited From the Global Financial Crisis
This Is What Bill Gates' Portfolio Looks Like
Warren Buffett
The Everyday Lives Of Frugal Billionaires
6 Rules From 6 of the World's Top Investors
How Did Richard Branson Make His Fortune?
Friedrich Hayek
Who Was Friedrich Hayek?
Carl Icahn
Who Is Carl Icahn?
Peter Lynch
Pick Stocks Like Peter Lynch
Modern tower buildings or skyscrapers in financial district with cloud on sunny day in Chicago, USA. Construction industry, business enterprise organization, or communication technology concept
How Sam Zell Made His Fortune
John Rogers
Who Is John Rogers?
US - Africa Leaders Summit Continues In Washington DC
How David Rubenstein Became a Billionaire
Benjamin Graham
Benjamin Graham
Rockefeller Plaza street sign
What Are Robber Barons?
Rupert Murdoch
Who Is Rupert Murdoch?
A poster with US billionaire George Soros.
George Soros: 3 Best Investments Ever
Sponsor with business woman using a tablet computer.
Sponsor
A chess king pieces and coin stacks standing on a chessboard.
How Does a Monopoly Contribute to Market Failure?
J.P. Morgan
Who Was J.P. Morgan?
Who Is Alwaleed Bin Talal?
Sir John Templeton
Who Was Sir John Templeton?
Abstract mirror building texture
Market Leader
Martha Stewart
Who Is Martha Stewart?
Amancio Ortega
Who Is Amancio Ortega?
Henry Kravis
Who Is Henry Kravis?
Steve Cohen
Who Is Steve Cohen?
David Einhorn Definition
Wilbur Ross in a meeting
Who Is Wilbur Ross?
Charles Dow
Who Was Charles Dow?
Warren and Astrid Buffett
Who Is the Oracle Of Omaha?
Low Angle View of Skyscrapers In Downtown
Monopolist
George Soros: The Philosophy of an Elite Investor
Billionaire Definition
Arrogant
Upstart Definition
Peter Lynch
Peter Lynch
Morganization Definition
Philip Fisher
Who Was Philip Fisher?
Who Is Micky Arison?
Charlie Munger
Who Is Charlie Munger?
What Is the Icahn Lift?
How Did Kidder Peabody's Joseph Jett Lose $350M?
Who Is William J. O'Neil?
Image
Who Was Muriel Siebert?
Who Is Lewis Ranieri?
What Is a Gorilla in Business?
What Is Camouflage Compensation?
William Cavanaugh III
Who is William Cavanaugh III?
Henry Paulson
Who Is Henry Paulson?
A man standing on stack of coins and looking at a telescope.
Fat Cat Definition and Examples
Katie Couric Clause