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.

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