What Is a Billionaire?

The term billionaire refers to an individual with assets or a net worth of at least one billion currency units in their native currency such as dollars, euros, or pounds. Billionaires are extremely rich, with assets ranging from cash and cash equivalents, real estate, as well as business and personal property.

These individuals are ranked each year by Forbes, an American business magazine, which first started compiling lists of the world's richest in 1987.

Key Takeaways

  • A billionaire is someone who has assets or a net worth of at least one billion currency units in their native currency.
  • Billionaires have a variety of assets, including cash and cash equivalents, real estate, and business and personal property.
  • Forbes has been ranking the world's billionaires every year since 1987.

Understanding Billionaires

A billionaire is a person with a net wealth of a billion dollars—$1,000,000,000, or a number followed by nine zeroes. This is one thousand times greater than a millionaire ($1,000,000). Billionaires in other countries are defined by monetary units in other currencies such as euros, pounds, and others. So someone who is a billionaire in the eurozone is defined with a net worth of €1 billion or more, while someone in the United Kingdom has £1 billion or more.

Subtracting liabilities from assets results in an individual's net worth. A billionaire's assets generally include things like cash and liquid investments, personal property such as real estate, jewelry, cars and other vehicles, and furniture. Business interests such as equipment and commercial properties are also included if the individual has a personal stake in a corporation.

Billionaires make up a small and very elite club of powerful individuals—both men and women—in the world. These people control enormous sums of money and the power and influence that comes with it.

A deca-billionaire is someone who has more than $10 billion while a centi-billionaire has more than $100 billion in net wealth.

As noted above, Forbes magazine publishes a list of the world's billionaires every year. When Forbes produced the first list in 1987, there were 140 names on the list. In 2021, Forbes listed a record 2,755 billionaires around the globe from 70 countries. Their combined net worth totals $13.1 trillion.

Special Considerations

According to Forbes' 2021 report, the United States has the most billionaires in the world with a total of 724. China follows with 626 billionaires, India with 140 billionaires, Germany with 136 billionaires, and Russia with a total of 117 billionaires.

Jeff Bezos, founder and former chief executive officer (CEO) of Amazon, ranked the highest on the magazine's list with a total net worth of $177 billion. Forbes' real-time billionaires list lists his fortune at upwards of $210 billion as of July 14, 2021. Amazon (AMZN) raked in $386 billion in revenues and $21.3 billion in net profit for the 2020 fiscal year.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, came in second with $151 billion when the list was compiled in March 2021. Two other Americans made the top five list—Microsoft's Bill Gates with $124 billion and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, at $97 billion.

Readers can isolate names on the list by country, industry, as well as age group. For instance, Lukas Walton was one of the youngest billionaires, ranking in 127th with a net worth of $15.6 billion. He is the grandson of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart (WMT). His father, John, died in a plane crash, leaving the then-19-year-old much of his fortune. George Joseph, who founded an insurance company, was the oldest on the list at 99 with a net worth of $2 billion.

The richest billionaire woman, according to the report, was French Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, granddaughter of the founder of L'Oréal and heiress of his fortune. Her wealth was listed at $73.6 billion, putting her in twelfth place overall.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Forbes. "World's Billionaires 30th Anniversary: Looking Back on Three Decades of Billionaires." Accessed July 14, 2021.

  2. Forbes. "The Countries With the Most Billionaires 2021." Accessed July 14, 2021.

  3. Forbes. "World's Billionaires List." Accessed July 14, 2021.

  4. Forbes. "The World's Real-Time Billionaires." Accessed July 14, 2021.

  5. Amazon. "Amazon 2020 Annual Report," Page 18. Accessed July 14, 2021.

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.