With a net worth estimated at $53.5 billion, Carlos Slim Helu, according to Forbes Magazine, is the world's richest person in 2010. Carlos Slim edged out Bill Gates whose net worth is estimated at $53 billion. Gee, Forbes is going to quibble about a measley $500 million?
This is the first time at the top of the list for Carlos Slim who came in third last year behind Gates and Warren Buffett. Slim leaped ahead in the rankings because of the $18.5 billion increase in the value of the shares of the telecom company that he got in a privatization deal with the Mexican government in the 1990s.
While the economies of many of the world's countries have stumbled and faltered over the past year putting millions out of work and out of their homes in many cases, the holdings of the super rich have increased dramatically in value over the same period. In his annual shareholder letter Buffett wrote, "We've put a lot of money to work during the chaos of the last two years. When it's raining gold, reach for a bucket, not a thimble."
The US still has the biggest number of billionaires with 40% of the names on the list hailing from the good ol' USA, but that number is down from 45% last year. Of the 97 new members on the list only 15 are from the US. Most of the newcomers came from Asia which now has only 14 fewer billionaires than Europe. 27 of those Asian billionaires are from China. China now has the most billionaires outside the US, but only if you include Hong Kong. One of those Chinese billionaires plans to buy Swedish automobile brand Volvo from Ford in December of 2010.
Life is not perfect for all the world's billionaires. 30 members of last year's exclusive billionaires club fell out of the rankings. Maybe things will turnaround for them again next year and they will be able to climb back into the club. Suffering a more permanent setback 13 members from last year's billionaire club list died, which just goes to prove again that no matter how much you have everybody always ends up with the same bag of dirt.
Did you know that Hong Kong is considered the freest market economy in the world? It is about eight places ahead of the United States which is actually slipping in the rankings of free economies. That should tell you something shouldn't it? How ironic is it that Hong Kong, which is part of the last remaining Communist monolith, enjoys more economic freedom and a more favorable business climate than the United States of America, the first country on earth founded on the principles of individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness, including, without limitation the happiness of getting rich.
You probably won't become a billionaire, but it probably wouldn't hurt to learn how to trade stocks from the old time master traders either.