Wednesday, July 08, 2020

The Super-Rich

Add up all of America’s personal wealth, divide by our number of people, and we have an average wealth per person in the United States today of about $300,000. America’s wealth, of course, doesn’t spread anything close to even. Roughly half our households have no more than $100,000 in net worth, and most of these households have considerably less. Many millions of households have no wealth at all. Millionaires may be something out of the ordinary but not all that much out of the ordinary. Over 10 million American households currently hold net worths over $1 million. Millionaires in the United States clearly no longer belong to an exclusive club.  Back in 1982, the debut year of the annual Forbes 400 list of America’s richest, the United States hosted just 13 billionaires. The current counted of billionaires is 643 American billionaires (it does fluctuates with highs and lows of the stock market. America will soon be home to 1,000 billionaires.

Billionaire status is no longer spectacular even though for the ordinary person it is almost unimaginable . Suppose someone who sailed with Columbus over 500 years ago had started saving $5,000 per day on the way to the New World. That person, if alive and still saving here in the 21st century, would not yet have put away a billion dollars. . A mere $1 billion no longer brings the status that the term billionaire once bestowed nor btings entry to the ranks of the super rich. A $1-billion fortune will simply not do.s You need to possess a fortune at least worth $10 billion. Bill Gates topped the 1996 Forbes 400 list with a net worth reported at $18.5 billion, with Warren Buffett close behind at $15 billion. Within a few years, they had company. By 1998, five Americans boasted $12 billion or more in wealth. Today someone with $10 billion gives the person a mention in America’s wealthiest top 50.

Extreme wealth in America now starts at a $100-billion net-worth mark. The wealthiest American, Jeff Bezos, passed that milestone a few years back. At last count, his fortune was sitting at $165 billion. Combine that with his ex-wife’s $54 billion from the same source — Amazon — and the total fortune of the first awesomely affluent Bezos couple exceeds $215 billion. Gates, the first to reach $10 billion back in the 90s, currently holds a net worth at about $113 billion, but would be worth far more absent his philanthropy. Other oft-mentioned billionaires, including Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg, are approaching $100 billion status as well.

Had Columbus’ hypothetical ageless crew-man been saving a million dollars per day since 1492, or $365 million per year for the past 528 years, his wealth today would fall $20 billion or so short of the $215 billion fortune of the first Mr. and Mrs. Bezos. The next step up from hectobillionaire would be, of course, trillionaire status. Indeed, speculation about when we might see our first trillionaire has already started

Real people, the average Americans, meanwhile, are hanging on by their fingernails. Tens of millions lack sufficient health insurance coverage. Over one in ten live in poverty. A recent New York Times report calculates a same-city life-expectancy difference of 30 years between those born in wealthy neighborhoods and those born in poor neighborhoods.

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