How most billionaires made their money


There are many routes to making the billionaires list. Some are more likely than others.

You don’t have to be a finance whiz to make Forbes’ World’s Billionaires list, but it sure does help.

While people have gotten super-rich in everything from soy sauce to palm oil to damaged cars, being in finance, whether private equity or hedge funds or venture capital, is the most common way the world’s wealthiest got so rich.

In fact, nearly one in six billionaires, or just over 15%, made their money in finance and investments: these 427 individuals hail from countries as mixed as Estonia, Kazakhstan, Japan and the U.S.

That’s up from the 372 names a year ago and includes 37 newcomers including Ben Navarro, founder of Sherman Financial Group (who is worth an estimated $1.5 billion), Cristina Junqueira of the Brazil-based digital bank Nubank ($1.4 billion) and Antonio Gracias, founder and CEO of Valor Equity Partners ($1.1 billion).

These billionaires—who also include bankers, fintech founders and full-time investors—are worth $2.17 trillion in all.

Nearly two-thirds are richer than in 2023, no one more than Warren Buffett, who added $27 billion to his net worth thanks to record-high share prices for his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway.

Technology, meanwhile, yielded 342 billionaires, making it the second-most popular industry for billionaires, up by 29 people—and up one spot in industries—from last year. 

Rich List

Jeff Bezos remains the richest tech tycoon (Forbes classifies Elon Musk, who owes much of his wealth to electric carmaker Tesla, as primarily an automotive billionaire).

He’s followed by Mark Zuckerberg, whose wealth leapt by a list-leading $116.2 billion to an estimated $177 billion as of March 8 when the list was locked in.

Collectively, tech billionaires are the richest among industries, worth an aggregate $2.6 trillion, more than $430 billion than the next-richest group, finance and investments.

The third most common sector for billionaires is manufacturing, which produced 328 members of the three-comma club and the most newcomers this year (49), hailing from countries such as Cyprus, Indonesia and Brazil.

The wealthiest among the new manufacturing entrants were Albert ChaoJames Chao and Dorothy Chao Jenkins, siblings who own stakes in the U.S.-based Westlake Corporation, a producer of low-density polyethylene used for food packaging and other forms of plastic.

Another notable newcomer was Don Levin, founder of D.R.L. Enterprises, the company behind the popular tobacco rolling paper brands E-Z Wider, OCB and JOB.

Fashion and retail comes in fourth, with 285 billionaires, including newcomer Christian Louboutin, founder of the famed red-sole shoes worn by the likes of Taylor Swift, Heidi Klum and Lenny Kravtiz.

Food and beverage counts 210 billionaires, making it the fifth-largest sector, with new faces that include Todd Graves of fast-food chain Raising Cane’s.

Here are the top 10 biggest industries for billionaires in 2024:


1. Finance & Investments

427 billionaires | 15% of list

Richest: Warren Buffett ($133 billion), chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

2. Technology

342 billionaires | 12% of list

Richest: Jeff Bezos ($194 billion), founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post and rocket company Blue Origin.

3. Manufacturing

328 billionaires | 12% of list

Richest: Reinhold Wuerth & family ($33.6 billion), chairman of screw and fastener maker Wuerth Group.

4. Fashion & Retail

285 billionaires | 10% of list

Richest: Bernard Arnault & family ($233 billion), chairman and CEO of luxury goods company LVMH and the world’s richest person.

5. Food & Beverage

210 billionaires | 8% of list

Richest: Zhong Shanshan ($62.3 billion), chairman of bottled water company Nongfu Spring. He also controls the publicly-listed Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy.

6. Diversified

201 billionaires | 7% of list

Richest: Mukesh Ambani ($116 billion), chairman of Reliance Industries, which holds interests in petrochemicals, oil and gas, retail and telecommunications.

7. Healthcare

197 billionaires | 7% of list

Richest: Dilip Shanghvi ($22.6 billion), founder and managing director of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, India’s most valuable listed pharmaceuticals company.

8. Real Estate

190 billionaires | 7% of list

Richest: Lee Shau Kee ($27.7 billion), Sun Hung Kai and Henderson Land Development, two of Hong Kong’s largest property developers.

9. Media & Entertainment

104 billionaires | 4% of list

Richest: Rupert Murdoch & family ($19.5 billion), chairman emeritus of News Corp., one of the world’s largest media conglomerates.

10. Energy

98 billionaires | 4% of list

Richest: Harold Hamm & family ($18.5 billion), founder and chairman of Continental Resources, one of the biggest independent oil companies in the U.S.

This article was first published on and all figures are in USD.

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