The recession saw a slowdown in the adding of billionaires to the ranks of the super-rich. Indeed, with stock markets down, many of these billionaires — many of whom depend on their stock holdings for their spectacular net worth — saw a few losses. It was also difficult to add new names to the list. But, as the economy shows signs of recovery, and as stocks around the world pick up the pace, billionaires are back. And they are coming from emerging market countries.

Recording Breaking Year for the World Billionaire List

The 2011 release of the world billionaire list from Forbes marks the 25th year that Forbes has been keeping track. For most of that time, America has dominated. America still dominates, but not as much as in the past. The richest man in the world is a Mexican, Carlos Slim HelĂș, who is worth $74 billion — significantly more than former richest people Bill Gates ($56 billion) and Warren Buffett ($50 billion).

Some of the notable records that have been broken by the 2011 Forbes Billionaires List include:

  • There are now 1,210 billionaires in the world — more than ever.
  • The combined wealth of the billionaires is $4.5 trillion — a record.
  • Emerging market nations led the way, with BRIC nations adding 108 of the 214 new names to the list.
  • The U.S. is no longer the only country with more than 100 billionaires: China has 115 and Russia has 101.
  • 10 years ago, the U.S. had one of every two billionaires in the world. Now it has one of every three in the world.
  • Technology and new ways to get rich are adding to the ranks like never before, as evidenced by the fact that Facebook alone has been the maker of six billionaires.

Forbes has reporters around the world compile information on public and private holdings, as well as real estate, yachts, cash and art. Then, on Valentine’s Day, using exchange rates and stock prices, the wealth is locked in. Why is Forbes so interested in compiling this list? I’m sure it’s partially because we want to read it. But here is what Forbes says about the names on the list:

Why do we spend so much time counting other people’s money? Because these moguls have the power to shape our world. Telecom billionaire turned prime minister Najib Mikati is keeping Lebanon’s government together. Ernesto Bertarelli, who lost the America’s Cup to Larry Ellison last year, is now focusing on saving the oceans from mass extinction. Gates and Buffett have already traveled to three continents working to change giving practices among the ultra-rich.

You can read the full Forbes list of billionaires here.

Is One Billion the New One Million?

With new billionaires making more money, it begs the question: Is one billion the new one million? For years, becoming a millionaire was seen as the ultimate money goal. However, inflation has eroded the value of $1 million. Many people no longer figure out when they can retire based on getting $1 million in their retirement accounts. After all, by the time you figure in the rising cost of health care, food, and other prices, it becomes evident that $1 million may not be adequate for an indefinite retirement. Developing some sort of passive income becomes more important.

What do you think? Would $1 million be enough for you to retire on? What new insights do you get from the Forbes billionaire list?


Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.