The world’s billionaires: where they live and how they spend their wealth

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There are more billionaires in the world than ever before, placing a greater demand on luxury providers. While marketers tend to pigeonhole the world’s billionaires as one, they vary considerably and therefore require a highly customised digital marketing approach.

Relevance is a specialist digital marketing agency focused on reaching the world’s richest billionaires with effective digital marketing campaigns. Here we explore some of the key differences between the world’s billionaires.

Who are the world’s richest billionaires?

According to the 2021 Forbes World’s Billionaire List, the world’s billionaires reached 2,755, 660 more than last year. Additionally, 88 percent of those billionaires are richer than a year ago. Together the world’s billionaires have an estimated wealth of US$13.1 trillion, up from an estimated $5 trillion in 2020. The world’s richest billionaires are:

  1. Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos, net worth $177 billion

  2. Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, net worth $151 billion

  3. LVMH Moët Hennessy Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, net worth $150 billion

  4. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, net worth $124 billion

  5. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, net worth $97 billion

Where do the world’s billionaires live?

According to Forbes, the US has the highest number of billionaires with 724 and is also home to the two richest people in the world; Bezos and Musk. China, including Hong Kong and Macao, has the next highest number of billionaires with 698, although none makes it into the top ten list of the world’s richest billionaires. China’s richest billionaire - Zhong Shanshan - comes in at number 13 on Forbes’ 2021 billionaire list, with an estimated wealth of $68.9 billion.

Together, the US and China boast more than 50% of the entire world’s population of billionaires, making these markets incredibly important for luxury brands seeking to target the wealthiest people in the world.

According to the 2021 Forbes World Billionaire List, after the United States and China is Germany with 107 billionaires, India with 102, Russia with 99, Hong Kong with 67, Brazil with 45, the UK with 45, Canada with 44, and France with 39 billionaires.

Why do American billionaires dominate the top 10?

American billionaires dominate the world stage, boasting eight out of the ten wealthiest people in the world.

With technological solutions playing a prominent role globally, the growth in billionaire wealth in the US is driven by the tech sector. Unsurprisingly, Silicon Valley, the undisputed technology hub of the US, is a hotspot for billionaires. According to Vox, there are 143 tech billionaires worldwide, half of them based in Silicon Valley.

Across the US there are a significant number of self-made billionaires. Similarly, according to a report by Wealth-X, 94% of China’s billionaires are self-made, due in part to a growth in China’s consumer retail, real estate, and technology sectors. According to the report, just 2% of China’s billionaires are due to inheritance, while the final 4% reached billionaire status thanks to a combination of inheritance and entrepreneurship.

The two largest billionaire markets are in sharp contrast to the global average. According to Wealth-X, just 55% of billionaires are self-made.

How do the world’s billionaires spend their money?

According to an article by Insider, billionaires can typically afford to spend $80 million a year, with many spending their wealth on private jets, real estate, remote islands, cars, art, trips to space, and superyachts.

All these industries are booming as the world’s billionaires seek lavish goods and investments.

In 2021, yacht brokers reported a sharp increase in sales, as the richest people in the world sought to enjoy a safe and private holiday at a time when there were no other travel options available.

Private jet brokers also reported a similar uptick in sales, with reports stating that those seeking to purchase a private jet are waiting extended delivery times.

In a recent 2020 Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, annual global sales of arts and antiques reached $64.1 billion in 2019. Of these global sales, the US made up an estimated market share of 44%, the UK 20%, and China 18%.

Philanthropy is also central to the world’s billionaires with many donating significant sums to charitable causes.

According to Forbes, which graded billionaires based on the amount of personal wealth given to charity, Warren Buffet, George Soros, Julian Robertson jr. John Arnold, Amos Hostetter Jr., Gordon Moore, and Lynn Schusterman are among the most philanthropic billionaires, giving away 20% or more of their wealth. Conversely, Bezos and Musk are among the least giving billionaires, having given away less than 1% of their wealth.

How to target the world’s billionaires?

When marketing to the world’s billionaires, it’s important to note that not all billionaires are the same, and that factors such as nationality can significantly impact the way in which these individuals should be targeted.

Many marketers target the world’s billionaires in the same way in which they would Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individuals, however this is an exclusive cohort with unique behaviours and spending habits.

To learn how Relevance crafts compelling and engaging digital marketing campaigns that resonate with the world’s billionaires, contact the team today.

Ned Quekett, CEO at Relevance