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Who Are the Richest People in America?

In recent years we have seen a boom in stock market growth, benefiting the richest people in the US greatly. Though good for those at the top of the income ladder, it has made it more difficult for those coming into wealth to join their upper echelons of wealth. Even the famous Forbes 400 has increased the base wealth of those considered in their listing of wealthy Americans to $1.55 billion, the highest it has ever been. In their last listing, over one hundred US billionaires were excluding for not meeting their wealth standards. But of those selected, who are some that stand out the most all the way at the top?

Bill Gates:

Having often been known as "the richest man in 'insert your destination here,'" Gates manages to maintain the position of richest American for over twenty years, boasting an $81 billion net worth. One would think that the co-founder of Microsoft and the man most associated with Windows would survive on the software and hardware giant alone, but his company accounts for less than 20% of his entire net worth. Yes shares in Microsoft have increased over the past year, contribution $9 billion in the last year to Gates' net worth, but through his investment firm Cascade, he has benefited from investments in Canadian National Railway and Republic Services. Gates also happens to be part owner of the famous tractor manufacturer Deere & Co. as well as franchises of McDonald's in South America.
But of all the things occupying Gates' time in recent years, increasing his wealth doesn't seem to be at the forefront of his mind. Through various charities and organizations he runs with his wife Melinda Gates, effecting change seems to be the biggest draw of his energy. For fourteen years the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have invested $30 billion, more than the net worth of most US billionaires, to drive down the spread of diseases like smallpox, polio, and bolstering the US education system. Most recently, Gates has focused on fighting malaria which harms 200 million people a year the world over, a number that he has been decreasing since 2000.

Warren Buffett:

Known friend of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, the "Oracle of Omaha" is the second wealthiest person in the US with a net worth of $67 billion. Though the wizardry of his investment knowledge remains strong, as evident through the strong track record of Berkshire Hathaway, his personal company, Buffett's charitable endeavors are also increasing. This past summer, he made a donation of $2.8 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as his own charity organizations. Over the course of his life, he has given away over $23 billion to charities around the world. Still, Berkshire Hathaway's stock is the highest priced of any publicly traded company, climbing to a record high of $200,000, gaining Buffett $8.5 billion in the past year.
There are other companies under the control of Berkshire Hathaway, creating a diverse portfolio that spans railroads to insurance and everything in between. Berkshire Hathaway is even the largest shareholder of soda giant Coca-Cola. At the close of the previous year, Buffett's company announced $182 billion in revenue and $19.5 billion in net income.

Mark Zuckerberg:

Further down on the list, though still very rich, is Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg who, with a $34 billion net worth, is now the 11th richest person in the US. After taking his company public last year, the Zuckerberg fortune rose by $15 billion, riding the waves of media hype and addiction to social networks, share prices rose, giving him one of the biggest jumps in wealth in a single year on record.
After going public, Mark Zuckerberg, who is still CEO of his company, has displayed his ambitions and his hopes for his company's staying power. Surprising many market speculators, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion, extending its reach to different social networks. Then another surprise came the following month after they purchased Oculus VR, a virtual reality helmet designed for video games and computer interfacing, for $2 billion. Such bold moves were almost single-handedly responsible for handing Zuckerberg $15 billion dollars in the past year.

Larry Page:

Now CEO of the information monster Google, Larry Page has been present for the transformational years, earning him $31.5 billion. What was once a simple search engine on an expanding Internet, Google now is an force of influence that seeks to influence all things connected on the web, television, the budding world of robotics, and even autonomous vehicles like the much anticipated Google Self-Driving Car. Much of these decisions have either been made or reinforced by Page's tenure as CEO
In the past year, Google has acquired Nest, a smart-tech firm that develops temperature-controlling units for use in homes. They've also purchased Dropcam, a video monitoring developer, as well as user-created video site for gaming Twitch. Though Page's deciding power has been limited by an executive shakeup, dividing power among all executives, Page has options left open to him beyond Google. Working with computers for over thirty years, this Google co-founder has an impressive resume that is worth billions.

What Does This Wealth Mean:

Collectively, the wealthiest Americans are $270 billion richer than they were a year ago. Comparatively, they could be argued to be as economically competitive as the entire nation of Brazil and its 200 million citizens. Among these billionaires there is an average $5.7 billion worth, increasing from a previous historical high by more than $700 million dollars per person. Another historical feat can be seen in the 300+ billionaires who've seen an increase in their fortunes, where less than 40 saw an increase in 2012.
Also, there are more women billionaires, including young women like Elizabeth Holmes of biomedical company Theranos, and more new billionaires added to the ranks of the rich. If current trends continue, the following year could bring more new faces to the billionaire's table.
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Alice Bryant's picture

Alice Bryant is the Editor of Creditnet and a personal finance expert with over a decade of experience writing about credit cards, credit scores, debt repair, and more.

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