The Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the US is out — let the games begin!
Bill Gates once again tops the list, with a net worth of $59 billion, up $5 billion from last year, followed by America’s favorite investor, Warren E. Buffett, the man who just might have a millionaire’s tax named in his honor. Then there’s the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, who account for three of the top ten spots.
Of the top 10, here are a few interesting facts:
- 5 are self-made (Gates, Buffett, Ellison, Soros and Adelson)
- 3 have joined “The Giving Pledge” in which participants agree to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy (Gates, Buffett and Ellison)
- All 10 have made philanthropy a major part of their lives
- 6 are married (Gates, Buffett (remarried after being widowed), both Koch brothers, Jim Walton, Adelson)
- 2 are widowed (Buffett and Christy Walton)
- 3 are divorced (Ellison, Soros, Alice Walton)
- 3 dropped out of college (Gates, Ellison and Adelson)
One other change of note: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg zoomed up 21 places on the list this year to number 14, as the value of his company skyrocketed. At age 27, his net worth is now $17.5 billion.
Here’s the top 10 richest Americans, according to Forbes. You can see the full list here.
1. Bill Gates (age 55) – $59B: founder of Microsoft and co-founder with his wife, Melinda, of the Gates Foundation, a philanthropic organization that he runs with his wife Melinda.
2. Warren Buffett (age 81) – $39B: CEO of investment conglomerate Berkshire HathawayOracle of Omaha
3. Larry Ellison (age 67) – $33B: founder and CEO of Oracle
4. (tie) Charles Koch (age 75) – $25B: Chief executive of conglomerate Koch Industries, which his father Fred C. Koch founded
4. (tie) David Koch (age 71) – $25B: Vice-president Koch Industries. Founder of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative nonprofit
6. Christy Walton (age 56) – $24.5B: heir to Walmart (widow of John, Walmart founder Sam Walton’s son)
7. George Soros (age 81) – $22B: founded and operates hedge funds
8. Sheldon Adelson (age 78) – $21.5B: Casino owner and new to the top 10 this year
9. Jim Walton (age 63) – $21.1B: Son of Walmart founder Sam Walton and currently runs the family’s Arvest bank
10. Alice Walton (age 61) – $20.9B: Daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton
S. Robson Walton, son of Walmart founder Sam Walton and Michael Bloomberg: founder of financial news firm Bloomberg LP, both fell out of the top 10, replaced by Soros and Adelson.
I know this is a perverse diversion, especially after last week’s Census Bureau data, which revealed that 15.1 percent of the US population, or 46 million Americans, lives below the poverty level (family of four earning less than $22,314). Or that median household income in 2010 was $49,445, down 2.3 percent from 2009 and the third consecutive annual drop. For those of you keeping score, annual income is now roughly where it was in 1996, adjusted for inflation.
And yet, here it is — the rich list that captivates us each year. It’s like reality TV–a guilty pleasure, after which you engage in it, makes you feel a little dirty.
Jill Schlesinger is the Editor-at-Large for CBS MoneyWatch.com. Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch, she was the Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.