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The Richest Person in Each Decade of Life

Investopedia logoInvestopedia 05-01-2016 Terri Williams

Americans are fascinated with wealth. We want to know the who-what-where-when-and-how of wealth creation. And as a relatively young country built on innovation and in love with capitalism, we take a certain pride in self-made, wealthy Americans because they symbolize our fundamental belief that regardless of age or background, hard work and determination are usually the only prerequisites for success.

Wealth-X has compiled a list of the wealthiest individuals in each decade of life, ranging from a 25-year-old man to a 93-year-old woman. It’s loosely called the “billionaire boys club” for a reason: there’s only one female on the list. Also, the vast majority of these individuals are Americans, and as self-made billionaires, they embody the American spirit of entrepreneurship.

Decade: 20s

Name: Evan Spiegel, Age 25 

Nationality: American

Net Worth: $2.0 billion

Primary company/source of wealth: Snapchat; Self-made

The youngest person on the list, Evan Spiegel left Stanford University in 2011 to cofound Snapchat, which is a wildly popular application that allows users to take and edit photographs and videos, and determine how long selected recipients can view content. The app averages over 100 daily users and 6 billion daily video views.

Decade: 30s

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Name: Mark Zuckerberg, Age 31  

Nationality: American

Net Worth: $47.2 billion

Primary company/source of wealth: Facebook; Self-made

America’s richest entrepreneur under the age of 40, Zuckerberg originally co-founded Facebook in 2004 for use by his classmates at Harvard University. Currently, the social media site has over 1 billion daily active users and 83.5% of daily active users don’t live in the United States or Canada. As of 2015, Zuckerberg earns a symbolic annual salary of $1.

Decade: 40s

Name: Larry Page, Age 42  

Nationality: American

Net Worth: $41.6 billion

Primary company/source of wealth: Alphabet (Google); Self-made

Larry Page cofounded Google while at Stanford University, and was the company’s first CEO, although he’s turning over the company’s reigns. Page is also the CEO of Alphabet, Inc., Google’s parent company, and earns a symbolic annual salary of $1, as of 2015. Some of Google’s products and services including Gmail, Google+, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Chrome, and Zagat.

Decade: 50s

Name: Jeff Bezos, Age 51  

Nationality: American

Net Worth: $60.0 billion

Primary company/source of wealth: Amazon; Self-made

The fifth richest man in the world, this Princeton University grad founded in 1994 in the garage of his home. The company grew from an online bookstore to the largest online retailer in the U.S., selling everything from clothes to consumer electronics. Bezos owns 18% of the company.

Decade: 60s

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Name: Bill Gates, Age 60  

Nationality: American

Net Worth: $87.3 billion

Primary company/source of wealth: Microsoft; Self-made

The richest man in the world, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to co-found Microsoft, although the university later awarded him an honorary Juris Doctor degree. Microsoft is the world’s largest software maker. Its popular Microsoft Office software suite includes Word, Outlook, Excel, Visio, and PowerPoint. Microsoft also has other popular products and services, such as Windows, Skype, Xbox, and MSN.

Decade: 70s

© Reuters

Name: Amancio Ortega Gaona, Age 79  

Nationality: Spanish

Net Worth: $73.2 billion

Primary company/source of wealth: Inditex; Self-made

A native of Spain and the fourth richest man in the world, Amancio Ortega Gaona cofounded his first company, Zara, in 1985. Although he dropped out of primary school, Gaona learned to sew and began selling lingerie and bathrobes out of his home. In 1986, Gaona founded Inditex, which consists of hundreds of textile companies, and is the largest fashion group in the world.

Decade: 80s

Name: Warren Buffett, Age 85  

Nationality: American

Net Worth: $62.4 billion

Primary Company/Source of Wealth: Berkshire Hathaway; Self-made 

The third richest man in the world, Warren Buffet has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a master’s degree from Columbia University. However, his investing skills were revealed at the age of 11 when Buffett bought his first three shares of stock. Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, is a conglomerate that owns such brands as Dairy Queen, GEICO, Fruit of the Loom, and Helzberg Diamonds.

Decade: 90s

Name: Liliane Schueller Bettencourt, Age 93

Nationality: French

Net Worth: $31.4 billion

Primary company/source of wealth: L’Oreal Group; Inherited

The tenth richest person in the world, French-born Lillian Bettencourt is the only female on the list, and also the only person on the list who inherited their wealth. She is also the wealthiest woman in Europe. Her father, Eugene Schueller, was the founder of L’Oreal, which is one of the world’s largest companies in the beauty industry with such brands as Garnier, Maybelline, Lancôme, Ralph Lauren, and The Body Shop. Although Bettencourt is not active in the company’s operations, the Bettencourts own 33% of L’Oreal’s stock.

The Bottom Line

The world’s wealthiest individuals in each decade of life are mostly self-made billionaires. They are also living proof that with determination and innovativeness, you’re never too young or too old to achieve your dreams. 

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