WealthSpike: 100 years of billionaires

John D. Rockefeller, left, the world's first confirmed dollar billionaire

John D. Rockefeller, left, the world's first confirmed dollar billionaire

It might have gone unnoticed to most of you, but WealthSpike is celebrating the 100 anniversary of dollar billionaire. Yes, the world has seen exactly one hundred years of billionaires, with the first official dollar billionaire John D. Rockefeller confirmed in 1916.

Their numbers have since grown to 1,810, according to Forbes’ latest billionaire list, released this week, although down from a peak of 1,826 in 2015. But here’s the most interesting fact about these last 100 years of billionaires - eight times more billionaires were created in the last 20 years than the whole of the 80 previous years.

Have we just lived through the Golden Period of the Billionaire?

Of course, the numbers of billionaires aren’t completely reliable, given inflationary effects on incomes - a mere millionaire 50 years ago effectively had the same buying power as today’s billionaire. Nevertheless, they do suggest the last 20 years could go down in history as the Golden Period of the Billionaire, as coined by WealthSpike, particularly as their numbers, says Forbes, are beginning to dwindle.

Indeed, this view is backed up by a recent report from the luxury estate agency Knight Frank that predicts that the growth in the numbers of ultra-high net worth individuals, including billionaires, is likely to fall in the next ten years.

“One of the most interesting findings is that a significant proportion of respondents – leading wealth advisors and private bankers from around the world – expect their clients’ wealth to increase at a slower rate over the next 10 years than the past decade. Succession and inheritance issues, wealth taxes and the global economy were identified as the main threats to future growth,” said the report.

The Financial Times has even coined a phrase for this slowdown - “the billionaire crisis”. That, WealthSpike, feels is probably over emphasizing the slowdown. Nevertheless, the last 20 years might go down as a gilded age of wealth, rather like the 1920s did in America.

The Great Depression, as we all know, followed the first gilded age - WealthSpike wonders what might follow our gilded age..?