WealthSpike: How long until the first dollar trillionaire?

Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images News / Getty Images
Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images News / Getty Images

Recently, Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, hit a big milestone in the world of wealth. His fortune was valued by Bloomberg to have reached $100 billion. A gargantuan amount that is hard for most of us to contemplate, even if you’re very rich. But Bezos’ wealth milestone begs the question - how long before we get our first dollar trillionaire?

Let’s first be clear what a trillionaire would be worth. He or she would be worth ten times what Bezos’ fortune is now because a trillion is one thousand billion. But how long before someone becomes ten times richer than today’s richest person in the world?

Of course, no one knows, there are so many variables, and few things develop in a linear way. So opting for a date in the future has very little meaning - but we will anyway. Here are some thoughts about the prospects for the world’s first trillionaire based on the history of wealth over the last 100 years. John D. Rockefeller became the first dollar billionaire back in 1916. Over the next 101 years, more than 2,000 billionaires have been created. Forbes reckons there’s now 2,043 of them.

Bill Gates became the first $100 billionaire back in 1999, but that was only for a short period, and the world had to wait another 18 years before it got another one. $100 billionaires don’t seem to have stuck around for a long time yet. Bloomberg’s billionaire index values Bezos’ fortune today (November 30) at $98 billion.

So it’s going to take some time before the world gets used to the $100 billionaire being the norm in the world of billionaires. Also, few will notice when this happens anyway, because, in the eyes of most of us, billionaires might be richer, but billionaires are still billionaires, whether they’ve got $100 billion, or $1 billion.

But the first trillionaire will get noticed big time...and here’s a prediction when that will happen.

The number of dollar billionaires is increasing rapidly. Eight times more billionaires were created in the last 20 years than the whole of the 80 previous years. And wealth in China, which is currently creating more billionaires than anywhere else, is growing at a very rapid rate. Asset price inflation is also pretty strong right now - the valuations of companies, both public and private, has risen steeply in the last five years. And those valuations look to be travelling in one direction in the foreseeable future - upwards.

It took less than 100 years to get from the first dollar billionaire to the first $100 billionaire. This means that the wealth of the richest individual has increased in dollar terms by 100 times since Rockefeller became the first billionaire. So getting to a dollar trillionaire, which is 10 times the wealth of the current richest individual, will probably take much less time, given the exponential rise is much less. 

So here’s WealthSpike’s best guesstimate - in 20 years time the world will get its first dollar trillionaire - and that person is likely to have made their fortune in China. Of course, there are so many factors that could intervene in the meantime to knock this prediction off course. But in 20 years time no one will remember this prediction - well, at least, Wealthspike hopes not.