It may sound crazy, but there’s a good chance that we’ll all live to see the world’s first trillionaire. The richest man in the world, billionaire Bill Gates, currently has a relatively modest fortune of $85 billion. Still, given annual growth rates, compounding interest, and advancing economies around the world, he could eclipse the $1 trillion mark in the near future. True, he’s only 8.5% of the way there — but Gates and several others are within striking distance.
The richest person of all time, African monarch Mansa Musa, was worth roughly $400 billion in the early 1300s. Since then, we’ve seen several other billionaires stretch their fortunes into the twelve figures. Names like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and even Ford have amassed immense amounts of wealth throughout history. But nobody has been able to become a trillionaire — or even come close.
That is likely to change between now and 2050, or perhaps even sooner. A new report from Oxfam reveals a realistic path for many of the world’s richest individuals to reach the $1 trillion mark. As impressive as that is, it highlights an issue that has been gaining a lot of attention over the past several years: Drastic amounts of inequality.
“The 1,810 dollar billionaires on the 2016 Forbes list, 89% of whom are men, own $6.5 trillion — as much wealth as the bottom 70% of humanity,” Oxfam’s report states. For now, though, trillionaire status is still out of reach for those at or near the top of the Forbes list.
The quest for $1 trillion
To get to $1 trillion, a lot of things have to go right. A global economic meltdown, for example, would probably set everyone back a few steps. But if the chips land where expected, Oxfam’s report says we could see the world’s first trillionaire within the next three decades.
“Once a fortune is accumulated or acquired, it develops a momentum of its own. The super rich have the money to spend on the best investment advice, and the wealth held by the super rich since 2009 has increased by an average of 11% per year. This is a rate of accumulation far higher than ordinary savers are able to obtain,” the report notes. “If billionaires continue to secure these returns, we could see the world’s first trillionaire in 25 years.”
So who has a shot at achieving this, you ask? There are only a handful of people who have a realistic shot at becoming trillionaires. In addition to annual growth rates, you have to look at whether the current crop of billionaires will actually live to see their fortunes grow past $1 trillion. Take, for example, Warren Buffett. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway is second on the Forbes billionaires list, but at 86 years old, he likely won’t survive another 25 years. That’s not to say he won’t, but the odds are against him.
Taking all this into account, here are eight current billionaires who have a realistic shot at becoming trillionaires.
1. Bill Gates
Bill Gates, as mentioned, is currently the richest person in the world with a fortune of roughly $85 billion. Though he mostly focuses his time and energy on charitable pursuits these days, he’s still adding to those billions. “The fortune of Bill Gates has risen 50% or $25 billion since he left Microsoft in 2006, despite his commendable efforts to give much of it away,” Oxfam’s report states. At 61 years old, Gates has perhaps the best chance to become the world’s first trillionaire.
2. Jeff Bezos
Gates’ cross-town rival and cohort Jeff Bezos is nipping at his heels. Bezos, who founded Amazon, has amassed $71 billion so far — and he’s only 51 years old. Given Amazon’s incredible growth, and the number of moonshot projects the company is working on, Bezos also has a very good chance of eclipsing the trillion-dollar mark.
3. Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 32, has more than $54 billion to his name. It doesn’t appear Facebook is going to become irrelevant any time soon, and Zuckerberg likely has many other projects up his sleeve. Being as young as he is, he has a very good chance of becoming a trillionaire within the next few decades.
4. Larry Page
Larry Page is one of the founders of Google, which has become an absolute giant over the past decade and a half. He’s only 43, and currently has around $40 billion. Like Zuckerberg, Page has time on his side. With Google looking like it’s going to be integral going forward, Page is likely going to be amassing a lot more money in the coming years.
5. Sergey Brin
Sergey Brin, 43, is Larry Page’s partner in crime at Google. He also has around $40 billion, and a lot of time to see that fortune grow.
6. Jack Ma
Jack Ma is becoming more of a household name in the States. The 52-year-old runs Alibaba Group from his home country of China. His current net worth is $28 billion, but with many people forecasting that Alibaba will continue to flourish, it’s expected that this number will grow significantly in the coming years.
7. Ma Huateng
Ma Huateng is unknown to most Americans, but the 45-year-old currently ranks at number 32 on the Forbes billionaire list. He’s built a fortune of $24 billion so far, mostly through his business workings as an internet entrepreneur. More specifically, he is the founder, president, and CEO of Tencent Holdings Ltd.
8. Elon Musk
Elon Musk isn’t nearly as rich as some of the others on this list, with a relatively paltry fortune of $13 billion. But he’s only 45. And he has some ideas that just may launch him to or near the top of the list. Tesla, for example, doesn’t appear to be slowing down. He also has SpaceX in his camp and is floating ideas like the Hyperloop. All of these components might just make him one of the first trillionaires.