Billionaires. They keep growing in numbers these times. But more and more, the silver spoon, which was once an important factor for those whose net worth stands above the billion mark, is becoming less relevant.
Since the mid-1990s, the share of self-made billionaires out of the total class of billionaires, has been increasing steadily. In contrast, the share of billionaires who were born with silver spoons in their mouths and who inherited their wealth, has been reducing.
It’s now hard and smart work over silver spoons.
But why is the number of billionaires who inherited wealth reducing? Part of the answer lies in the fact that extreme wealth is often shattered over time; those who are supposed to inherit from the billionaire parents often do not become billionaires.
This idea is expressed in an old English saying: “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” It simply means that very huge wealth created in one generation would have been lost by the time of the next third generation. In Scotland, they have a blunter version of it which says: “The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs.” It is often the case.
Another reason is the good global economic growth over these two decades which has yielded quite some increase in the number of billionaires. There is growth in their number within this period but it is too short for a lot of wealth to be transferred and inherited by the next generation.
In China, the country with the second highest number of billionaires, many of them are fairly young people who raised their wealth within the last 20 years. Obviously, there’ll be no transferring of their net worth to their children until they’re probably dead.
In the United States also for example, quite a significant portion of the wealthiest billionaires are old men who are self-made. Until they die you can expect the number and percentage of billion makers who inherited their wealth to remain nearly unchanged, if there’s any change at all.
One thing is for sure though. Being born with a silver spoon in your mouth is not counting so much anymore.