The coronavirus has had rippling economic impacts around the world. While many businesses have seen significant losses or had to close their doors, the pandemic hasn’t been bad for everyone’s finances. In fact, many American billionaires have increased their net worth since the pandemic.
Billionaires Net Worth Pre- and Post-Pandemic
If you follow Forbes’ annual list of the World’s Billionaires, you may notice this year has been one unlike any other. While many Americans are struggling to stay afloat, many of the elite have seen serious gains in their net worth. In fact, their ranks have swelled like never before. The list of billionaires added an additional 493 names, bringing the total number to 2,755 worldwide. Of these, the United States is home to 724, which is more than any other country in the world.
In total, their fortunes amass to an astounding $13.1 trillion, up from $8 billion the previous year. Approximately 86% on the billionaires list have increased their net worth since the pandemic. Looking specifically at the ultra-wealthy in America, they reported a cumulative total of $4.6 trillion. This is a 35% since the beginning of this year, and a total increase of $1.2 trillion since the pandemic broke.
Hundreds of New Billionaires since the Pandemic
This year has seen more people join the billionaire’s club than ever before. An additional 660 names were added to the list. While some of these were people who had previously made the cut, 493 were new members.
So, the burning question is how did so many people increase their net worth? There are actually a few factors as work here. Some have earned their fortunes from riding the SPAC wave while others joined the list due to the surge in the value of cryptocurrency. However, at least 40 of the newly minted billionaires owe their riches to COVID-19. Some got wealthy from holdings in pharmaceutical companies producing the vaccine and conducting trials while others were involved in producing other related products.
However, a key driving force that increased billionaires’ net worth during the pandemic was monetary policies. Governments enacted these policies at the beginning of the pandemic to stabilize the market. But, when the Federal Reserve confirmed low rates and liquidity, it spurred a huge rise in the stock market. The assurance of government intervention to counteract the market’s volatility and recent shifts in e-commerce gave specific sectors a huge advantage. The tailwind of digital commerce paved the way for the ultra-wealthy to make millions, or even billions in some cases.
The Pandemic and Forbes’ List of Billionaires
Unfortunately, not everyone on Forbes’ list of billionaires fared so well. The energy sector has been slow to rebound. So, oil barons Harold Hamm and George Kaiser have lost wealth since the beginning of this year. Real estate moguls are also facing huge losses as the demand for commercial retail space dwindles. Some of America’s elite could experience even greater losses if Congress approves President Biden’s proposed tax increases on the ultrawealthy.
America’s Biggest Billionaire Winners
Now, let’s take a look at who has benefited most from the pandemic. In terms of dollars, these five billionaires net worth have increased the most since the pandemic broke in January of 2020.
1. Elon Musk
Although he currently ranks third on Forbes’ list of billionaires, Elon Musk spent a brief moment this year as the world’s richest person. He also claims the top spot as America’s biggest gainer during the pandemic. As CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk has increased his net worth by a jaw-dropping 540%. In January 2020, his reported net worth was $27 billion. However, post-pandemic he is now worth $169.4 billion. The majority of these gains are the result of the increase in Tesla’s stock and people’s enthusiasm for electric vehicles.
2. Jeff Bezos
With more people shopping from home, Amazon has made Jeff Bezos the wealthiest man in the world. Fueled by recent e-commerce trends, Amazon shared have skyrocketed nearly 87% in the last year and a half. Thanks to his 11% stake in the company, Bezos became the first person ever to surpass a net worth of $200 billion. Even with adjustments for inflation and the most expensive divorce in history, Bezos’ fortune is the greatest amount ever tracked. Since the start of 2020, he has added $86 billion to his net worth. As of the publishing of this article, his current net worth is slightly lower than his record-breaking benchmark with $199.6 billion.
3 and 4. Larry Page and Sergey Brin
The cofounders of Google have also enjoyed a profitable year. Alongside other tech billionaires, Larry Page and Sergey Brin have seen huge increases in their net worth since the beginning of the pandemic. They have each added more than $40 billion to their fortunes, making them both centibillionaires. Page’s current net worth stands at $106.2 billion while Brin weighs in with an impressive $102.8 billion.
5. Daniel Gilbert
Daniel Gilbert first made his fortune when he co-founded Quicken Loans at 22 years old. He then added to his wealth when he also cofounded Rock Ventures. His company reached the height of success when banks began offering mortgage applications by phone. He added to his wealth by taking advantage of the economic downturn in 2008 when the banking sector collapsed. Even today, his company continues to perform well in the face of crisis. Many people are taking out new mortgages after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to help Americans weather the economic storm since COVID-19. Since it enacted these policies, Gilbert has gained roughly $40 billion. His current net worth is $42.3 billion.
The Road Ahead for America’s Billionaires
Although no one can say with any certainty what the future holds, there is a good chance that America’s billionaires will continue to increase their net worth as the pandemic ensues. However, proposed tax increases could severely impact their fortunes should they get approval from Congress. All anyone can do at this point is watch, wait, and seek advice from their financial advisors to protect their assets.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.