As we are mired in the pandemic of the coronavirus, we all know a lot of people out of work. Service and hospitality industry friends and family are all out of work. It totals more than 22 million Americans – 45% of Los Angeles County – for instance, that have been laid off or furloughed. One sector of our population has seen their net worths increase greatly at the same time as so many are applying for unemployment and/or payment protection program loans for their businesses. Who are they? The billionaires of course! American billionaires have seen their net worth increase by about 10% or $280 billion than they had at the beginning of March. American billionaires are currently worth an estimated combined $3.229 trillion as of April 10, which is a significant jump from the $2.9 trillion they were worth on March 18.
The stock market did crash at the beginning of the spread of COVID-19 and the shutdowns in various cities and states have been as implemented. Jeff Bezos had a bit of a fall in net worth when that happened, but he didn't have to fret about it and he's already rebounded to see his net worth increase by about $25 billion. Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yaun saw his net worth jump due to the increase in work from home as people use his video conferencing platform.
The Trump presidency has also been good for American billionaires. Since Donald Trump took office in January 2017, American billionaires have seen their collective net worths increase from $2.7 trillion to today's nearly $3.3 trillion. That's probably a benefit to the country's wealthiest that came about from Trump's tax reform law. The benefits of the program, formally known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was geared towards the wealthy. I can attest to this. My taxes as a self-employed person went up more than 50% from 2016 to 2017, while billionaires saw theirs drop greatly. According to some reports, mid-range paid people ended up paying more in taxes than many of the country's wealthiest. And by mid-range, I'm talking in the $75,000-$150,000 range, which is probably exclusive to larger cities.
The old adage that it takes money to make money has proven true for the past 30 years. Since 1990, the wealth of American billionaires has grown by 1,130%. That's 210 times faster than the growth of the median wealth of the U.S. in the same 30 years. Does this seem fair? It certainly does not. Consider the growth of the three richest people in the U.S.'s net worth since 1990. In 1990, Jeff Bezos hadn't yet founded Amazon and wasn't on the list of the wealthiest Americans. He was just four years out of his undergraduate studies at Princeton and had just started working for D.E. Shaw in Manhattan where he met his ex-wife Mackenzie. So no estimate of his net worth back then but he was likely making low six figures and at 26, hadn't amassed a lot yet. Today, 30 years later, he's worth a ridiculous $140 billion.
Back in 1990, Bill Gates had a net worth of $2.5 billion. Microsoft had just gone public four years before and the rise of the personal computer industry was still in process, believe it or not. Since 1990, Bill Gates' net worth has seen its ups and downs, but at no point since then has he not been a billionaire. Bill Gates became the richest person in the world for the first time in 1995, with a net worth of $12.9 billion. After adjusting for inflation, that's the same as around $22 billion in today's dollars. By 1994, it was $8 billion. And then in 1995, his $12.9 billion net worth was good enough to earn him the richest person in the world title. Over the next two decades, Gates' net worth shot up from a relatively measly $12.9 billion to $90 billion in 1999, then the dot-com bubble burst for the first time. In 2000, Gates' net worth had dropped to $60 billion, then to $58.7 billion in 2001, $52.8 billion in 2002, $47 billion in 2003, $46.6 billion in 2004, then $50 billion, $52 billion, and $56 billion in 2005, 2006, and 2007, respectively. Bill Gates became the world's richest man in 1995 and he ushered in the tech era. Today, Gates is worth $110 billion.
In 1990, Warren Buffett had a net worth of $3.3 billion. As the 90s rolled on, Buffett saw his net worth increase more than five times from $3.3 billion in 1990 to $16.5 billion in 1996. Within the next six years, from age 66 to 72, Buffett's net worth more than doubled. His net worth in 2003 was a whopping $35.7 billion. By 2010, it was $47 billion. By the end of the summer of 2015, Buffett had a $67 billion net worth. Today, he's got a net worth of $75 billion.
If we looked ahead to 2050, the world's richest person will probably have a trillion-dollar net worth, if the explosive growth of the past 30 years – and even just the past six weeks – is any indication.