How Long it Would Take the 30 Richest Americans to Make America’s Median Annual Salary?

Every October, Forbes puts together the Forbes 400, which is the definitive ranking of the 400 wealthiest Americans. Together, the 2019 list of billionaires is worth a whopping $2.96 trillion! The net worth of these billionaires is not held at a constant amount all year, though. Their net worth is constantly increasing and decreasing due to changes in the stock market, selling or buying shares, investing in other companies, and making charitable donations. Even changes in their personal life can affect their net worth: For example, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie divorced in 2019, she received 25% of Amazon’s stock, becoming $38 billion richer. Now, she’s in the number 15 spot on the Forbes 400 list.

The incomes of these super-rich people are in a whole different league than the average worker’s pay. But how long would it take the richest American billionaires to earn the median annual salary? That question is answered in this chart that explores the amount of wealth that the 30 richest billionaires in the U.S. have earned over the past five years.

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Which Billionaire Earned the Median Annual Salary the Fastest?

The billionaire who earned the median salary the fastest was Jeff Bezos. On average, it takes him just 9.36 seconds to earn 2019’s $47,060 median annual salary. Due to Bezos’s divorce in 2019, ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos came in a close second, earning the median salary in 9.76 seconds.

The 10 Billionaires Who Earned the Median Annual Salary the Fastest

Ranking Name (Forbes 400 ranking) Amount Earned in 2019 Time to Earn Median Annual Salary (seconds)
1 Jeff Bezos (1) $37,666,666,667 9.36
2 MacKenzie Bezos (15) $36,100,000,000 9.76
3 Mark Zuckerberg (4) $13,100,000,000 26.90
4 Warren Buffett (3) $8,766,666,667 40.20
5 Steve Ballmer (9) $7,525,000,000 46.83
6 Bill Gates (2) $7,500,000,000 46.98
7 Larry Ellison (5) $6,033,333,333 58.41
8 Larry Page (6) $5,550,000,000 63.49
9 Sergey Brin (7) $5,225,000,000 67.44
10 Rob Walton (12) $4,900,000,000 71.92

Which Billionaires Had the Biggest Gains and the Biggest Losses in the Past Five Years?

While Jeff Bezos came out on top of the Forbes billionaires list, he also landed in the top spot for both the biggest losses and the biggest gains over the past five years.

Bezos’s biggest loss amounted to $46 billion between October 2018 and October 2019, mainly due to his divorce. The Koch brothers (with Julia Koch representing David’s net worth) tied for the second-biggest year-to-year losses, losing $12.5 billion between 2018 and 2019. Four out of the five biggest losses took place between 2018 and 2019.

The Biggest Losses Over the Past Five Years

Ranking Name (Forbes 40 Ranking) Amount of Loss (billions) Time Period When Loss Took Place
1 Jeff Bezos (1) $46 2018-19
2 (tied) Charles Koch (13) $12.5 2018-19
2 (tied) Julia Koch and Family (David Koch) (13) $12.5 2018-19
4 Warren Buffett (3) $7.5 2018-19
5 Carl Icahn (30) $6.5 2015-16

The biggest year-to-year gains over the past five years were dominated by Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, who each claimed two of the top five spots. Bezos would have claimed a third spot if not for his divorce, which helped MacKenzie Bezos earn the number two spot for biggest gain. The largest gain, by Jeff Bezos, amounted to a whopping $78.5 billion, doubling his net worth of $81.5 billion in 2017 to $160 billion in 2018.

The Biggest Gains Over the Past Five Years

Ranking Name (Forbes 40 Ranking) Amount of Gain (billions) Time Period When Gain Took Place
1 Jeff Bezos (1) $78.5 2017-18
2 MacKenzie Bezos (15) $36.1 2018-19
3 Jeff Bezos (1) $20 2015-16
4 Mark Zuckerberg (4) $15.5 2016-17
5 Mark Zuckerberg (4) $15.2 2015-16

Photo Credits:

  1. Jeff Bezos (Fortune) 2. MacKenzie Bezos (Business Insider) 3. Mark Zuckerberg (NPR) 4. Warren Buffet (Forbes) 5. Steve Ballmer (Ballmer Group) 6. Bill Gates (WordPress) 7. Larry Ellison (Forbes) 8. Larry Page (Vox) 9. Sergey Brin (Forbes) 10. Rob Walton (Be Like Billionaire) 11. Alice Walton (Forbes) 12. Elon Musk (Vox) 13. Jacqueline Mars (Forbes) 14. John Mars (Net Worth Post) 15. Jim Walton (Forbes) 16. Charles Koch (KCRG) 17. Julia Koch (Business Insider) 18. Phil Knight (Inc.) 19. Michael Bloomberg (NBC News) 20. Michael Dell (Business Insider)
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