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Number of world’s billionaires hits record; U.S. leads

Brenda Bouw
A pair of high heel shoes is placed on shore in front of a yacht during the summer contingent of the Millionaire Fair of luxury goods in Moscow, July 4, 2010. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/Files
A pair of high heel shoes is placed on shore in front of a yacht during the summer contingent of the Millionaire Fair of luxury goods in Moscow, July 4, 2010. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/Files

Just when it felt like you were getting ahead in the world - maybe you got a raise or paid down some debt – a new survey revealing a record number of global billionaires is here to make you feel worthless.

Apparently the global billionaire population has reached a record 2,170 people in 2013 with an average net worth of US$3 billion.

Combined, these billionaires are worth of US$6.5 trillion. That’s enough to fund the United States budget deficit until 2024, according to the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2013. Think of the number of government shutdowns that could be avoided with that kind of cash.

The survey, which touts itself as the first-ever comprehensive global study the “ultra wealth tier,” says 60 per cent of billionaires are self-made, while 40 per cent inherited their wealth or grew their fortunes from inheritance.

Among women on the filthy rich list, only 17 per cent are self-made, while 71 per cent inherited the money.

Asia is the fastest-growing region for the ultra rich, with 18 new billionaires in 2013, while Latin America dragged, increasing by just 2.3 per cent in the past year.

“In Asia, most billionaires are entrepreneurs who remain heavily involved in their family businesses,” said Chi-Won Yoon, CEO of UBS Asia Pacific, before shamelessly plugging his company as well positioned to help them manage all that dough.

While the number of wildly rich people is growing in Asia, the report says Europe is still home to the most billionaires at 766 individuals, even as the region starts to crawl out of one of its longest recessions in history.

Canada has 37 billionaires worth a combined US$94 billion, which is less than 5 per cent of the total wealth of billionaires in the U.S. The average net worth of Canadian billionaires is US$2.5 billion. Both Canada and the U.S. together hoarding the most billionaire wealth in the world at US$2,158 billion, the report says.

The global financial crisis hasn’t slowed the rise in billionaires around the world either.

Since 2009, 810 people became billionaires and their combined wealth doubled to US$6.5 trillion in 2013.

The report also provides a snapshot of the average billionaire, which won’t surprise many. Their business city of choice: New York. Top school: Harvard. Biggest luxury item: yachts, followed by private jets.

As for family, 86 per cent of billionaires are married and have an average of 2.1 children.

The report even offers some tips on where to find billionaires throughout the year starting with the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, France’s Cannes Film Festival in May, the PGA Championships in August then St. Bart’s in the Caribbean for New Year’s Eve.

“Time and space are rarely boundaries for the world’s billionaires,” it says, rubbing it in for the rest of us.

Despite all of that jet setting, the report says most billionaires are homebodies at heart and based in the same locations where they were raised.

Of course the main differences now are the size of their house, number of cars in the garage and collection of people that claim to be their friend.

Top 10 countries based on number of billionaires:

1. U.S.

2. China

3. Germany

4. United Kingdom

5. Russia

6. India

7. Hong Kong

8. France

9. Saudi Arabia

10. Switzerland