How Is Life Different for Billionaires?
Forbes reports that in 2017 there was a record number of billionaires in the world: 2,043, to be exact. This number is quite small when we consider that there are over 13 million millionaires in the world, people that are sometimes referred to as high-net-worth individuals. Although it is unlikely that any of us will become billionaires, if you are a white American with a good education, reports suggests that you can have as high as a one in five chance of becoming a millionaire by the time you die, but billionaire, that’s a bridge too far for most but the extremely fortunate. The psychological theory known as the ‘Happiness Paradox’ tells us wealth might not even make us happy, but you can judge that for yourself after watching this episode of the Infographics Show, How Is Life Different for Billionaires?
First of all, we can’t exactly say how all billionaires live. We can, however, take a look at some billionaires and perhaps see if there are recurring traits for many of them. For instance, Bill Gates is said to live quite frugally even though he’s the richest man on the planet, while Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani bought a home which many people might say is the most lavish abode one could buy. His skyscraper, called Antilia, is 27 storeys high and cost him around one billion dollars. He’s worth around $23 billion, give or take a few billion depending on which source you read. We used Forbes real-time rankings. Bill Gates is worth around $86 billion, and his Medina, Washington estate, cost him just $63 million to build. While still lavish, this might give you an idea of how these billionaires have dissimilar lifestyles. Nonetheless, they both have huge houses and no doubt their lives have many similarities because of their great wealth.
But not all billionaires live in mansions, estates, or luxurious high-rises. In 2017, Forbes put Warren Buffet in the top five of richest people in the world at $75.6 billion. But he lives in a house in a small neighborhood of Omaha, Nebraska, that he bought for $31,500 in 1958. That would be about $250,000 in today’s money, although it’s said his property is currently worth about $650,000. According to Realtor.com, that is only slightly more than their average 3.3 bedroom, 2.6 bathroom house listed on their site at the end of 2016. That cost was a little over $400,000. Talking about the house, Buffet said, “I'm happy there. I'd move if I thought I'd be happier someplace else.” Still, the house is guarded and there are plenty of security cameras.
Ingvar Kamprad, the Swedish founder of IKEA, is also not too fond on being extravagant. While his net worth has fallen sharply over the recent years and he’s now said to be worth just $6 billion – down many billions – he might not need the cash. While some people say he’s stingy, others just say he doesn’t enjoy living the lavish lifestyle. Business Insider wrote in 2016 that he lives in a one storey home, sometimes takes the bus, flies economy, and drives a decades old Volvo. So, it’s not all glamor and decadence for our billionaires. But one thing is certain for most, many of them just don’t go out in the street and walk around as we do.
In fact, according to some sources, billionaires work their socks off and so don’t have very much free time. Co-founder of Google, Larry Page, said he would sometimes work around the clock, literally 24 hours a day. Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla and SpaceX, says you need to be putting in around 100 hours a week just to get ahead of the rest.
In fact, if we look at what Elon Musk does on average, the man seems to be pretty busy. Not all billionaires are still at the forefront of their industry, but let’s take a look at the average day in the life of Elon Musk. Fortunately, Musk has let this be known, so we can give you a run down.
He gets up at 7 am after 6 hours of sleep. He often skips breakfast but never forgoes a shower. He divides his work week between Tesla and SpaceX, which adds up to about 82 hours at work. He even sometimes puts in more hours on the weekend, but also enjoys spending time with his sons. He tries to never work on Sundays, and instead travels or hangs out at his Bel Air mansion. He doesn’t eat much, but will sometimes go crazy during business meals. He also admitted to being kind of addicted to Diet Coke, something he isn’t too proud of. He says he also finds time to go to the gym twice a week, and he says he is a passionate reader of novels and non-fiction books.
But, like most billionaires, you won’t find Musk just wandering around any old high-street. In fact, according to an article in the British media, even London’s multi-millionaires won’t go out without a bodyguard, which apparently costs around $500 for one man for one day. Many of them travel by private helicopter, and do not take public transport anywhere. Other media reported that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has around 16 bodyguards working shifts at his home in Silicon Valley. In fact, it’s reported that his neighbors have even complained about all those guards illegally taking up parking spots in the neighborhood. In fact, way back in 2008 Forbes interviewed Russ Alan Prince, president of the private wealth-research firm Prince & Associates, who told them that 98 percent of people with over just $25 million have spent money on special security services. This might be hiring navy SEALs or even employing hi-tech security robots that can take down home intruders. So, even with all that wealth, you could say a billionaire’s life is somewhat made unhappy at times from fear of being a victim of robbery or kidnapping.
Maybe they counter this by eating loads of amazing food. Well, not Warren Buffet, who famously said he lives on fast food and Coca-Cola. He’s apparently been eating McDonalds for breakfast for many years, but being a big shareholder in the fast food company, maybe he’s just advertising. Richard Branson once said he drinks 20 cups of tea a day, while Donald Trump also loves his junk food. But this surely is all talk for the media; some of these people must eat well. In fact, many reports suggest a lot of the world’s billionaires hire chefs, sometimes Michelin-starred. These might work in the house, or even on a private yacht. Many billionaires own private yachts. The Sheik of Dubai apparently owns a $350 million yacht; Chelsea soccer club owner, Roman Abramovich, owns a yacht called the Eclipse, which has an estimated value of $450 million to $1.2billion. It even has a submarine attached to it. One of the world’s most expensive yachts, with a value of one billion-plus, doesn’t seem to have an owner yet. That’s called The Streets of Monaco. The most expensive yacht, the History Supreme, was commissioned by a Malaysian businessman for 4.8 billion dollars. Apparently the yacht cost him around a third of his net worth.
So, what would you do with a billion or more? Would you live similar to the way you do now, or would you become very extravagant? Let us know in the comments!