Tesla billionaire Elon Musk captivated the financial press during Q4 by selling a chunk of his shares in the EV carmaker after asking his Twitter followers whether he should sell or not.
But while Archegos secret billionaire Bill Hwang lost his entire fortune in 2021, Musk and other billionaires benefited from the ballooning equity valuations.
According to Bloomberg, "for the wealthiest people on the planet, 2021 was a year of enormous gains, extreme losses and unprecedented scrutiny." BBG went on to call it the "Year of the Super Billionaire".
And it's not just soaring equity markets; rising valuations of everything from mansions to crypto to commodities boosted the collective fortune of the world’s 500 richest people by more than $1 trillion as the rest of the world struggled with the second year of the COVID pandemic.
Thanks to these gains, there are now a record 10 fortunes in excess of $100 billion, more than 200 above $10 billion and Musk has now surpassed the level of riches (adjusted for inflation) achieved by modern history's previous wealthiest person. Combined, the net worth of the 500 billionaires now exceeds $8.4 trillion, greater than the GDP of all countries except the US and China.
At year-end, 42 members of the billionaire's index debuted on the ranking in 2021 mostly due to IPOs.
The trajectory hasn't changed much since last year, when we reported that the world's richest 1% had earned more than $30 trillion combined. That number has no doubt increased dramatically this year.
And back in October, we noted that, in some ways, we can't help but sympathize with Neel Kashkari's trumped-up "concern" about wealth inequality. Because in some ways, the US meets the standards of a banana republic, since the wealthiest 0.1% own as much assets as the bottom 90%.
While the very richest benefited from bumper markets and loose fiscal policy, the pandemic pushed as many as 150M people into extreme poverty, even as millions of jobs went unfilled and inflationary pressures sent wages soaring across varioous industries.
The reaction to this massive wealth creation has been reflected in political rhetoric from Washington to Beijing, where the CCP has started shaking down China's wealthiest men and the companies they control for donations to the government's new and as-yet-unformed "Common Prosperity" program.