A record-breaking $2.9billion (£2.1billion) net worth is now the minimum criteria for being on the list, an increase of $800million (£587million) since the last edition as list members have increased their fortunes by 40 percent during the pandemic. Alongside this, 44 newcomers have graced the list for the first time this year including Melinda French Gates and the Winklevoss brothers, and former American president Donald Trump has dropped off the list for the first time in 25 years.
The Forbes 400 list was started in 1982 by Malcolm Forbes intended to be a celebration of business achievement and entrepreneurial energy, but some argue it has turned into a societal measurement for inherited wealth.
A fair amount of listmakers are part of this demographic, merely inherited a large net worth, while some have gone straight from the ground-up and created their own rags-to-riches stories.
The majority of the list’s frontrunners are true entrepreneurs that have shaped American and global modernity with their innovations, such as Tesla, Facebook and Amazon founders which hold the top three spots.
282 listmakers have self-made fortunes, 57 inherited fortunes and acted to generate more or use their wealth for a great purpose while 61 inherited enough to land on the list and stay there without doing much.
Altogether, list members have a combined net worth of $4.5trillion (£3.3trillion) but what are the highlights from this year’s release?
Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has continued his running streak for the fourth consecutive year in top place with a current net worth of $201billion (£147billion).
While two other innovators, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, follow closely behind at $190.5billion (£139billion) and $134.5billion (£98.7billion) in respective net worth.
There were 44 new faces gracing the list this year, including co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gate Foundation Melinda French Gates, bitcoin billionaires Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss as well as co-founder of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Moderna Noubar Afeyan.
One of the most eye-opening additions such as 80-year-old software investor Robert Brockman who has been charged with directing the biggest tax-evasion scheme in American history to which he has pleaded not guilty.
29-year-old Sam Bankman-Friend is the youngest and second-richest new entrant with a $22.5billion (£16.5billion) cryptocurrency fortune.
In total 51 former rich list members fell off the back of the band wagon, despite 31 of them becoming richer than they were in 2020, as the minimum net worth climbed to $2.9billion (£2.1billion).
Most notable of these disappearances was former American president Donald Trump who has been on the list for the past 25 years as his net worth stands at $2.5billion (£1.8billion), $400million (£293million) below the threshold.
Media mogul and former show host Oprah Winfrey also failed to make an appearance in this year’s edition as her net worth fell $300million (£220million) short of the cut-off but despite this she is still one of the richest American entertainers.
Turnover for this year’s list stands at 14 percent, more than doubling the 2020’s numbers as many established businesses were unseated by up-coming entrepreneurs.
Assistant managing editor for wealth at Forbes, Kerry A. Dolan commented: “Despite the uncertainty and the ever-changing market economy, the 2021 Forbes 400 shows that America’s wealthiest have grown far richer.
“The wealthiest Americans collectively saw a 40 percent increase over last year and nearly all are richer than they were last year.”
Despite the incredible increases on net worth across the entirety of the list, the one aspect that has not seen much investment is generosity.
Forbes calculated that only eight rich list members have given away more than 20 percent of their net worth, in comparison to 10 from last year.
Although, 156 have given away less than one percent of their wealth and while it’s nowhere near where many people would like it is far better than the other 236 not giving away anything.
Find the whole list here: The Forbes 400 2021