There are many possible ways to become one of the world’s richest people. Some billionaires built arcade machines, made wedding dresses, sold soy sauce or invented hot new apps, then saw their fortunes multiply.
Others grew tech firms to sky-high valuations and got ultra-wealthy along the way. While there are many roads to riches, there are a few paths where ten-digit fortunes are more likely to be made.
Many of the individuals on Forbes’ 2018 World’s Billionaires list, for instance, got rich by handling other people’s money. The finance and investments industry—including private equity owners, hedge fund managers and discount brokers—helped produce more billionaires than any other. Altogether the sector held 310, or around 14%, of the fortunes on our 2,208 person list. Billionaires in finance topped the ranks in countries ranging from Brazil to Indonesia. Of these, 24 were newcomers. That includes the first-ever cryptocurrency billionaires, Chris Larsen and Changpeng Zhao (known as CZ), as well as Canadian Stephen Smith, who launched his mortgage lender just four years after being personally bankrupt.
Fashion and retail was the industry with the second most billionaires, accounting for 235, or 11% of the worldwide total. Six of the top 20 billionaires on our list were part of that category, thanks to their respective ownerships of fashion retailer Zara, cosmetics brand L’Oreal, luxury group LVMH and Walmart, the world’s biggest company, as measured by revenue. The industry has minted plenty of other name-brand billionaires including Sara Blakely, the shapewear guru behind Spanx; Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank; and Home Depot cofounders Bernard Marcus, Arthur Blank and Kenneth Langone.
Even as e-commerce giant Amazon takes a bite out of retail sales, there are plenty of entrepreneurs still making money in the sector, including 19 newcomers. Among the new faces are Sheela Gautam, who sells mattresses in India; Helga Kellerhals, who owns electronics retailers in Germany and Lawrence Rossy, who runs the largest dollar store chain in Canada, Dollarama. In all, billionaires in the fashion and retail industry were worth nearly $1.2 trillion, or around 13% of the list’s combined fortune of $9.1 trillion.
A tenth of the richest people on earth got rich by building real estate empires. With a total of 220 billionaires, the real estate industry was the third largest source of wealth this year. China was home to the most property owners, with 60, followed by the United States, with 44. Among those was President Donald Trump, with an estimated net worth of $3.1 billion. But there was another Donald who was five times richer: Donald Bren, the richest real estate developer in the U.S., with an estimated net worth of $16.3 billion.
Manufacturing made up 9% of the total list, with 207 billionaires, a huge leap from last year’s total of 171, making it the industry with the most newcomers. Perhaps surprisingly, tech placed behind it, coming in fifth place as the most likely way to make a mega-fortune. The tech sector represented 9% of the world’s billionaires and 14% of the total wealth. Of those individuals, eight made it into the top 20, including the first centi-billionaire on the Forbes Billionaires ranks, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who secured the number one spot. Tech also had four of the billionaires under 30, including the youngest self-made billionaire, John Collison, of payments processor Stripe, who is just 27-years-old.
Even though some trends have emerged, the rich get rich in different ways. Take Arizona Iced Tea creator Don Vultaggio or Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, both of whom just joined the three-comma club. For some billionaires, good genes were enough to land them on the list—33% of the rankings inherited their fortunes. For the rest, one factor remains mostly constant: they did what they loved and made astonishing sums of money. And had some luck on their side.
See below for the list of the industries most represented on Forbes’ 2018 World’s Billionaires ranks: