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The Changing Faces of the World’s Richest People

Money is always changing. In the past, people have used shells, cows, giant stones, and even bags of salt as currency. But what about those who know how to make lots of it? Are today's billionaires different from the previous generation’s? Or is the billionaire a unique and timeless individual capable of making it big in any era?

Business Financing decided to find out. Using data collected from the Forbes' rich list, it created and compared the profiles of the average billionaire from the past four generations.

Check them out below.

The old school billionaires

Born between 1925 and 1945, the members of the silent generation had it tough. They experienced the aftermath of one world war, witnessed the horrors of a second, and lived through multiple economic downturns.

As such, they're considered traditional, independent, and resilient. In cliche terms, they're everything that the millennial is not. Or at least not presumed to be. But more on that later.

Silent generation billionaires include Warren Buffet and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Like most silent generation billionaires, Murdoch and Buffett made the bulk of their fortunes through investments, media and entertainment. They also share another characteristic with the majority of the wealthiest people from this era - they're both men. Less than 10% of silent generation billionaires are women!

Baby Boomer Millionaires

A strong work ethic and a sense of post-war optimism was a recipe for success for many of those born between 1946 and 1964. Those we call boomers are now one of the most financially stable groups. And the exploits of their billionaires are among some of the greatest business achievements of all time.

And most of them did it without any help. In fact, 71% of boomer billionaires are self-made. They include Virgin boss Richard Branson. He kick-started his first business with a £100 loan from his mother. He's now worth over $4billion!

Generation X billionaires

Almost a quarter of generation X billionaires made their vast stacks in the tech space. Moreover, their innovations have become part of our everyday lives. After all, we all use Larry Page's major contribution - the Google search engine. And our habit of just 'googling it' has helped him amass more than $16billion.

Then there's PayPal and Tesla founder Elon Musk. He might tweet like a millennial, but this gen x'er is now one of the wealthiest people on the planet. He’s worth a cool $200billion. That's a lot more than the average generation x billionaire's bank balance, which is a 'measly' $4.46billion.

Super rich millennials

Sheltered. Idealistic. Soft-centered. Snowflakes. These are just a few of the criticisms leveled at people born between 1980 and 1995. But not everyone is so disparaging of those labeled millennials.

"I'm the biggest fan of the millennials you'll ever meet," said Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven. "Critics talk about millennials being soft and pampered and entitled. Well, I'm quick to say, then you've never seen them in action. This is a fabulous generation, and I think the future is in safe hands with them."

And out of all the billionaire generations, the millennial super rich has arguably had the most impact on how we experience and engage with the modern world.

Let's start with the ultimate millennial billionaire: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He brought us likes, shares, and the CAPS LOCK rage posts that can turn family members into bitter political enemies.

Zhang Yiming is another tech-savvy millennial who used his digital skills to create the latest social media craze, TikTok. People's (rather strange) love of lip-syncing videos mean Yiming is now worth over $35billion.

Other common denominators among millennial billionaires include a disregard for older social conventions. Only 68.4% are married; that's the lowest percentage from any billionaire generation. They also have fewer children.

Educating billionaires

Elon Musk and fellow billionaire Peter Theil have never hidden their disdain for the modern education system. Musk called the majority of degrees a waste of time, while Theil set up a foundation to encourage the smartest kids to drop out of school and start their own business instead.

But don't quit just yet. Because for every super-successful college dropout, there are dozens more billionaires who completed college degrees.

Business, engineering, and economics were the top choices among billionaires across all four generations.

What else do billionaires study?

Surprisingly, 23.7% of the pragmatic billionaires from the silent generation studied arts degrees. That figure has been steadily declining ever since. 19.4% of boomers chose an arts degree. It fell to 16.5% during generation X and is now just 10% among the millennials.

An MBA would be the smart choice for any aspiring billionaire. It was for many of the Baby Boomers; 36.1% learnt the basics by enrolling in an MBA programme. The start-up culture among millennials might explain why only 13% of them thought that an MBA would be worth their time.

Where the billionaire class go to school

Harvard is the number one school for the silent generation, the boomers, and the billionaires of generation X.

Overall, Harvard has produced 91 billionaires, including Ray Dalio, Steve Ballmer, and Michael Bloomberg.

But Harvard could only make it to the second spot on the millennial college list. Millennials prefer Stanford University; 15 of their billionaires graduated from the prestigious school.

All billionaires are rich, but some get rich in ways that are better than others. The entrepreneur Peter H. Diamandis summed it up best when he said, "the world's biggest problems are your best opportunities. You want to make a billion dollars? Then figure out how to help a billion people."

BusinessFinancing analyzed Forbes’ annual list to reveal how the profile of a billionaire has changed over four generations

BusinessFinancing analyzed Forbes’ annual list to reveal how the profile of a billionaire has changed over four generations

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