Billionaires are getting younger. Forbes magazine released its list of the world's mega-rich Wednesday and said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 23, became the youngest ever self-made billionaire.
Zuckerberg, born during the Ronald Reagan presidency, is worth $1.5 billion four years after launching the social-networking site and the third-youngest to crack the billionaire list since Forbes began tracking ages a decade ago. The other two inherited their money. Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.
LIST: Warren Buffett dethrones Bill Gates as richest man
The Forbes list often reflects the times. Bill Gates was once himself like Zuckerberg and dropped out of Harvard to launch a technology upstart. Gates is now 52 and slipped from first place in the rankings after being the richest person in the world for 13 straight years. In 1995, Gates replaced Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, a Japanese real estate investor who subsequently fell on hard times and was removed from the Forbes list in 2007.
Gates is worth $58 billion, $2 billion more than last year, but he is now third on the list. He was dislodged by Warren Buffett ($62 billion) and Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu ($60 billion). Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway stock climbed $10 billion; Slim's fortune rose $11 billion.
Buffett is 77 and Slim is 68, but there are now 50 billionaires younger than 40, and 34 of them are self-made. The average age of all billionaires has dropped to 61 from 64 in 2004, partly because of the growth of young, self-made Russian and Chinese billionaires. Mainland China's richest person is 26-year-old real estate heiress Yang Huiyan (No. 125), worth $7.4 billion.
Forbes says that billionaires sometimes slip beneath its radar, but it now counts 1,125 worldwide, worth $4.4 trillion. That's an increase of 179 billionaires from a year ago. Two-thirds of the 1,125 are self-made.
Of the 1,125 billionaires, 469 (42%) are from the USA. But the average U.S. billionaire is worth $3.4 billion vs. $4.3 billion for the average foreign billionaire. The biggest gainer over the last year is 48-year-old Indian businessman Anil Ambani. His wealth jumped $24 billion, or nearly $3 million an hour.
There have been two billionaires who made the Forbes list at a younger age than Zuckerberg. One was Albert II, prince of Thurn and Taxis, who is a German heir of postmasters dating to the Holy Roman Empire. He inherited his wealth at age 7, when his father died in 1990, although he did not gain access to his fortune until he turned 18.
The other was Hind Hariri, youngest of the Lebanese heirs of a banking, real estate, oil and telecommunications fortune that she inherited at 22.