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Economy Shakes Up 'Forbes' Billionaires List
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Economy Shakes Up 'Forbes' Billionaires List


Economy Shakes Up 'Forbes' Billionaires List

Economy Shakes Up 'Forbes' Billionaires List
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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The richest people in the world are a lot poorer this year. Forbes magazine's annual list of billionaires has 332 fewer names this time around.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates reclaimed his spot at the top, but even his net worth dipped by $18 billion.

"Last year, there were 1,125 billionaires. This year, it's down to 793. The typical billionaire is down at least one-third in their net worth," says Forbes CEO Steve Forbes.

Still, all those empty spots on the list mean more room for the rest of us to move up. In fact, 38 new billionaires made the rankings this year, and here's how they did it.

Secret #1: Pick your location wisely.

During boom times, the big money was in emerging markets. You couldn't toss an overinflated commodity without hitting a new billionaire in India or Russia. Most of those guys dropped off the list this year.

If you want to be a billionaire, Forbes says, the best place to live is "still the United States."

"Even though we took a real hit, we suffered proportionally less than the rest of the world," he says.

Secret #2: Make your money in something tangible.

Hedge fund and private capital billionaires were hit hard. But producing something the world wants can still make you super-rich.

"People like John Paul DeJoria, who owns Paul Mitchell shampoos and Patron Tequila. Patron Tequila's a high-end tequila. Not as many people are buying it at nightclubs as they used to, but liquor is something people like in a recession. So he's new to the list this year," says Matthew Miller, a Forbes editor.

The owners of sports teams did well. And so did another newcomer with a recession-proof product: Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka El Chapo, a Mexican drug kingpin and, now, billionaire. And the only man on the list wanted by the U.S. government.

Secret #3: Don't go along with the crowd.

Billionaire John Paulson increased his net worth by $3 billion last year. His profession: Betting against the stock market as a short-seller.

And if you are going to bet like that, it doesn't hurt to have the next secret on your side.

Secret #4: Luck.

Take Guy Laliberte, the owner of Cirque de Soleil and one of the few billionaires to get richer last year. He's a poker player, but his best hand was selling 20 percent of his company in August before the economy tanked. Forbes says sometimes you need more than skill.

"A lot of people who are on the list this year sold portions of their business at the height of the economy, a little over a year ago, and they didn't know a collapse was coming, they just did it," Forbes adds. "Yes, you need luck, but don't always think you can create your luck. That is called hubris," he says.

Forbes then reveals the final secret.

Secret #5: Don't try to replicate what happened last year. Take advantage of it.

Forbes predicts the billionaires who will climb up future lists will be the people who jump into the wreckage of the financial sector and build something new.

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