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The 10 Richest People in the U.S.

By Andrew Tonner – Updated Jan 28, 2020 at 9:21AM

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Investors everywhere can learn a few key lessons by studying the lives and habits of these rich Americans.

Image source: Getty Images.

As lifelong students of business and investing, we Fools maintain there's plenty to be learned by studying the habits and career arcs of the world's most successful people. This makes eminent sense.

As you'll see below, the richest people in the U.S are disproportionately self-made entrepreneurs. What's more, they found themselves in the right place at the right time -- their early careers often intersect with the dawn of new industries -- and with the necessary skills to translate an idea into a mass-market enterprise. Having a background in technology clearly doesn't hurt either.

Here's how the list of the richest Americans breaks down today:


Estimated Net Worth

Bill Gates

$82 billion

Warren Buffett

$70 billion

Jeff Bezos

$64 billion

Mark Zuckerberg

$51 billion

Larry Ellison

$49 billion

Michael Bloomberg

$43 billion

Charles Koch

$42 billion

David Koch

$42 billion

Larry Page

$38 billion

Sergey Brin

$38 billion

Data source: Forbes.

Nos. 9 and 10: Larry Page and Sergey Brin ($35 billion and $34 billion, respectively)

Since their wealth remains so interconnected, we'll group Larry Page's and Sergey Brin's stories as a single entry. Together, Page and Brin co-founded Google, now traded under its holding company name Alphabet (GOOG 0.36%) (GOOGL 0.20%). They met and developed the idea and technology for Google while completing their Ph.D.s at Stanford. Both maintain active roles within Alphabet's upper ranks today: Page serves as CEO, and Brin as president and director of the company's moonshot program Google X. Thanks to Alphabet's three-tiered stock structure, Brin, Page, and executive chairman Eric Schmidt control the overwhelming majority of its voting power and, as a result, the tech giant's future direction.

Nos. 7 and 8: David Koch and Charles Koch ($39 billion each)

Like Page and Brin, multibillionaire brothers Charles and David Koch also derive their immense fortunes from a single source -- Koch Industries, founded by their father in 1940. Today Charles serves as acting CEO and chairman, and David holds the role of executive vice president. They purchased their other two brothers' stakes in 1983, and Charles and David now control an estimated 84% of the diversified industrials giant, which runs a mix of companies involved in chemicals refining, manufacturing, and investments. The second-largest privately held company in the U.S., the Wichita-based Koch Industries (according to a Forbes estimate) employs 100,000 people and produces revenues of over $100 billion.

No. 6: Michael Bloomberg ($40 billion)

Michael Bloomberg is the only member of the list whose career spans business and elected office, and his towering fortune is just part of his broader legacy. Bloomberg founded his eponymously named Bloomberg LP using severance money he received from the now-defunct investment bank Salomon Brothers. Expanding on a financial database project he had developed while at the bank, Bloomberg struck out on his own, eventually creating the financial data and media giant that would make him one of Earth's richest people. In the early 2000s, Bloomberg ran for Mayor of New York City, winning election to the position in 2002, 2006, and 2010. Like a number of other names on this list, Bloomberg is a signee of The Giving Pledge, in which signees promise to donate 99% of their net worth to charitable causes when they pass away.

No. 5: Larry Ellison ($43 billion)

The theme of technology billionaires continues with Larry Ellison , the founder, CTO, and chairman of database giant Oracle (ORCL 0.39%). Ellison founded Oracle in 1977, in part thanks to a CIA contract to develop the relational databases that made Oracle into a tech-industry powerhouse. A noted philanthropist and adventurer, Ellison signed The Giving Pledge and has supported numerous charitable causes and public events; his lavish funding of Team USA in the America's Cup stands as just one noteworthy example.

No. 4: Mark Zuckerberg ($44 billion)

Another interesting trend in this list is the prominence of college dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook (META 2.03%) from his college dorm room at Harvard. He left college to help grow Facebook, which has become one of the fastest-growing and most successful tech companies of all time. Over 1 billion users access Facebook on a daily basis, an incredible level of engagement that supports one of the most lucrative advertising operations in business today. In recent years, the Facebook CEO and chairman has also added philanthropic endeavors to his areas of interest. Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have also signed The Giving Pledge.

No. 3: Jeff Bezos ($45 billion)

After leaving a career on Wall Street, Bezos founded e-commerce powerhouse in 1994, in the nascent days of the internet. Harnessing the web's massive commercial potential at a time when few appreciated it, Bezos has grown Amazon from a humble seller of books online into one of the world's most powerful and innovative companies. Along the way, Bezos and Amazon have helped upend industries as varied as entertainment, computing infrastructure, and online shipping. What's more, the company Bezos created is only getting started. It continues to expand its presence internationally, and sees a major potential opportunity in the global logistics and fulfillment business, among many others. In his spare time, Bezos has translated his lifelong love of space into his company Blue Origin, which he hopes will help usher in an era of space tourism.

No. 2: Warren Buffett ($60 billion)

In case you didn't know it, we Fools adore the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A 0.29%) (BRK.B 0.48%) CEO and chairman in equal parts for his investing prowess and for his principled perspective on life in general. An investing prodigy, Buffett learned his trade under Benjamin Graham -- one of the pioneers of value or fundamental investing -- while a student at Columbia Business School, where Buffett reportedly earned the only A+ Graham ever awarded to one of his MBA students. Buffett then honed his investing skills in New York and in a private partnership he ran from his hometown in Omaha, Nebraska. After winding down his investment partnership in 1969, Buffett focused his professional attention entirely on growing Berkshire alongside his legendary partner Charlie Munger. Throughout the years, Buffett invested and profited greatly from a varied roster of companies including GEICO, The Washington Post Company (now Graham Holdings), Coca-Cola, See's Candies, NetJets, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and many more. Like some others on this list, Buffett is a signee of The Giving Pledge.

No. 1: Bill Gates ($75 billion)

Last but certainly not least, Bill Gates co-founded and led software behemoth Microsoft (MSFT 1.48%), which has made him one of the richest people on Earth for the better part of the last 20 years. Tracing a path that Zuckerberg would later follow, Gates dropped out of Harvard to help seize what few then understood to be Microsoft's world-changing opportunity at the dawn of the PC era. Gates acted as CEO until 2000, when he handed the reins to his longtime lieutenant Steve Ballmer (also a billionaire), to shift his focus toward philanthropic endeavors. Gates and his wife Melinda were founders and signees of The Giving Pledge, and their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated nearly $40 billion since its inception to a host of philanthropic initiatives.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Andrew Tonner has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares), Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Oracle. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola and Graham Holdings.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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