Humorist and magician Robert Orben has a strict morning regimen: "Every morning I get up and look through the Forbes list of the most successful people in the world. If I'm not there, I go to work!"
I'm not a magician, but I don't need a daily check to tell me if a billion dollars just appeared in my bank account overnight. Still, once a year, I do enjoy checking out the list of the world's richest people. This year, for the first time in 16 years, the title of world's richest man doesn't belong to someone named Gates or Buffett.
And the winner is ...
This year's crown goes to Carlos Slim Helu, chairman emeritus of America Movil
Also leaping into the top 10 was Brazilian upstart Eike Batista, who saw his wealth jump by $19.5 billion last year when he took his oil and gas company, OGX, public. Batista is well on his way to making good on his goal to be the world's richest man, stepping out of the shadow of his father's former company, Brazilian mining giant Vale S.A.
New kids in town
The Forbes list has been dominated by Americans and Old World money since it began being published nearly a quarter of a century ago. However, in recent years, emerging markets, and Asia in particular, have provided a growing number of billionaires to the list. Today, 56 countries around the globe have at least one billionaire.
As markets around the world become connected to the global economy, wealth is spreading ... generally from West to East (although there's some North to South movement going on, too). Billions of people around the world who could only daydream of the American Dream are now finding they can rise into the global middle class.
What this means for you
For us normal schlubs, looking at a list of billionaires is mainly for entertainment, but that doesn't mean we can't take something away from it (I believe the latest catchphrase is "edu-tainment"). Carlos Slim made his billions by turning his company into the AT&T
Even All-American billionaires like the descendants of Wal-Mart's
The greatest increases in wealth over the next century are going to occur in markets like China, Indonesia, Turkey, and Brazil. You can get some exposure to this by buying shares of multinationals, but the greatest returns will come from small foreign companies that have the expertise and access to really grow with the emerging middle class.
At Motley Fool Global Gains, these are exactly the types of companies we search for daily. We're determined to find the best international investments for your portfolio, and make sure you can get a little piece of the next billionaire's story. Click here to take a risk-free 30-day trial and see where in the world we think you should be investing.
Nate Weisshaar does not own any of the stocks mentioned above. Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Coca-Cola is also a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. America Movil and Millicom Interational are Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy has never sawed a woman in half, but it can make a roast duck disappear.