2020 Was An Especially Good Year To Be Rich

2020 was a good year to be rich.

I mean, every year is a good year to be rich in many respects, although being rich doesn’t guarantee you’re going to a have a “good” year, depending on your definition of “good.”

But 2020, a year during which more than 1.8 million people around the globe lost their lives to a virus, was an especially fortuitous time for the world’s richest people, financially speaking at least.

It goes without saying that the richer you are, the better insulated you’re likely to be from catastrophes, notwithstanding comorbidities that may place you among the biologically vulnerable during something like a pandemic. (Everyone is familiar with the clichéd Hollywood apocalypse blockbuster, wherein the rich and powerful have bunkers in New Zealand or some such sanctuary that helps them evade whatever fate is set to befall the rest of humanity.)

But in 2020, the benefits of being rich in a disaster went beyond the obvious. It was, of course, true that the rich didn’t have to worry about running out of money as the global economy shut down. Relatedly, they weren’t forced to risk contracting a deadly disease by the necessity of punching a clock at, say, a Walmart or a poultry plant. And, yes, had things gone even more wrong than they did, there were probably physical bunkers at the ready.

But as the chart above shows, with few exceptions, the rich also benefited in 2020 from surging asset prices catalyzed in part by a combination of the policy response to the pandemic and the nature of the businesses founded and/or owned by the world’s richest people.

While not everyone represented in the chart is a tech mogul (billionaires aren’t a monolith, so to speak), many of them witnessed unfathomable paper gains due in large part to the appreciation of financial asset prices. Specifically, the top 20 people on the Bloomberg billionaires list added a combined $555 billion to their collective net worth in 2020. Just five of them (including, amusingly, Warren Buffett) saw their net worth decline.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: That’s egregious — just 20 people made more than a half-trillion during the worst year of many people’s lives.

But there’s a silver lining. Poor Americans had a banner second and third quarter! Through September 30, their net worth increased by almost $359 billion.

Because the data on the 20 richest people is current through December 30, while the data used for the visual above doesn’t capture the fourth quarter, it’s at least possible that the poorest Americans almost closed the gap in the year’s final three months.

The only problem: The top 20 richest people in the world is a group that, by definition, includes just 20 people.

The number of people represented by the second figure is 165 million.

Speak your mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

5 thoughts on “2020 Was An Especially Good Year To Be Rich

  1. Sustainable is possible. Is it desirable?
    Having a bunker helps to sleep at night when you do not need it.
    Will any Titans come out of their denial and understand what anyone and everyone should understand.
    Individualism is a bad joke. It takes humanity to make being a human safe and comfortable.
    If Titans do not start singing from the tree tops their love of humanity and put their money where their mouths are they may yet enjoy bunker life. They may come to realize how very much luck played into personal success when the luck runs out.
    I hope we find an easy end to the Donald. His chaos is like John Gotties fireworks. Once the show is shut down everyone knows it is time to find a new Bonnie and Clyde. Donald does not want to go. I do give thanks to the many Republicans who believe in the Constitution. A year of strange bedfellows.
    So the rich once again make off with the loot while the masses suffer. Amazing to me that the republicans who are quick to have a war on drugs,sexuality,”lazy people”, and a whole cast of humans other than themselves could not fight a microscopic virus. Our President would not and could not fight this virus because of political ambition. He is a coward and not fit to be a Commander and Chief. One mans political calculations resulting in 200,000 extra deaths. There is a felony Mr H.
    Thank you Mr. H for your insight and giving me a sense of community. I already feel like we musta had a cigar and coffee somewhere.
    Favorite toast (Pelegrino)
    Never above you
    Never below you
    Always with you

    1. As soon as the US gov’t implements an annual valuation tax on all assets (similar to the annual valuation taxes on real estate, plant & equipment and vehicles by local/state gov’ts), then this wealth inequality will narrow substantially. It doesn’t even need to be called a tax, it could be called the “Annual Premium for Insurance Provided by the Federal Reserve”. But I’m not holding my breath…

  2. This year and this crisis has exposed much of what’s rotten in the state of ‘Merica. But, maybe, on the plus side, it has also shown the world that Modern Modern Theory is a way forward that at least produces less misery for average citizens than the misguided austerity of central bankers during the Great Depression.

    Too bad the Repubs had the power, though, because the rich indeed made out like bandits and our wealth gap is worse than ever.

  3. The top 20 may not have risked their lives punching a clock at WMT. but three of them made a hell of a lot of money from the work of those who did.

NEWSROOM crewneck & prints