By Luisa Kroll and Kerry A. Dolan

Despite the stalled economy, the nation's wealthiest are worth a combined $1.53 trillion, nearly equivalent to the GDP of our neighbor Canada. Their total wealth is up 12% in the year through August 26, when we took a snapshot of everyone's net worth, meaning these affluent folks did slightly better than the markets; the S&P 500, for instance, was up 10% in that time.

But it's not simply a case of the rich getting richer. The Forbes 400 grows more meritocratic over time. An all-time high 70% of this year's list are self-made, up from 55% in 1997.

Bill Gates was the richest person for the 18th straight year, worth $59 billion; the last time he didn't rank no. 1 was in 1993 when his good friend Warren Buffett was on top. Buffett, who's been spending a lot of time talking about raising taxes on the rich, is still no. 2 but the gap is widening. His fortune tumbled $6 billion in the past year, making him the biggest loser in terms of total dollars. He gave away $3.27 billion since last year's rankings but was also pinched by a 10% drop in Berkshire Hathaway's stock.

Rounding out the top 10 on The Forbes 400: Oracle founder Larry Ellison ($33 billion), industrialists Charles and David Koch ($25 billion apiece), Wal-Mart heirs Christy Walton ($24.5 billion), Jim C. Walton ($21.1 billion) and Alice Walton ($20.9 billion), hedge fund investor George Soros ($22 billion), and casino king Sheldon Adelson ($21.5 billion).

The headlines in this our 30th year of The Forbes 400 belong not to the old stalwarts but to a younger group of entrepreneurs marching their way up the ranks, particularly those who are profoundly impacting social behavior online. These entrepreneurs are using technology to unleash power and make fortunes, and it is these folks who will likely help jump start the American economy again.

Leading the pack is Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who added $10.6 billion to his fortune, making him the year's biggest gainer and pushing him into the top 20 for the first time – he ranks no. 14 with a net worth of $17.5 billion. That puts him ahead of Google rivals Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who added $1.7 billion apiece to their fortunes but slipped five spots in the rankings and are tied at no. 15.

The hoodie-clad 27-year-old Zuckerberg is one of 6 club members to get rich from Facebook. Others include newcomers Sean Parker and Jim Breyer, Facebook's venture capitalist, as well as Zuckerberg's former roommate Dustin Moskovitz, whose birthday is eight days after the Facebook chief's, making him America's youngest billionaire. Three other social media mavens made their debut including LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman, Groupon's Eric Lefkofsky and Zynga's Mark Pincus.

Other notable entrepreneurs among the 18 newcomers include Green Mountain Coffee's Bob Stiller, Go Daddy's Bob Parsons, and energy tycoons Farris and Dan Wilks. Six people including Starbucks' Howard Schultz and Quicken's Dan Gilbert returned to the list after a year or more absence.

Three members of last year's list have died: John Anderson, William Cook and Jess Jackson. Twenty-one missed the cut including at least a dozen billionaires, like University of Phoenix's John Sperling, whose net worths were just shy of $1.05 billion, the price of admission in 2011.
Also See:
Youngest Billionaires | Billionaire Newcomers | Full List of Richest People in America

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Timing Your Spending

How to pay less by changing when you purchase.

View Course »

What is Inflation?

Why do prices go up?

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:
^i^ angel ^i^

How can I get on Buffetts 'giveaway' list?
I really don't need $3.27 Billion. A mere $million$ and I would be forever grateful.

September 24 2011 at 1:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Why do we have such a need for greed? Why are the richest constanly worshipped in the media rather than the everyday heroes such as teachers, police, firemen & those who make positive contributions to our lives on a daily basis. Perhaps because we are led to believe that if we work hard & long enough, we too can be rich which unfortunately, seems to be the goal needed to be attained to consider ourselves successful. However, there are those using their wealth as a positive force in an honest attempt to improve the quality of life for others. Bill Gates immediately comes to mind after having given a substantial portion of his wealth. Then, at the other end of the spectrum we have the Walton clan contributing virtually nothing to anyone, especially their employees, in an attempt to rule the world. It was discovered some time ago that WalMart, but not only WalMart takes out insurance policies on their employees & lists themselves as the beneficiaries, thus making money when an employee dies. These policies are known as "dead peasant policies." What a perfect name to express their attitudes regarding the working class. Capitalism..what a concept. Perhaps the world financial crisis may be telling us something about ourselves that we just don't want to see. When we worship wealth rather than working for the common good, in the end we'll be held accountable for our actions by someone much more powerful than any corporation or government. You know who you are.

September 24 2011 at 10:45 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

The solution to jump start our depressed economy is simple:
The "One Year Mortgage Holiday 9 Point Economic Recovery & Jobs Plan as fully explained at

September 24 2011 at 9:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Can a lIFE iNSURANCE Company like Mssachuetts Mutual pay your premiums from your cash dividends for LOANS that are taxable for money I did not receive. t This money was {checks} issued to AGENT.

September 24 2011 at 9:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think it would be interesting if the congress and senate seats were ALL run by the middle class, instead of the rich and the greedy, but perhaps they would just turn selfish too ,and put their intrests above ALL others. Is it no wonder why no one trusts the Government.

September 24 2011 at 7:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to easygoinggal08's comment
^i^ angel ^i^

OR ... like an "undercover boss".. make them LIVE like middle class or even those who are surviving on just barely above the poverty level. Make them actually SHOP and count the pennies out for a loaf of bread. Give them kids (teenagers!) to deal with who all want the latest toys. Make them balance a checkbook where they literally live paycheck to paycheck or have to pay one bill and pray they don't shut off the gas because you can only afford the electric bill....and make them write down each and every bill with all the added fees that come from a trickle down where THEY are the bottom of the barrel! I would bet not one could tell you right now, how much a gallon of milk cost. *grumble*

September 24 2011 at 1:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

What a mean spirited bunch you readers are. I don't have to ask if you guys are republican. I can tell by the way you make statements as if they were facts in order to validate your mean personal insults aimed at OUR President.
And why shouldn't these uber rich pay taxes? They pay taxes in other countries and they actually do create jobs overseas. Even if they paid the highest percentage claimed by some GOPrs, their profits would far exceed the amout of any tax paid. So there's no chance they'll leave the US. And now that big business has enjoyed more than 8 yrs of tax holiday in the name of job creation, where's the jobs they created? Overseas thats where. There is no logical reason to give these corps anything that depletes the Treasury by one dime. The GOP has no right to give away the revenue that is meant to keep the majority of the tax burden off American PEOPLE, human beings, voters not corp entities. But I have no illusion of the readers here ever caring about anything but their own greed in their self righteous pursuit of class division. Well its here. The haves vs have nots. Have your bunkers ready in the event of an uprising. Someplace to hide until its over.

September 23 2011 at 10:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pancynatterson's comment

In case you didn't notice, the list above is almost exclusively democrats. They throw billions at the democratic party, and the democrats make sure they keep getting millions back. You are right, an increase in taxes would help the country enormously. But it still does not solve the problem of the 50% of taxpayers who not only don't pay taxes, a large number actually get returns in excess of the taxes they paid in. The more kids you have the more money you get back, especially if you are a single parent. 10% of the population paying 2% more in taxes will not cover the billions given back to the poor, single parent in tax returns. The government is encouraging poverty and 1 parent households by giving them these tax incentives to stay out of work or work a low paying job, have children out of wedlock and be bound to "entitlements". Leaving the middle class to pay for everything else, while ensuring votes for democrats. So again, how many taxes did GE pay last year? None. If you raise their taxes they will still pay none, because most of their income is from their foreign businesses. Most of the people on the list did not pay taxes either. Their huge donations counteracted the amount of taxes they had to pay. In other words they donate for tax breaks, not because it helps the people who they donate to, but because it makes them look so good and they don't want to give it to the government. It's not the percentage of taxes that these people have to pay, it's all about how many they don't have to pay. By the way, most of the people above have businesses all around the world, so the income received outside the US is not taxed. Hence these people will pay very little more than what they are paying now if taxes are raised on them. Remember, they pay taxes on their US income, not foreign income and not how much money they have total. So yes, Obama needs to do his math and figure this into his grand equation. It, again, will only hurt the smaller business man who is only doing business in the US, encouraging them to leave the states. Maybe you need to find a safe place to hide until the republicans get in the white house and fix it correctly. Do you get it now Pancy?? Because we republicans do.

September 23 2011 at 11:44 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

No Way!!!

September 23 2011 at 6:58 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Given that many (but not all) of these mega-rich elites have earned their money the old fashioned way - they stole it - it is no surprise that they have turned on the very system that got them where they are today. I used to think differently about Buffett, but recently he has shown his true colors. Others, like Soros, have done remarkably well staying under the radar screen like slimy venomous reptiles under a rock. Yet they command mega-power in the political system and use it to drive their agendas forward. I'm thinking we are nearing their vision for the world, as I'm seeing more and more of Soros these days and I'm not liking it.

September 23 2011 at 5:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


September 23 2011 at 1:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

NoBoma 2012 ... says ... The men who inlisted in the war knew they may come back disabled or mentally unbalanced, he said, " They knew what they were doing, when they went to fight, they should be responsible for their medical bills when they come back!" I for one think he should be ashamed to have even thought such a thing, with all the bad things that have been happening on HIS WATCH ... I hope all of those poor boys who are commited don't hear of this ... Money ... we all need it to SURVIVE ... pay our BILLS keep the kids from going HUNGRY ... shoes on our feet, to go to a JOB ... Where are the JOBS so we can PAY what we owe ... lights, water, etc.,etc.......CHANGE .... I for One don't need HIS KIND ... money is NEEDED ... it is a FACT OF LIFE ...

September 23 2011 at 10:13 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply