The spat that has sprung up between Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Forbes magazine over his ranking in their Billionaire Rich List, over Forbes’ ‘low’ estimate of his worth, may seem childish but it’s obviously important the Prince. For the rest of us that aren’t in this exclusive global club (1,426 billionaires) why would we care? The answer is that the prospect of wealth fascinates because we think it will improve our lives and makes us happier.
I remember a conversation with a good friend in 200, who went from being worth over £100 million to being more or less poor in 9 months, as his dotcom business went under. To console him I blathered on about how money couldn’t buy happiness, but it was clear from the look on his face that he didn’t buy the soft soap. The adage ‘money can’t buy happiness’ may not be true but most people do become unhappy when they lose money, shedding wealth is not good for ones’ self-esteem. And here is the rub, if I think I have $28bn in assets and someone tells me I have ‘only’ $20 bn I will probably react like the Prince. So my bet is that the Prince has been losing his wealth and this makes him sore! The degree of anger will go up a notch or two if the low ball estimate is likely to further decrease my wealth, which is the case with the Prince. Most of his assets are tide-up in Kingdom Investment a quoted company which may now see its valuation fall.
Here is a chart showing how long would take to earn (not accumulate) a million $ in different parts of the world just multiply by 1,000 for a Billion - that's 80,000 years for most Brits!