By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index
From Russian oligarchs to tech billionaires, 2022 was a tough year for the richest of the rich.
Bezos-Branson-Musk space race
You may recall that by the middle of 2022, the media landscape was abuzz with what were called space vanity projects by many.
These breathless headlines were the 21st Century version of the TV show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” where, somehow, these men had more money than they could spend on earth and felt compelled, in typical male bravado, to show each other (and us) how much cash they could burn up in record time.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Seattle-based Amazon.com, mentioned in a news conference in 2017 that he was cashing in about $1 billion in Amazon stock every year to invest in his spaceflight company, Blue Origin.
With his net worth of the time, he could continue that practice for another 200 years.
But that was then…
Time and money are not infinite
Space may be infinite, but money isn’t. And human life spans are not.
Human arrogance, stupidity and vanity may appear infinite, but they, too, are not.
Even oligarchs, with their multi-million dollar super-yachts, and tech entrepreneurs have (relatively) hard times.
You may have heard about Russian billionaires who, thanks to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, were having their super yachts confiscated by various governments.
As you might guess, that is not the end of the story.
Besides being expensive (hundreds of millions of dollars), these floating palaces with their luxuries like heated pools and wine cellars need to be maintained – and that maintenance is also expensive.
A conservative estimate is that annual care and maintenance of one of these yachts can cost easily $10 million.
Per boat, per year.
In other words, these floating Mcmansions are the cost that keeps costing. You can see a story on them on NPR.
But even non-Russian billionaires who acquired their wealth by perhaps more ethical and less brutal ways than their Russian counterparts suffered in 2022 thanks to erratic stock markets, war in Europe, frenetic interest rates and rampant inflation.
If you need to ask how Russian oligarchs got so rich, you probably don’t want to know.
In fact, our tech heros lost more money than most of us could imagine. More than the GDP of entire nations.
The planet’s billionaires have lost $1.9 trillion in 2022, according to Forbes’ magazine estimates.
That’s about $300 for every person on earth.
There are fewer billionaires too
Also according to Forbes, the number of billionaires world-wide has fallen from 2,671 to 2,523 as high-profile moguls/entrepreneurs/hustlers like Sam Bankman-Fried (FTX) and Kanye West have dropped into the lower classes – if not incarceration.
No one has been hit harder than the world’s 300 or so tech billionaires, who have together have lost more than $1 trillion in 2022.
Among many others, shares of Amazon have dropped nearly 50%, erasing more than $80 billion from founder Jeff Bezos’ net worth.
Google-parent Alphabet’s stock is down 36%. Mark Zuckerberg is about $78 billion poorer this year, as shares of Facebook-parent Meta Platforms have fallen by 66%.
The biggest loser
There used to be a saying that the super-rich “had more money than God”.
In most of 2022, that person was Elon Musk.
He began the year as the planet’s richest person by a huge margin – and ending the year by losing more than $115 billion (about the annual GDP of Kuwait).
Tesla’s stock price has dropped 60%. And as to Twitter, the story is still developing. But it does not look good.
The much lionized FAANGs (Meta (formerly known as Facebook), Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Alphabet (formerly known as Google) which dominated the world’s economy – and our lives – are all losing their glow.
Not everyone had a bad year
Not everyone is losing money of course. New billionaires have emerged, mostly from China, India and Indonesia. In fact the five biggest gainers of 2022, together worth over $200 billion, all come from Asia.
And all of them made their fortunes in real (not virtual) industries, like shipping, airports, power generation, green energy and real estate.
You can see more on them at Forbes.com.
We probably haven’t seen the end of vanity space (or other) projects, but maybe, just maybe, we will see a more stable economy, with more opportunity and improved pay and working conditions.
That might be the best “investment” of all.
Perhaps “having more money than God” is not the highest goal after all.
Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle. – Proverbs 23:4-5 (NLT)