CNBC.com Joins in Trillionaire Speculation

For a year or so now, I’ve been speculating about the arrival of our first trillionaire. Looks like others are joining in.

For its 25th anniversary, CNBC, over at CNBC.com, has tried to look ahead to the next 25 years in the world of finance. So, they asked whether we’d see our first trillionaire by then.

I’m trying to be objective here. I don’t want to say it’s well written simply because they quoted me SEVEN TIMES, but I really do think it was well done. Check it out: Will there be a trillionaire in the 21st century?

The author, Eric Rosenbaum, summed it up nicely here:

This trillionaire question is another way of asking what wealth trends will dominate in the 21st century, and either help or hurt the would-be trillionaire on their ascent.

He identified four factors bearing on this: Luck, Hidden Wealth, Philanthropy, and Taxes. One factor, philanthropy, requires some explanation:

“This Buffett/Gates approach has broad appeal,” Kraus said. “Really wealthy people now are taking greater steps to distribute wealth in their own lifetime. … To the extent that there is a limiting factor on someone becoming a trillionaire, this might be it,” Kraus said.

Another way to think about Bill Gates’ focus on nonprofit work is, simply put, boredom. “If you take an ambitious, talented person with a zero net worth, accumulating wealth would be reasonably high on their list of priorities,” Lord said. “But as net worth goes up, most folks lose interest. I doubt Bill Gates thinks much about accumulating more wealth these days, and he certainly doesn’t dedicate his time and energy in that direction. … The same could happen to Elon Musk.”

But philanthropy may not serve as a limiting factor for all, and in the end, this may just ensure that the greedier billionaires will take the lead from Buffett and Gates. “Some people, like Sam Walton and the Koch brothers, they never seem to lose focus,” Lord said. So the boredom factor ultimately will not preclude a trillionaire—and not necessarily lead to a Giving Pledge commitment.

I think that’s what it will come down to. Will we have the perfect storm of someone talented enough to accumulate huge sums, single-minded enough to be driven to do so, and placed in a society that actually will tolerate that degree of wealth accumulation.

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