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BILLIONS & BILLIONS

ARTEIXO, SPAIN: Uruguay’s President Jorge Battle (R) chats with the manager of the company Zara, Amancio Ortega (L), in Arteixo, near Coruna, northwestern Spain, 04 February 2004. Battle is in Spain on a one-week official visit. AFP PHOTO / Miguel RIOPA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images)
ARTEIXO, SPAIN: Uruguay’s President Jorge Battle (R) chats with the manager of the company Zara, Amancio Ortega (L), in Arteixo, near Coruna, northwestern Spain, 04 February 2004. Battle is in Spain on a one-week official visit. AFP PHOTO / Miguel RIOPA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images)
Published Feb. 24, 2017

According to Bloomberg's running index of the world's richest people, these are the wealthiest of them all. All of the top 10 are self-made. The world's richest woman comes in at No. 14.

1. Bill Gates

$85.1 billion

Co-founded Microsoft,

the world's biggest software maker. Plays bridge with Warren Buffett.

2. Warren Buffett $75.5 billion

Chairman and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, an investment company. Filed his first tax return at age 13, deducting $35 for his bicycle.

3. Jeff Bezos, $73.1 billion

Chairman of Amazon, the world's biggest online retailer. Played an alien in the movie Star Trek Beyond.

4. Amancio Ortega, $70 billion The Spaniard is Europe's richest person and owns a majority of Inditex, the world's largest clothing retailer. Has never had an office. Likes to roam design areas and factories.

5. Mark Zuckerberg, $57.5 billion CEO of Facebook, the world's largest social-networking company. Rejected AOL and Microsoft offers before graduating from high school.

6. Carlos Slim, $50.5 billion The Mexican controls America Movil, the largest mobile-phone operator in the Americas. Uses an iPhone and a BlackBerry, not a computer.

7. Charles Koch, $48.1 billion Chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries, the second-largest closely held business in the United States. Co-founder of libertarian research firm Cato Institute.

8. David Koch, $48.1 billion Executive vice president of Koch Industries. Held MIT basketball record for most points scored (41) in single game.

9. Larry Ellison, $44.9 billion Founded the database Oracle. Owns his own island, Hawaii's Lanai island.

10. Ingvar Kamprad, $43.5 billion Controls Ikea, the world's largest furniture retailer. Buys clothes at flea markets.

• • •

14. Liliane Bettencourt, $37 billion The world's wealthiest woman owns 33 percent of L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics maker. The Frenchwoman inherited her wealth. L'Oreal's original name was "French Company for Harmless Hair Dyeing."

For More: Read Bloomberg's latest Billionaire Index at http://tbtim.es/18zv.

For most people, billionaires are just wealthy beyond belief. And yet, there are 2,473 of them in the world, according to Wealth-X, a financial research firm. Collectively they have a net worth $7.68 trillion. If they liquidated their assets, they could pay off more than a third of the U.S. national debt. At the threshold of $1 billion, a 5 percent return would yield an annual interest payment of $50 million — without ever touching the principal.

What billionaires do with their riches in real life is the subject of great interest and debate. That is true now more than ever. Issues around money — like wealth inequality and talk of tax cuts for the rich — are among the hottest topics of the day. And the richest president in history is sitting in the Oval Office, with billionaires sprinkled throughout his Cabinet.

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A recent report from Oxfam International, the antipoverty charity, argued that eight billionaires had as much wealth as half of the world's population — or 3.6 billion people — and that that was a travesty.

Indeed to some, today's billionaires are selfish, rapacious and bent on world domination. To others, billionaires are worthy of respect for having put their names and fortunes behind an array of philanthropic endeavors, many aimed at improving the lives of people at the very base of the wealth pyramid. In fact, some of the world's richest — like Gates and Buffett — plan to give away their fortunes.

Finance has created the most billionaires, with 377, or 15 percent of the world's billionaires. Second comes industrial conglomerates, with 317, or 13 percent. Real estate is third with 141. Accountants have just one person on the list, who was not identified by Wealth-X. Research from UBS calculated that a new billionaire is created every three days in Asia, with 65 percent of the continent's billionaires in China.

— New York Times