The top 5 percent of America's wealthiest, including the year's six biggest dollar gainers, added $100 billion to their fortunes. This super-elite subset now holds a staggering 32 percent of the collective wealth of the Forbes 400
RULES OF THE HUNT This is the 33rd year of the flagship Forbes 400. Even though we’ve been at it a long time, it’s always a challenge. Our reporters dig deep. This year, we started with a list of more than 600 individuals considered strong candidates and then got to work.
When possible we met with list candidates in person; we spoke with dozens of billionaires this year. We also interviewed their employees, handlers, rivals, peers and attorneys. We pored over thousands of SEC documents, court records, probate records, federal financial disclosures, and web and print stories. We took into account all types of assets: Stakes in public and private companies, real estate, art, yachts, planes, ranches, vineyards, jewellery, car collections and more. We factored in debt.
Of course, we don’t pretend to know what is listed on each billionaire’s private balance sheet, although some candidates did provide paperwork to that effect.
Some billionaires who preside over private companies were happy to share their financial figures, but others were less forthcoming. A few even threatened to sue. To value these businesses, we coupled revenue or profit estimates with prevailing price-to-revenue or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies.
We didn’t include dispersed family fortunes. Those appeared on our America’s Richest Families list, which came out in July. We did include wealth belonging to a member’s immediate relatives if the wealth could be traced to a single living person. In that case you’ll see “& family” on the list.
Our estimates are a snapshot of each list member’s wealth on September 12, when we locked in net worth numbers and rankings. Some of the Forbes 400 will become richer or poorer within weeks—even days—of publication.
For the first time, Forbes has also given everyone a score measuring how far he or she climbed to get into the ranks. An individual born with a silver spoon gets just a 1, while someone who lived a hard-knocks life earns a 10.