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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to earn, spend, and give away billions of dollars without having to think about reining in your whims? That's the way Bill Gates and many other billionaires live now. All the Money in the World takes a look at those who have appeared on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans over the last 25 years to see how these billionaires got on the list, what kept them on the list, and what the consequences of their wealth have been for their lives and those of their families.

Malcolm Forbes started this list to show that wealth counts, not inherited position (as the social 400 in New York had once implied). The list has now reached a point of having become an icon in an age of remarkable wealth building. A good part of the book shows how the list itself is beginning to influence the behavior of people who do and don't want to be seen on the list.

The amount of information contained in this book is staggering. In addition to hundreds of vignettes about wealthy individuals and families, there are also lots of lists of who does the most of whatever (earn, spend, divorce, have children, give away money, or own yachts).

You might expect that such a book would glamorize billionaires, but that's not the case. The authors do their best to keep a little distance between the glitz of wealth and power and the reality of what kind of people these are. In many cases, you'll quickly decide you don't like certain people . . . and certainly wouldn't want to use them as a role model.

Other books on the wealthy tend to make them seem like they are superior in many ways, but that's not the reality as this book shows. I was particularly impressed to see that the book contained a discussion of how some piles of money are created by accidental factors. Of those who earned their own wealth (the majority), extreme risk taking was often rewarded when huge increases in prices turned poor cash flow into an asset-based bonanza.

Some of the factoids will fascinate you. Bill Gates had wealth in 2006 greater than the annual GDP of 11 African countries with a combined population of 226 people. The authors also adjust wealth over time by comparing it to GDP in the United States which allows you to compare Bill Gates to John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Perhaps the most interesting factoid is that those without much education are worth a lot more money than those with a lot of education. Card players will be intrigued to find out that many fortunes were started from poker winnings.

For those who love gossip, some sections positively reek of gossip.

Here is how the book is organized:


Part One: What It Takes

Chapter 1 -- Education, Intelligence, Drive
Chapter 2 -- Risk
Chapter 3 -- Luck and Timing
Chapter 4 -- Winning Is Everything

Part Two: Making It

Chapter 5 -- Blue-Collar Billionaires
Chapter 6 -- West Coast Money
Chapter 7 -- Entertainment and Media
Chapter 8 -- Beyond Wall Street

Part Three: Spending It

Chapter 9 -- Conspicuous Consumption
Chapter 10 -- Heirs
Chapter 11 -- Family Feuds
Chapter 12 -- Giving It Away
Chapter 13 -- Power and Politics

Afterword -- Money and Happiness

I have studied how billion-dollar businesses are created for many years, and have often surveyed wealthy entrepreneurs in that process. In addition, I try to stay up-to-date on what's going on with the wealthiest people as part of my studies for the 400 Year Project. But a great deal of the information in the book (about 30 percent) was new to me. If you are not so focused on the wealthy as I am, you'll probably find more than half of the book will be new to you.

The book is a pretty fast read if you skim over anecdotes you already know.

Have a rich experience!
11 comment| 32 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I bouight this book partly on a whim and partly because a new non-profit a bunch of us have created, Earth Intelligence Network, is about to start fund-raising from the foundations. For the one page list of the top foundations and what they focus on, alone, I was fully satisfied.

However, and this was a very pleasant surprise, the book suggests that in the Forbes 400, average worth of those without a college degree is 5.96 billion, while those with a degree have a lesser averaage wealth of 3.14 billion. I have an extremely bright and talented who scorns most structured classes, and I am going to give him this book as a way of considering his options. I am certainly coming to believe that online education and "free universities" need to explode, and structured classroom learning reduced at the same time that all learning should become open books team learning, not competitive rote learning. This book actually reinforces that view.

The book opens by emphasizing that a great deal of the wealth today came about because of the equivalent of the Oklahoma land rush, the combination of President Reagan cutting taxes, the wireless "landgrab", and smart people, generally already rich, borrowing money to buy under-valued assets (in contrast to the subprime mess we are in now).

The book examines factors in success, and after luck or intuition it lists drive, a willingness to take risks, self-confidence, and even obessive attention to detail. A lack of ethics and a willingness to commit crimes against stockholders, employees, and the government are featured in perhaps 10% of the Forbes 400 caught and convicted, and I would speculate another 30% in gray areas. The book cites one person's view that a major recession is coming, and the public's perception of the super-rich as having gotten there by greed and abuse, a factor to be reckoned with in the near future.

Part I focuses on individuals, and we learn that three families, Buffet, Gates, and Walton, hold 14.5% of the total wealth represented in the Forbes 400 list.

Part II focuses on specific economic sectors where fortunes have been made.

Part III was the most interesting part for me, it focuses on how the super-rich spend their money. Heir and trophy wives, how to stalk and marry a billionaire, yachts (over 200 feeet long, the top ones being over 400 feet), helicopters at eleven million, art, competing for the America's cup, a multi-year cost, all quite interesting.

Best of all is the chapter on Giving It Away, and the table on page 278, listing 36 top givers and their interests.

Bottom line: I do not consider this a voyeur type of book, but rather a book that is enjoyable to read on a Sunday morning, and one that could spark useful reflections in both adults, and seniors in high school, or those in college. I regard this as a very fine gift, and will be passing my copy on to my oldest son.

Ten other recommendations (other than my own books):
Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
The Politics of Fortune: A New Agenda For Business Leaders
State of the World 2007: Our Urban Future (State of the World)
Within Our Means
The Money Culture
The Working Poor: Invisible in America
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
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on September 18, 2007
Who knew that the rich could be so addictive? Even if you're not the greatest fan of today's zillionaires, All the Money in the World is a fascinating insider's view of what makes them tick and how they get to the top. And, of course, there's the egregious excess that sometimes follows. The real stars are not the greedy, over-the-top hedge fund guys, however, but the up-by-the-bootstraps billionaires whose lives make for great reading.
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on September 18, 2007
An addictive read, comprehensive and crisply written, full of compelling stories and little-known facts--the inside skinny on the superrich. This is a great resource that keeps pulling you back for more.
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on August 14, 2009
If you are fascinated with the rich, then this book will not disappoint you. I thought that I knew a lot about these people from my previous readings, but I still learned more. In this book, the authors take readers behind the scenes of the 400 wealthiest Americans over the last 25 years. Readers learn how these billionaires earned their money, maintained it, spent it, gave it away, and in some cases squandered it. Some readers might be surprised that the majority of these individuals are self-made billionaires. Since they did not inherit the money, the author says that they had to take large risks.

- Mariusz Skonieczny, author of Why Are We So Clueless about the Stock Market? Learn how to invest your money, how to pick stocks, and how to make money in the stock market
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on September 18, 2007
I couldn't put down this fascinating guide to the really, really rich. It's chock full of compelling information about who they are, how they made their mega-fortunes and what they do with them--the good, the bad and the outrageous.

Charts galore slice and dice the ranks of the Super Rich to tease out trends, like the surprising drop in women with major money, as self-made men replace heirs and heiresses on the Forbes 400 list. Telling anecdotes and insights about the nature of wealth in America make this a great read and a great resource.
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I have always been fascinated with wealth, and have enjoyed reading about the Forbes 400 for years. "All The Money In The World: How The Forbes 400 Make - And Spend - Their Fortunes" by Peter W. Bernstein and Annalyn Swan was an extremely fascinating and enjoyable read. If you are interested in the superrich, this book paints a revealing portrait of the wealthiest of the rich and shows how they succeed, how fortunes are made in various industries, and how, once made, they are saved, enhanced, and sometimes squandered.

This thoroughly researched book provides abundant anecdotes and insights as well as compiled data in illuminating tables, sidebars, and factoids. Did you know that Bill Gates comes in as the thirteenth richest American if you converted past riches into today's dollars? (Actually 2006 dollars when the book was being researched) John D. Rockefeller's wealth would be 305.3 billion dollars when converted to 2006 dollars. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined don't make a third of that. Did you know that in 2006 the average net worth of 400 members without a college degree exceeded the average net worth of those with a degree by a considerable margin - $2.8 billion? That's partly due, of course, to the Gates factor. Did you know there were 97 immigrants from 34 different countries that made the Forbes list over the last twenty-five years? The book is filled with so many interesting stories and facts.

The book also shows that money is not everything. The superrich have problems just like everyone else, and sometimes those problems are at a greater scale. So while this book describes those that may seem unobtainable to most, you also realize that they are still people just like everyone else. Well, maybe not like everyone else, but they are still people.

Chapters include:

Part One: What It Takes
1. Education, Intelligence, Drive
2. Risk
3. Luck - and Timing
4. Winning Is Everything

Part Two: Making It
5. Blue - collar Billionaires
6. West Coast Money
7. Entertainment and Media
8. Beyond Wall Street

Part Three: Spending It
9. Conspicuous Consumption
10. Heirs
11. Family Feuds
12. Giving It Away
13. Power and Politics

Afterword: Money and Happiness

Appendix: The Forbes 400, 1982-2006

This is a vastly entertaining behind the scenes look at the superrich. I found it fascinating to read about those billionaires I was familiar with, but also those extremely wealthy that you never really hear about. It made me feel good to read about the money these Forbes 400 members give away to help others, and then sometimes shake my head wondering when you see what some of these people spend money on. Forget about the enormous cost of purchasing a yacht, but think about the upkeep running into tens of millions of dollars a year and you may wonder as I did why Paul Allen wants to own two of the top ten U.S. owned yachts. Octopus at 414 feet is number two, and Tatoosh at 301 feet 8 inches is number four. If you are wondering, Larry Ellison's Rising Sun at 452 feet 8 inches is number 1, and no one knows who owns number seven's Laurel at 240 feet and number nine's charter yacht Reverie at 229 feet, seven inches.

If you want to read an extremely interesting and fascinating book about wealth and those that have accumulated the most of it, read "All The Money In The World." Besides being entertained, you just might learn some insights to help you accumulate more wealth yourself. After all, you will see that if these people can do, so can you or anyone else.

Reviewed by Alain Burrese, J.D., author of Hard-Won Wisdom From the School of Hard Knocks.
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on December 19, 2014
I have been interested in Warren Buffet and other Forbes 400 personalities for a while. This book exceeded my expectations.

The broad range of individuals and families in this book, combined with revealing and wise quotations made this book an enjoyable learning experience.

The author has somehow presented an encyclopedic amount of stories and simultaneously keeps the reader or listener interested. It works because of the format and skill of the author; the books has three or four sequential parts: how they made their fortunes, how the spend it, and how they give away part of their fortunes to good causes, or sometimes squander their money. I also enjoyed "All the Money in the World" because the audiobook version was well presented.
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on February 1, 2008
Wow! Fun, enlightening, entertaining, inspiring. A wonderful collection of data, stories, and analysis. A book that you will find yourself going back to again and again. Though the things you'll learn from this collection are significant this is a book you own mostly for the fun of it. You'll smile with anticipation each time you reach for it and smile with satisfaction each time you put it down.
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on January 22, 2009
Great research about the fortunate 400.....interesting reading you will enjoy how the others live.....those with lots of wealth.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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