Playing the stock market is an exciting, but dangerous game. The potential to earn big money can tempt even the most rational person into gambling away their hard-earned savings. To be successful, you need to have a sound understanding of how the financial world works, and an eye for unique investment opportunities.
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The people on this list have those talents in abundance. They are the best in the world at what they do and have earned dizzying amounts of money as a result. They are so successful, in fact, that even their slightest actions can send major shockwaves through the offices and trading floors of Wall Street.
Without further ado, here are the 10 most successful investors in the world:
1. Warren Buffett
Nebraska native Warren Buffett is by far the most successful investor of all time, and currently the third wealthiest person in the world with a staggering personal fortune of $72.7 billion. He is the Chairman and CEO of multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, which is based in his hometown of Omaha.
Nicknamed the "Oracle of Omaha," Buffett has an uncanny ability to spot great investment opportunities early on, and his picks are always followed closely by the investment community at large. He is also known as a likeable and generous character and has pledged to donate over 99% of his wealth to charity over the course of his lifetime.
2. George Soros
Hungarian-born George Soros is chairman of the wildly successful Soros Fund Management firm and has a personal net worth of $24.2 billion. While respected and admired for his success and philanthropic work, Soros is also something of a controversial character, having been involved in a number of major financial crises during the 1990s.
He is famously known as "the man who broke the Bank of England" for selling the British pound short and profiting from its devaluation in 1992. He was also widely blamed for helping to trigger the Asian financial crisis of 1997, by selling short the Thai baht and Malaysian ringgit. This has led some to accuse Soros of deliberately triggering financial crises in order to further his wealth.
3. Carl Icahn
New Yorker Carl Icahn began his investment career on Wall Street in the early 1960s and has gone on to acquire a personal fortune of $23.5 billion. He is the founder and chairman of conglomerate Icahn Enterprises, which has its offices at the General Motors Building in New York.
Icahn has gained a reputation for his ruthless takeovers and aggressive pursuit of controlling positions in some of the largest corporations in the world, including Trans World Airlines, Texaco, Western Union, Time Warner and Netflix. Like Warren Buffett, Icahn’s stock picks are followed closely by the investment community and often lead to great surges in share prices.
4. Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Al Saud
Nephew of the late King Abdullah, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Al Saud is one of the most successful figures of the Saudi royal family with a personal net worth of $22.6 billion. The self-proclaimed "Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia" first turned his attention to investing after having amassed a small fortune during the Saudi oil boom of the late 1970s and early 80s.
Now the founder and CEO of Kingdom Holding Company in Riyadh, Al-Waleed has large stakes in a number of major corporations, including Citigroup, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and Twitter. A prominent philanthropist, Al-Waleed has pledged to donate his entire fortune to charity to help alleviate poverty, eradicate disease and fund education.
5. Ray Dalio
The son of a jazz musician and stay-at-home mom, New York-born Ray Dalio has become one of America’s most influential investors and has acquired a personal fortune of $15.4 billion. When not teaching the world his investment secrets on YouTube, Dalio is a chief investment officer at his firm, Bridgewater Associates -- one of the largest hedge fund companies in the world.
At the young age of 12, Dalio made his first successful investment when he bought $300 worth of shares in Northeast Airlines using money he’d earned working as a golf caddie. The airline’s stock price later tripled following a successful merger with another company -- the rest, as they say, is history.
6. Ronald Perelman
A native of North Carolina, Ronald Perelman’s investments in the cosmetics, entertainment and biotech industries have netted him a cool $14.5 billion to date. Perelman was fascinated with business from an early age, attending many of his father’s board meetings and making his first major deals while still in college.
Though noted for his extensive charity work (including vast donations toward medical services and research), Perelman is no stranger to controversy. He has been accused of engaging in greenmail -- the practice of purchasing enough shares in a firm to threaten a takeover, in order to sell back the shares at a premium -- and has gained a reputation as something of a "corporate raider."
7. James Simons
Born in Newton, Massachusetts, James Simons is a mathematician and hedge fund manager with a personal net worth of $14 billion. A former cryptanalyst (code-breaker) at Princeton and mathematics professor at Harvard and MIT, Simons’ success is due in no small part to his talent for recognising financial patterns and constructing statistical models.
In 1982, he founded Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund management company noted for using complex mathematical models in their trading strategies. Undoubtedly one of the world’s smartest billionaires, Simons’ unique combination of financial success and academic accomplishments set him apart as a truly remarkable individual.
8. Abigail Johnson
The one and only female on this list, Boston native Abigail Johnson is one of the wealthiest women in the world with a personal fortune of $13.4 billion. She is president and CEO of Fidelity Investments -- a financial services corporation founded by her grandfather Edward.
Known as an unassuming and down-to-earth character, Johnson had to work her way to the head of her family business. She formally joined Fidelity in 1988 and spent the next 26 years working her way through lower-level jobs before taking over the CEO role from her father. Her charitable donations and philanthropic work (which includes personally serving dinner at Boston’s Pine Street Inn homeless shelter) further exemplify Johnson’s modesty, despite her enormous wealth.
9. Stephen Schwarzman
Philadelphia-born Stephen Schwarzman is a private equity investor with an estimated net worth of $12 billion. Now the chairman and CEO of Blackstone -- a financial management firm that specialises in real estate investment -- Schwarzman’s talent and ambition led him to become managing director at Lehman Brothers at the age of just 31.
In 2014, he earned $690 million in salary and dividends, making him one of Wall Street’s highest-earning CEOs and a symbol of the excesses of the finance industry. But in Schwarzman’s favour, he is an active philanthropist who regularly contributes to scholarship programs and educational funds, including a $100 million donation to the New York Public Library in 2008.
10. Philip Anschutz
A Kansas native with German heritage, Philip Anschutz is a landowner and investor with a personal fortune of $11.8 billion. He broke straight into the world of business and finance after graduating college in 1961, when he took over his father’s oil drilling company and began investing in farmland.
Anschutz is noted for his investments in the entertainment industry -- particularly movies and sports corporations -- under his holding company AEG. He has stakes in Major League Soccer and many of its teams and owns a number of high-profile venues including the Staples Centre and O2 Arena in London.
Did we leave anyone out? Who’s your pick for the most successful investor in the world? Let us know in the comments below!