Andrew Heathcote Rich Lists editor

Andrew is BRW's Rich lists editor and is responsible for the Rich 200 and Young Rich flagship issues. He also reports on matters relating to wealth and investment for BRW and The Australian Financial Review.

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Wealth by numbers

Published 24 May 2012 05:00

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Wealth by numbers

Rich 200 member and property developer Robert Magid had some sage advice for BRW this year as we carefully compiled another Rich list.

“We are all getting poorer,” he said. “You should try calling it the Poor list.”

Although Magid and the 199 other Australians who qualify for the Rich 200 are still far from poor (the poorest of the group has a net wealth of $210 million), many did lose money in what has been a difficult year for the richest people.

More than half (104) of the 187 returnees from last year’s list experienced a fall in wealth over the past 12 months.

Equity markets are down; commercial property markets are down; even high-end residential property is down (as Vincent Sinn explains in “Trouble at the top end”). It has not been a good year to be rich.

The rising public backlash against outspoken billionaires has further added to the pain. Tony Featherstone in his report “Money v the masses” outlines a long list of complaints Joe Citizen has against the wealthy elite.

Even federal Treasurer Wayne Swan is getting in on the act. When informed by BRW that the Rich 200 had had a difficult year, he nonchalantly, and rather poetically, responded: “I’m neither shedding a tear, nor letting out a cheer,” (See “No cheers or tears from Swan”).

One of the criticisms of the rich is that a select group of mining barons are getting enormously wealthy by digging up dirt.

While many mining entrepreneurs continue to make big fortunes, one miner stands out from the crowd.

Last year, Gina Rinehart (with a $10.31 billion fortune) became the richest person in Australia.

This year, Rinehart (now worth $29.17 billion) becomes the richest woman in the world.

Her impact on the Rich 200 (and perhaps the country) has become immense. Take Rinehart out of consideration and the total wealth of the list falls 3.1 per cent to $152.1 billion this year. Put her back in and it rises by 8.4 per cent to $181.2 billion.

Rinehart is one of just 16 women on the list. She is joined this year by Therese Rein, who is best known as the wife of former prime minister Kevin Rudd but also happens to be one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country (see “Life in labour”).

Rein made her fortune in employment services. Servicing an industry, whether it is employment, finance or mining, is a common way to get rich. Far less common, as successive Rich 200 editions demonstrate, is getting rich by inventing things.

Georgina Dent explains in “Bright ideas go unrewarded” that only a few inventors have ever appeared on the Rich 200. Perhaps this helps explains why those who do can sometimes come in for criticism.

The lesson is that good ideas don’t a fortune make. If you want to get rich, find a niche, build relationships and seize opportunities when they present themselves.

And if all that fails, try digging some dirt.

Click here to see who is on the Rich 200 2012

Click here to see who is on the Rich 200 Families list 2012

Should you be on next years list? Write and tell me why.

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