In 2014, This Guy Made 330,000 Times What You Did

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Jack Ma, left, was the biggest financial winner of 2014; Leonid Mikhelson lost more money than anyone on the planet.Photo: Ashley Pon/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesMikhail Metzel/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

How much did you make in 2014? If you’re a New Yorker, $50,000 to $70,000 is a good guess, and you probably spent nearly all of that on the cost of living in New York. It’s about 330,000 times less than the individual who saw the biggest gains in the market in 2014, according to Wealth-X, a firm that researches high net-worth individuals.

Wealth-X found that the biggest gainer of 2014 was Jack Ma, the head of Alibaba, the China-based retail firm. His fortune swelled to $29.2 billion this year after his firm went public, giving him a single-year bump in wealth of $18.5 billion. Second in line is Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway fame. The stock’s rise helped push his fortune up more than $13.5 billion to $72.6 billion.

If you take the gains as income, that means that Jack Ma made about 330,000 times what the average American did in 2014, all from one initial public offering and the stock’s subsequent rise. But that’s a stock-and-flow error — an increase in wealth is not the same thing as an annual income. An apples-to-apples to comparison looks no better, though. The average household’s median net worth and the overall average net worth of American families did not increase meaningfully last year. As such, Ma’s increase in net worth is an irrational number. He made an infinity more than you, if it makes you feel any better. 

And woe be to the year’s biggest losers, the oil and gas tycoons. Wealth-X reports that the single biggest net-worth loser this year is Leonid Mikhelson of natural-gas producer Novatek. He lost 41 percent of his wealth, or $7 billion, on the collapse of energy prices and the plummeting ruble.

All in all, Bloomberg reports, Russia’s wealthiest have lost a whopping $10 billion in the last two days, as falling crude prices and a currency panic have sapped the Russian economy and asset prices. They’ve lost a total of $64 billion, give or take, this year.