Inside the Fortunes of 29 of the World’s Richest People

Here at StreetAuthority we like to keep tabs on where the richest people in the world are putting their money… (in fact, we even put together a recent presentation on the subject).

After all, billionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have proven themselves as some of the smartest investors on the planet.

In fact, Buffett has been beating the market for so long that it defies belief.

Anyone with the good judgment to invest $10,000 in Warren Buffett’s partnership at its inception in 1956 (and to transfer into Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B) at the partnership’s termination) would be sitting on an astonishing $432 million today — after all fees and expenses.

But these days, he is far from the only billionaire worth knowing about.

Booming economies from Brazil… to Russia… to India… to China have created a number of billionaires around the world… many of them are unfamiliar to U.S. investors.

Yet people all around the globe are familiar with where they made their money.

That’s because it’s no secret. People have been making money here for hundreds of years.

In fact, when you look at the 100 richest people on the planet, 29 of them made their fortune in one single area… natural resources.

This is by far the largest single group in the top 100 when you break them all down by the source of their wealth.

But that’s not really anything new.

When you look back in history, you find natural resources have created most of the great family fortunes of lore.

And some of these historical fortunes make today’s billionaires look like pikers.

Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller was not only the richest man in history… he had more money than Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Sam Walton and Carlos Slim combined.

None of these poor guys can hold a candle to the $336 billion fortune (adjusted for inflation) amassed by Rockefeller.

Rockefeller started out as a wholesale grocer and went on to found Standard Oil, which grew to be a gargantuan monopoly

Rockefeller made his fortune on the quintessential commodity of modern times: oil. But guess what? The second-richest man of all time also made his fortune in a commodity business.

Andrew Carnegie emigrated as a child from Scotland to Pittsburgh and began working as a bobbin boy in a textile mill. He changed spools of thread for 12 hours a day, for $2 a week.

By the time he was 30, he owned iron works, railroads and oil wells. But his real money came from steel. By the late 1880s, Carnegie’s steel empire was the world’s largest maker of steel rails and iron.

So why have natural resources done so well over time?

One word: scarcity.

Once you burn a barrel of oil or a ton of coal, it’s gone forever. Every day we lose more and more of our planet’s precious resources. And even if new supplies come online, it takes a lot more time and effort to get them out of the ground than it does to use them.

And today, demand continues to surge. Growing economies in the emerging markets are continually putting pressure on global supplies.

China alone has recently gone from being an exporter of oil, to the second largest importer. With that sort of demand, you have serious pressure building under prices.

In fact, many of the best-performing stocks in history have all benefited from the scarcity dynamic.

When demand is infinite and supply isn’t, you don’t need a visionary leader or a breakthrough gizmo. And you don’t need a one-in-a-million marketing genius like Steve Jobs at the helm.

So it’s no wonder that half of the top 20 best-performing stocks in the world in the past 10 years were natural resource stocks:

As you can see, the best-performing stock in the past decade was the natural-resource stock Fortescue Metals Group (NYSE: FMG) — an Australian company that sells to China — which returned better than 50,000% according to Bloomberg.

Fortescue Metals wasn’t mining gold, silver or some other high-priced precious metal either. It made its fortune in iron ore… about as dull a business as you can get.

Obviously, not every natural-resource stock is going to experience massive returns like the ones investors saw from Fortescue. And there will be ups and downs.

Action to Take –> You can’t deny that the opportunity that commodities have presented investors over the last 10 years. And going forward, the next decade looks just as opportunistic.

So when my team and I recently put together a report titled “The 9 Best Stocks to Own for the Next Decade,” it should be no surprise that we focused on natural resource stocks. After all, not only have natural resources spurred the fortunes of one-third of the world’s richest people, but even those who didn’t make their money in commodities, including Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, and investing legend Warren Buffett, have been buying these types of investments for years.

To find our more information about “The 9 Best Stocks to Own for the Next Decade” — including a few names and ticker symbols — you can watch this presentation here.