While the titan's career had humble beginnings, Bezos is now worth a staggering $155.9 billion - and seems to show no signs of slowing down. But how did the ultra-billionaire make his cash? And how does he spend his fortune?
What Is Jeff Bezos' Net Worth?
According to Forbes, as of Feb. 2020, Bezos is worth an estimated $130.9 billion. Following the recent historic success of Amazon Prime Day, Bezos' net worth spiked to a reported $151.4 billion in the summer of 2018, but went back down to rest at around $150 billion later that year, Forbes reported. Currently, it is just shy of $131 billion
The founder of Amazon boasts several other enterprises that have helped boost his net worth - including an aerospace company called Blue Origin and now The Washington Post (GHC) - Get Graham Holdings Company Report .
Bezos's status as the person with the highest net worth in the world has also survived a very public divorce. In January of 2019, Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos announced that they would be splitting up. The divorce would be finalized a few months later with Jeff and Mackenzie splitting their Amazon shares 75-25. Mackenzie's 25% of those shares added up to a whopping $36 billion, a staggering amount of money that still was unable to rid Bezos of his title of the world's richest person.
Jeff Bezos' Salary
While Bezos earns billions each year, his baseline salary is reportedly around $81,000 - quite a humble sum, according to Time. Still, Bezos upped his net worth around $40 billion last year - bringing it to a grand total of around $150 billion.
Much of Bezos' earnings come from his 16% ownership of the online market giant Amazon. And, since 1998, the mogul has been atop Forbes 400 list of America's richest people - and as of 2018, sits at No. 1 on Forbes' World's Billionaires list.
Still, where did it all come from?
Jeff Bezos' Career
Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with a degree in computer science and got a job at a telecommunications start-up called Fitel, according to CNBC. Bezos also worked at a variety of Wall Street firms like Bankers Trust and D.E. Shaw.
However, it wasn't until 1994 that Bezos decided to quit his job and begin selling books online - in his garage of all places. Bezos reportedly tried to get firm D.E. Shaw on board with his idea, but when no interest was expressed, the businessman stepped out on his own, according to CNBC.
By 1995, Bezos officially opened Amazon.com - with instant success, making an alleged $20,000 a week within no time.
When the company's IPO went public in 1997, it outpaced all of its competitors in the market.
And, in 2006, Amazon created its instant video service (later called Amazon Instant Video), and by the next year, Bezos was releasing the Kindle and investing in aerospace company Blue Origin.
In the face of Amazon's astounding success, Bezos has often offered career advice.
"You can have a job, or you can have a career, or you can have a calling," Bezos said during a forum on leadership. "And if you can somehow figure out how to have a calling, you have hit the jackpot, cause that's the big deal."
Bezos has always been pushing the envelope with new investment opportunities. And, in 2013, the mogul shelled out a cool $250 million to buy The Washington Post and its affiliated publications - purchasing it from the long-time owners the Graham family.
"I didn't know anything about the newspaper business ... But I did know something about the internet," Bezos told Business Insider in 2014. "That, combined with the financial runway that I can provide, is the reason why I bought The Post."
Despite Bezos' inexperience in the publishing industry, the publication is reportedly adapting to the digital era under Bezos' ownership, according to Business Insider.
But one of Bezos' smartest moves was perhaps the creation of Amazon Prime - a service most of us will know for cutting shipping costs and providing us with instant streaming on the site. And, in fact, Bezos wrote to investors in an annual letter in 2016 that an Amazon Prime membership is "such a good value, you'd be irresponsible not to be a member."
A large reason for this is due to Prime Video, which launched in 2006. In fact, since then, Forbes has estimated that Amazon Prime subscribers could increase to 164 million by 2020, with fees expected to increase to around $110 - which, if correct, would contribute an extra $18 billion to Amazon's revenue by 2020.
And, according to Amazon's annual letter to shareholders, Amazon's in-house helper Alexa continues to be one of "the best-selling items across all of Amazon." But still, Prime has earned Bezos' quite the buck, even expanding to add CBS channels and several Golden Globe-winning originals to its repertoire.
Still, despite his undeniable success, Bezos has had his own share of controversy.
Most recently, Bezos has faced some backlash from the recent Prime Day the second week of July, when the site shut down for a while.
Due to the surge of traffic during the shopping promotion, Amazon experienced glitches and error pages - causing a bit of customer uproar.
But, despite the controversy, Bezos seems to be in the clear as of now, with Amazon breaking records in sales - causing Bezos' personal net worth to jump a reported $45 billion (according to Forbes).
"Prime Day sales in the U.S. continue to be bigger than ever," an Amazon spokesperson wrote via email to Forbes this week. "In fact, in the first 10 hours, Prime Day grew even faster, year-over-year, than the first 10 hours last year."
However, apart from his company, Bezos has faced lots of controversy himself.
Bezos & Trump
The internet mogul reportedly has beef with the president of the United States.
President Trump has been outspoken about his distaste for Bezos' use of the United States Postal Service (USPS) to deliver Amazon packages, supposedly claiming they are misusing the service.
Naturally, the president took to Twitter.
In addition to his comments, President Trump also reportedly claimed that Bezos' Washington Post has a "tremendous lobbying effort" for the CEO.
To which Bezos replied at an event in Berlin, "whether it's the current US administration or any other government agency around the world, Amazon is now a large corporation and I expect us to be scrutinized."
So, Bezos' baby remains under scrutiny about compliance to U.S. tax laws, as allegations by the president suggest Amazon isn't paying "internet taxes" it should, according to Trump's Twitter.
Bezos & Amazon Workers
Still, even when the billionaire mogul isn't on the outs with the president, Bezos has faced heavy criticism for his enormous wealth compared to the wages he reportedly pays employees.
According to reports in 2018, Bezos makes the median Amazon employee salary every 9 seconds, reports USA Today. This, to the general public, seems odd.
In fact, the 2017 Amazon Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing confirmed that the median salary for Amazon's 566,000 employees worldwide was $28,446.
Even U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D) slammed the CEO for his earnings, recently tweeting about Amazon's taxes.
Despite an SEC filing, some are still claiming Bezos' company is failing to meet tax requirements.
How Does Jeff Bezos Spend His Money?
The billionaire-many-times-over has more money than he may know what to do with.
When he's earning a reported $107 million a day last year, according to Business Insider, Bezos claimed "you're not going to spend it on a second dinner out."
But, what does the billionaire spend it on?
Among other things, the future of aerospace travel, apparently.
Bezos reportedly liquidates $1 billion of Amazon stock per year to fund Blue Origin - his new space travel enterprise.
"I am very lucky that I feel like I have a mission-driven purpose with Blue Origin that is, I think, incredibly important for civilization long term," Bezos told Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner.
But, with all the pressures that certainly come with being CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world, even Bezos needs to relax.
The billionaire reportedly takes lavish vacations with his family, including a recent trip to Norway, according to Business Insider.
But in addition to Bezos' extravagant vacations, the business mogul is supposedly renovating a $23 million mansion (formerly a 26,900-square-foot textile museum) in Washington D.C. - close to his new newspaper.
The latest major purchases Bezos made with his billions were Los Angeles mansions, including one record-setting purchase. It was announced in February of 2020 that Bezos was buying a 13,000-square foot mansion in Beverly Hills that was most recently owned by David Geffen for a whopping $165 million. Bezos also spent $90 million on a plot of land owned by the estate of Paul Allen.
However, despite the hefty expenditures, Bezos has long been involved in philanthropy - and is allegedly looking for more ways to spread his opulent worth around.
Jeff Bezos' Philanthropy
The billionaire reportedly gave around $33 million to TheDream.US in 2018 - an organization that gives scholarships to undocumented immigrant high school students in the United States, according to Forbes.
Additionally, Bezos reportedly donated $1 million to homeless shelter and employment charity Mary's Place, located in Seattle. And, according to The New York Times, Bezos also donated $15 million to Princeton University, as well as $35 million to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle (the center's biggest donation).
And, the billionaire even reached out to Twitter to help him find new ways to use his ample cash.
But Bezos recently declared in June that he has two philanthropic ventures coming up that will be announced by the end of the summer.