If you want to be one, it pays to learn the ways of the world's billionaires.

Building and managing wealth isn't easy, but more billionaires are doing so than ever before. Billionaire wealth rose 17% in 2016, with 145 new billionaires employing at least 2.8 million people, according to data from auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and financial firm UBS.

A few months ago, PricewaterhouseCoopers and UBS analyzed data covering 1,550 billionaires and looking back two decades. They also conducted more than 25 interviews with billionaire advisers and other interviews with more than 30 billionaires and approximately 30 of their heirs.

With the total number of billionaires around the globe growing 10% to 1,542, PwC and UBS found that wealth is starting to accrue most rapidly in Asian markets. The 637 billionaires across Asia has surpassed the U.S. total (563) for the first time ever. The total wealth of Asian billionaires ($2 trillion) still lags behind the U.S. ($2.8 trillion), but should catch up within the next four years.

"As expected in a country with such an entrepreneurial mindset, technology is the biggest driver of wealth creation," says Thomas J. Holly, US asset and wealth management leader at PwC.

So how do you follow in those billionaires' footsteps, or even add your name to their ranks? The information in the survey supports the following suggestions:

Embrace Innovation

Economist William Nordhaus estimates that 98% of the social value of an innovation goes to society and 2% to the innovators and entrepreneurs. Global billionaires are linked to companies in sectors such as technology that are creating jobs and, ideally, lifting the standard of living in multiple countries.

The world's 1,542 billionaires own or partly own companies that directly employ at least 27.7 million people worldwide -- roughly the same as the United Kingdom's workforce. The newest influx of billionaires owns companies that employ at least 2.8 million people. While billionaires from the retail industry account for 9.7 million jobs on their own, their median age of roughly 59 is about 12 years older than that of their counterparts in the tech sector. Meanwhile the 2.7 million jobs in billionaire-run tech is creeping up on the 3 million jobs created by billionaires who run industrial firms.

Just keep in mind that tech money isn't necessarily fast money. "Unicorn" start-ups worth more than $1 billion have become more prevalent in the last decade. However, out of the newest batch of billionaires, just eight founded their current businesses in the last 10 years, seven can be considered as start-up billionaires and just six are in the tech sector.

Form Networks

Billionaires have always worked with groups of peers for business, investment and philanthropy, but now they're doing so to build funding more quickly -- kind of like crowdsourcing for billionaires. Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and 3G private equity billionaire Jorge Paolo Lemann (Brazil's richest man), for example, have teamed up to purchase both doughnut shop chain Tim Horton's and food conglomerate Kraft Heinz.

More billionaires are also pooling resources for social and environmental purposes. The Giving Pledge's more than 160 members included some of the world's wealthiest individuals and families and have committed more than half their wealth to philanthropy.

"These entrepreneurs are leveraging their networks and focusing on not only growing their wealth, but also making sure they are socially impactful," says PwC's Holly. "This has caused the rise in impact investing, with the aim to balance competitive financial returns with positive societal outcomes."

Invest in What You Love

Among the top 200 art collectors in the world, 72 are billionaires, up from 28 in 1995. Of those 72, 42 are from the U.S.

By establishing museums like The Broad in Los Angeles -- founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad -- and supporting institutions like the Museum of Modern Art in New York or Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland, billionaires have watched their assets grow and have shared their appreciation for art with the world.

Meanwhile, 140 sports franchises around the world are owned by billionaires -- including two thirds of the National Basketball Association and half of the English Premier League. The average age of a billionaire team owner is 68, while their average wealth is roughly $5 billion.

"Their cultural passions in art and sports, in particular, have a significant impact across the globe and in the communities where they live," says John Matthews, head of private wealth management and ultra high net worth for UBS Wealth Management Americas.

Look Ahead

Over the next 20 years, billionaires who are 70 years old or more will transfer an estimated $2.4 trillion to both heirs and charities. More than one third (39%) of billionaire wealth belongs to those aged 70 or older, and the oldest of them are in the U.S. and Europe.

With billionaire families becoming more global and spreading their wealth and assets around the world, succession planning becomes increasingly complicated thanks to increased regulations and more stringent tax code. Even those who aren't billionaires should have an estate plan in place to transfer wealth and help it grow for a new generation.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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