We can all be thankful that it's still possible to make a fortune by starting from scratch with little more than determination and a good idea. 

The Forbes list of the richest Americans shows that starting a successful company remains the best path to enormous success.

Investors like us can often piggyback these titans of industry to achieve great wealth of our own.

Warren Buffett, No. 3 on the list above, did just that through Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) , (BRK.B) . As of midyear 2017, it held over $162 billion in shares of other publicly traded companies. Ordinary people like us were ahead by 12.65% through Nov. 21, simply by owning Berkshire shares.

Berkshire's largest holdings have been a mixed bag in 2017. Here are Buffett's biggest winners and losers of the year.

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