Ah, to be of the privileged and cultured class – butlers, trust funds, planes, yachts, and race cars. What’s it like to have all that money? Dudley Moore, in the 1981 film Arthur, a comedic flick about a cavorting socialite and heir to a massive fortune put it most succinctly – “It doesn’t suck.”
Wealth Doesn’t Just Happen
While it certainly helps to inherit millions, according to Forbes, an astonishing 67% of the world’s billionaires, made it on their own. And the majority started out as either middle class or downright poor.
Likewise, most of America’s wealthy didn’t win the lottery or inherit their money. Many current millionaires have earned their fortunes in tech, finance, fashion, and media, while prior affluent generations took advantage of the rapid advancements of the industrial revolution by investing in railroads, oil, steel and land.
Mayer Amschel Rothschild, the founder of one of the world’s most storied banking dynasties, was an orphan from a Jewish ghetto in Frankfurt. He went to work at 13 with little formal instruction in money or finance and taught himself the intricacies of collectible coins.
John D. Rockefeller, the oil tycoon and America’s first billionaire, grew up middle class. His father was a traveling salesman who sold a tonic and elixir called “Rock Oil” that he claimed cured cancer. The younger Rockefeller went to work at 16 as a bookkeeper earning 50 cents a day.
The forefathers of these influential families shared common traits of hard work, discipline, and principled investing.