Few of us have the first clue about how we can become a millionaire. Many of us have settled into the middle-class life, happy with what we have, while others still dream of one day hitting it big. Sure, we can win the lottery or invent the next big thing – but the truth is that most of us will never really reach that elusive millionaire status.
Which is why the idea of becoming a self-made billionaire is so intriguing. It seems nearly impossible to us common folk, sure. But these ten men have beaten the odds and done just that. They come from a variety of backgrounds, some grew up nearly in poverty while others were comfortably middle-class. However, all of them have one thing in common: ambition. Many started businesses young, and it’s impressive to realize that some of these men started on the path to wealth before many of us could even drive a car. Looking at their past and seeing how far they’ve come, many of them even make it look easy. But as the old saying goes, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
And there’s a reason not everyone is a billionaire. It takes a lot of hard work, brains, business sense, ambition and just a smidgen of being in the right place at the right time.
10. George Soros – Net worth of $20 billion
George Soros was born in Budapest, Hungary. His mother’s family owned a successful silk shop, while his father, a prisoner of war during WWII, was a lawyer. Being from a non-observant Jewish family, Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and emigrated to England where he lived as an impoverished student at the London School of Economics. He worked as a railway porter and waiter, but when asked how he was able to go from immigrant to financier, he responded that he wrote to every managing director in every bank in London until he eventually got a job in a merchant bank. It was an entry-level position that led to so much more. Sorors eventually got his PhD in philosophy, moved to New York City and eventually launched his Quantum fund that has generated $40 billion since its inception in 1973, making it the most successful hedge fund in history.
9. Carl Icahn – Net worth of $20.3 billion
Carl Icahn is a successful American businessmen, investor, and is the majority shareholder of Icahn Enterprises. But he didn’t come from a family of investment bankers, or anything close to that actually. His father was an opera singer who settled on being a cantor even though he considered himself an atheist. Later, his father became a substitute teacher. His mother also happened to be a school teacher. Carl went on to graduate from Princeton with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, of all things. He went to medical school for two years before dropping out to join the army. He began his financial career as a Wall Street stockbroker in 1961, and within 7 years, he’d formed Icahn & Company, and in 1978, he began taking control of individual companies. He’s held substantial or controlling positions in various corporations through the years included Texaco, Western Union, Viacom, Marvel Comics, Revlon, Blockbuster, Time Warner, and Herbalife. He’s built up a reputation for himself in the process, and he’s become known as a “corporate raider” after a hostile takeover of TWA in 1985. According to Forbes, he’s now considered the richest man on Wall Street.
8. Sergey Brin – Net worth of $24.4 billion
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, emigrated to the United States from Russia when he was 6 years old. Being that his family is Jewish, they often faced discrimination that effected their lives greatly. His father wasn’t allowed to pursue the career he’d always wanted, and eventually decided they’d be better off moving to the United States. The family applied for exit visas, and while they waited for approval, both of his parents lost their jobs. They were forced to work temporary jobs as they waited, hoping their request would be accepted. Many others had been denied visas, but thankfully, they weren’t. Brin went on to graduate from Stanford University where he earned his PhD in computer science. During his studies, he partnered up with fellow PhD student Larry Page and Google was born. Sergey has stepped out of the main role within Google, allowing Page to run the show. He’s in control of the secretive Google X division which focuses on breakthrough projects like Google Glass and driverless cars.
7. Larry Page – Net worth of $24.9 billion
It should come as no surprise that Larry Page, the co-founder of Google with Sergey Brin, was the son of a computer scientist. In fact, his father had a PhD in Computer Science, just as the field was being established, and he’s considered a pioneer in the field. Larry Page went on to follow in his father’s footsteps, getting a PhD in computer science from Stanford University. While working on his dissertation theme, he hooked up with fellow PhD student, Brin, on a project nicknamed “BackRub” that started out as Page exploring the World Wide Web, trying to understand its link structure as a huge graph. Through their work, they created the initial version of Google, and the rest, as we say, is history.
6. Jeff Bezos – Net worth of $27.2 billion
If you’ve been on the internet within the last decade, chances are good you’re familiar with Jeff Bezos‘ claim to fame – Amazon.com. Love them or hate them, Amazon is the 300 pound gorilla in the e-commerce market as an online marketplace for books and a wide variety of products. Born to a teenaged mother, his parents divorced when he was still a baby. His mother remarried, and his stepfather would eventually adopt him. During the summers, he spent time at his grandfather’s ranch in Texas doing handiwork such as vaccinating cattle and laying pipe. Bezos’ beginning was far more humble, of course, but even as a child, he showed a great aptitude for science and technology, everything from dismantling his crib as a toddler to setting up an alarm system to keep his siblings out of his room. He attended Princeton University with the intention of studying physics but later switched to electrical engineering and computer science. He founded Amazon in 1994 after a cross-country drive from New York to Seattle, and set up the company in his garage.
5. Sheldon Adelson – Net worth of $28.5 billion
Sheldon Adelson may be a casino tycoon, but his early life wasn’t nearly as glamorous. Adelson grew up in Boston where his father drove a taxi and his mother ran a knitting shop. However, Adelson, like many on the list, started early. When he was 12 years old, he borrowed $200 from his uncle so he could sell newspapers. At the age of 16, he had a candy vending machine business. He attended the City College of New York, but he ended up dropping out. From there, he continued on with small businesses, venturing into toiletry kits, chemical sprays to help clear frozen windshields, and charter buses. He became a millionaire early on, but built and lost his fortune twice. In total, Adelson has created over 50 of his own businesses. But the casino business is where most of his wealth came from. Shares of his Las Vegas Sands are worth more than all other U.S casino companies combined, and thanks to booming business in Asia, he’s back on the World’s Richest list for the first since 2007. In 2013, he made an average of $32 million a day.
4. Michael Bloomberg – Net worth of $31 billion
At one time, Michael Bloomberg was considered the world’s richest mayor. Now that he’s no longer in office, he’s merely the 10th richest person in America. The former mayor graduated with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. Bloomberg started out as a general partner at Salomon Brothers, a Wall Street investment bank, and when he was laid off, he was given a $10 million severance package. Using the money, he set up his own company, Innovative Market Systems. He eventually left his position as CEO to pursue a political career and become the mayor of New York City. Now that he’s no longer the mayor, he’s moved forward with philanthropic and political plans, including focusing on his anti-gun programs in the U.S and plans to help train business journalists in Africa. He also pledged $100 million to the Gates Foundation to help eradicate polio. In total, he’s given around $2.4 billion away to charitable causes.
3. Larry Ellison – Net worth of $41 billion
Larry Ellison came from a middle-class Jewish family and was raised by adoptive parents (his aunt and uncle) after his mother handed him over to them at the age of nine months. He wouldn’t see his birth mother again until he was 48 years old. After the death of his adoptive mother, he left college and eventually moved to Northern California where he began working for Ampex Corporation. Ellison worked on a database for the CIA which he named Oracle. Eventually, the company name would be changed to Oracle Systems Corporation after its flagship product, and Ellison was paid very well for his stake in the company, including millions of dollars in bonuses. The billionaire’s hobbies include collecting houses on Malibu’s Carbon Beach, and buying up Hawaii’s Lanai Island (of which he owns 98% ). But not only is he a success in his own right, his daughter, Megan, has financed a string of very popular, successful Hollywood films including “American Hustle” and “Zero Dark Thirty”. Ellison himself made a brief appearance in “Iron Man 2”.
2. Warren Buffett – Net worth of $58.5 billion
Besides the guy at number one, Warren Buffett is probably one of the most famous rich guys in America – and with good reason too. He’s a smart investor, one who happened to make all the right moves and amass his wealth over time – and while being practical. According to his website, www. Warrenbuffet.com, his first business venture was with a friend when he was back in high school. He and his pal bought a pinball machine to put into a barber shop. Instead of spending their profits, they reinvested it into more machines until they had eight pinball machines in different shops. Then he sold the venture and used that money to buy stocks and to start another small business. From these activities alone, he’d earned $174,000 by the age of 26. When adjusted for inflation, that amount comes to $1.4 million dollars in today’s money. He almost makes it sound too easy, doesn’t he? Of course, we all know better than that. The one thing most people admire the most about Buffet, however, is not that he’s rich, even though he’s one of the world’s wealthiest men, he still lives in the same house he bought in 1957 for $31,500 and lives a relatively frugal lifestyle.
1. Bill Gates – Net worth of $72 billion
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or two, chances are you knew Bill Gates would be somewhere near the top of this list. Along with Warren Buffett who’s at number two on the list, Gates is one of the most famous billionaires of our lifetime. In fact, he’s been the world’s richest man for 15 out of the last 20 years. As the founder of Microsoft, Gates has amassed a large amount of wealth, and as many people know, he never even graduated from college. He attended Harvard, but eventually dropped out, which obviously didn’t hurt him much by the looks of it. Gates stepped down as Microsoft chair, and has pledged his time to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, a charitable organization he founded with his wife. He’s currently working to eradicate polio with $335 million in pledges for the cause from six other billionaires). Along with Buffet and over 100 others, Gates has signed on to donate at least half of his net worth to charity through the Giving Pledge.