Are Billionaires Born Or Made? What are the common attributes among the uber-wealthy? Are there any true secrets of the self-made? Forbes magazine sought answers to these questions by analyzing everything from the billionaires' parents" professions to where they went to school, their track records in the early stages of their careers and other experiences that may have put them on the path to extreme wealth.
An admittedly unscientific study of the 657 self-made billionaires they counted in February for their list of the World's Billionaires yielded some interesting results.
First, a significant percentage of billionaires had parents with a high aptitude for math. The ability to crunch numbers is crucial to becoming a billionaire, and mathematical prowess is hereditary. Some of the most common professions among the parents of American billionaires (for whom they could find the information) were engineer, accountant and small-business owner.
You don't have to go to college to be successful. More than 20% of the self-made American moguls on the most recent list of the World's Billionaires never finished college.
More than 20% of the 292 of the self-made American billionaires on the most recent list of the World's Billionaires have either never started or never completed college.
Mary Kay Ash attended college but dropped out after she got married. She started Mary Kay Cosmetics after being passed over for a promotion that was given to a man who she’d trained. The company started as a book Mark Kay intended to help women and turned into a business plan. With the help of her son and $5,000, Mary Kay Cosmetics was created. Mary Kay Inc. was named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in America and one of the 10 best companies for women.
Halle Berry is an Oscar-winning actress who never went to college. Instead, she moved to Chicago immediately after high school to become a model and actress. She ranked #66 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 in 2006 and reportedly made $16 million that year. Berry is also a spokeswoman for Revlon cosmetics and was able to command a higher advertising fee after winning an Academy Award.
Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell, Inc., dropped out of college at 19. He first started his computer company in his college dorm room, later using company’s earnings and family loans to expand. In 2008, Forbes ranked Michael Dell #11 in its 400 Richest Americans. As of 2009, he has an estimated net worth of $12.3 billion.
Henry Ford never graduated high school, but went on to start one of the largest automobile manufacturing companies in the world, Ford Motor Company. He’s also credited as being the first auto manufacturer to use an assembly line, completely revolutionizing the way cars were produced. The assembly line allowed Ford sell cars at a lower price but the company kept making higher profit because sales volumes continually increased. Time called Ford one of the most influential people of the 20th century.
Bill Gates, a college dropout, has been named the richest person in the world by Forbes magazine 27 times. Bill Gates, who was 10 points away from a perfect score on the SAT, enrolled at Harvard College in 1973 only to take a leave of absence two years later to form a partnership with classmate Paul Allen. The partnership became known as Microsoft. In 2007, Bill Gates received an honorary doctorate degree from Harvard University. In 2009, Forbes reports Gates’ net worth at $40 billion.
Subhash Chandra is a onetime rice exporter-turned media baron and Chairman of Essel Group, that launched India's satellite television revolution. The Zee chairman dropped out after standard 12.His pioneering channel Zee TV competes with, among others, Sony Entertainment Television and STAR Plus. Other interests include packaging, theme parks, lotteries and cinema multiplexes. He started the failed Indian Cricket League, a domestic Twenty20 cricket league intended as a challenge to the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the nation's governing body in the sport. In November 2009, he took over management responsibility of Daily News & Analysis (DNA), which features among the top 8 English dailies in India and is one of fastest growing English newspapers in the country.
Andrew Jackson, is most-known for being the 6th president of the United States, but was also a military governor, Army commander, an attorney, and a congressman – all without ever going to college.
Marc Rich (born December 18, 1934) is an international commodities trader. He is best known for founding the commodities company Glencore. He was indicted in the United States on federal charges of illegally making oil deals with Iran during the late 1970s-early 1980s Iran hostage crisis and tax evasion. He was in Switzerland at the time of the indictment and has never returned to the U.S.
Rachel Ray hasn’t had any formal culinary training, including college, but has several cooking shows on the Food Network, a talk show on NBC, several New York Times bestselling cookbooks, and her own magazine. She got her start teaching cooking classes to customers at Cowan & Lobel, a gourmet market in Albany, New York. The classes showed customers how to cook meals in 30 minutes or less. In 2008, Forbes.com ranked Rachel Ray #76 in Celebrity 100, reporting her earnings at $18 million a year.
John D. Rockefeller Sr., a high school dropout, became the first American billionaire and is said to be the richest man in history. He founded Standard Oil, the first multinational corporation, in 1870. The Supreme Court broke up the company in 1911 stating the company had violated anti-trust law creating a monopoly.
Steven Spielberg, is a movie director and producer. Spielberg was denied acceptance to film school and dropped out of California State University in Long Beach. He co-founded DreamWorks, a major film studio that’s produced several of the highest grossing movie hits and Academy award winning films. Spielberg ranked #205 on Forbes 2009 list of world billionaires with a net worth of $3 billion. He was later granted an honorary degree by USC in 1994.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the social networking site Facebook #785 in the World’s Billionaires ranks #321 on Forbes’ list of 400 richest Americans. Born in 1984, Mark had an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion in 2008 and is the youngest person ever to appear on one of Forbes’ billionaire lists. He developed Facebook one year on summer vacation after borrowing money from Paypal’s co-founder Peter Theil. In 2008, Microsoft paid $240 million for 1.6% share of Facebook, leading us to believe the site is worth $15 billion.
But Wait! There’s More!
One thing you’ll notice is that there seem to be two types of people who make it big without going to college – those involved in the entertainment industry and those who start their own business. These college-dropouts and no-shows took risks and weren’t afraid to put their traditional plans on hold to pursue a dream. And, for them, it was a very profitable decision.