As of March 2010, the world had 937 billionaires to its credit, according to Forbes. That's a pretty small club, and you have to imagine that these 937 people would have a few things in common - besides their wealth, that is. In fact, they do. There's a lot of "new money" among billionaires, and many of them have similar habits that helped them amass their fortunes. Even if your personal fortune is miles away from the billion (or even million) dollar mark, trying these habits on for size could provide a boost to your bottom line.
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Seven of the Top 10 billionaires from Forbes' 2010 list are self-made. This club of clever elites, includes Bill Gates (net worth, $53 billion), who started the Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) company in 1975 while still in his junior year in college at Harvard University.
Gates may have been in the right place at the right time in terms of developing computer software, but he also made the decision to strike right away, rather waiting even to graduate. His timing and hard-driving pursuit of success in his business helped plant the seed for what would become one of the world's largest and most successful companies. (For more on this company, read Microsoft: By The Numbers.)
You might assume that a billionaire's drive stems from the for a luxurious lifestyle. However, some of the world's richest people ascended to their positions thanks to their ability to watch the bottom line.
Take Warren Buffett, for example. His $47 billion fortune put him at No.3 on Forbes' 2010 list of billionaires, but this ultra-rich investor investor's success can be partly credited to his frugal lifestyle. From a very young age, Buffett was making and investing his money. By the time he was 26 years old, he had already made and saved the modern-day equivalent of more than $1 million. This allowed him to start his own investment partnership, which eventually allowed him to invest in and take control of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A). And the rest, as they say, is history! (For related reading, see 5 Billionaires Who Live Below Their Means.)
Most billionaires have a vision of what they think the world will be like in the future - and how they can capitalize on it. Take Sergey Brin and Larry Page, cofounders of Google (NYSE:GOOG). They (fittingly) tied for 24th place on the Forbes' 2010 billionaire list, with $17.5 billion each to their names. This pair saw the possibilities for the internet as a tool for opening up the world of information to people, so they started a company, Google, based on a superior search engine that would help this vision become a reality.
Launched in 1998, the company has since become the world's most popular search engine and has radically expanded the internet's scope; the cofounders' wealth has expanded right along with it. (Find out where Google's been headed lately, in Google Takes Aim At Microsoft.)
One thing virtually all billionaires have in common is that they are willing to take a leap of faith in their pursuit of success. For some billionaires such as Bill Gates or Lawrence Ellison (software giant Oracle (Nasdaq:ORCL) founder), this might be dropping out of college to pursue a business opportunity. But some billionaires have been known to push the stakes even higher - like George Soros (net worth $14 billion).
This renowned investor and hedge fund manager is known as the man who "broke" the Bank of England by making a multibillion-dollar bet that the British pound would decline in value. It did, earning Soros more than $1 billion in a single day. (To read more about Soros, see George Soros: The Philosophy Of An Elite Investor and Stocks Soros Is Holding.)
Not only do billionaires tend to be able to pounce when the moment's right, they also make patience a habit. After all, sometimes it takes a while for a good idea to pay off.
Ever heard of Amazon.com (Nasdaq:AMZN)? It was founded by former Wall Street executive Jeff Bezos in 1994. The now-major company started in Bezos' garage, with only a few employees. Bezos is now the CEO of the largest online retailer in the U.S., with a net worth of $12.3 billion in 2010. However, it took seven years before the company turned a profit, which it eventually did in fourth quarter of 2001. It was a major coup after the dotcom crash, which left many wondering whether an online business model was viable at all. Bezos believed it to be so, and persevered until the world was ready to embrace online shopping.
The Bottom Line
No one said that creating a billion-dollar fortune was easy. In fact, many of the world's billionaires share key qualities such as vision, patience and an incredible fortitude in the face of risk. Luckily, these billionaire habits are tools that are available to everyone, free of charge, and could help you move take a few more steps up your own wealth ladder.
Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: Who Is The Next Buffett?