Many people dream of becoming independently wealthy over the course of a lifetime. The wise stash away their bonuses while the less prudent invest their money in risky endeavors and internet scams. Then there are those lucky few who make it look easy by turning pocket change into millions of dollars in no time at all. Here are the whirlwind stories of six regular people who have realized the worth of their business, idea, or property virtually overnight.
Pierre Le Guennec, Electrician
For Pierre Le Guennec, a retired French electrician, it was who he worked for that landed him an instant mega-millionaire. According to media reports, while Le Guennec was employed by Pablo Picasso in the early 1970s, the artist gave him 271 previously unknown pieces over the course of his employment. In fact, he and his wife were convicted in court of stealing the artwork and given two-year suspended jail sentences in 2015. In a startling turn, France’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial due to what the court deemed "insufficient evidence." Although there is controversy over these works, a collection of drawings, lithographs, cubist collages, and notebooks is valued at an estimated 50 million pounds.
Sandy Stein, Inventor
At 52, airline stewardess Sandy Stein invented accessorized key clasps to help women avoid losing their keys in their purse. She called the product Finders Key Purse. Within four months of launching the product, Stein's company reached $1 million in sales and at the eight-month mark, over one million units were sold. As of 2018, the company has sold 11 million Finders Key Purses and is worth approximately $25 million.
Rick Norsigian, Collector
Almost 20 years ago, Rick Norsigian, a local painter in Fresno, Calif., found some photographic prints at a garage sale for roughly $50. The flea market find became the bargain of a lifetime and after rounds of investigations into the findings by experts, historians confirmed that the collection of glass negatives belonged to the legendary nature photographer Ansel Adams. The prints are worth around $200 million.
Oscar Stohler, Farmer
Rancher Oscar Stohler was skeptical about striking a fortune when drilling started on his western North Dakota farm. But in 2008, the discovery of crude oil on his land made the modest farmer—who prefers his old pickup truck and farm cap—a millionaire. Stohler and other farmers in North Dakota have earned millions by owning oil-rich land.
Jonathan Duhamel, Poker Player
Though his longtime dream was to be an all-star hockey player in the NHL, Montreal resident Jonathan Duhamel sought to try his luck and made his destiny of making millions playing poker. On November 8, 2010, Duhamel won $9 million in prize money for winning the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. On top of winning poker's biggest tournament, he's the first Canadian ever to grab the title. As of January 2018, the 32-year-old poker expert is rumored to have a net worth of $32 million, according to celebritynetworth.com.
Andrew Mason, Entrepreneur
When he was a 29-year-old music major of Northwestern University, Andrew Mason became the brains behind the Groupon.com. Playing off the words "coupon" and "group," the site offers daily discounts on services and products. In 2010, revenue hit an estimated $350 million but since then the company has been on the decline. The former CEO of Groupon, Mason lost millions when he took his company public. As of 2017, his net worth hovers around $200 million, according to Forbes magazine.
The Bottom Line
If you are envious of these average Joes and Janes who catapulted from college dropout or electrician to mega-millionaire, the good news is the number of Americans with millions under their belt is climbing. Even with 2019's rocky economic start, wealth has been rising towards pre-recession levels in the United States. According to Spectrem Group's Market Insights Report for 2017, by the end of 2016, the U.S. was home to 10.8 million millionaires.