Many people dream of becoming independently wealthy over the course of a lifetime. Wise investors stash away their bonuses while the less prudent invest their money in risky endeavors and get-rich-quick 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 his employer 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 a court of stealing the artwork and given two-year suspended jail sentences in 2015.

In a startling turn, the higher courts in France overturned the conviction against Le Guennec and ordered a retrial due to what the court deemed to be insufficient evidence. He was found guilty again in 2019, however. Although there is controversy over the value of these works, the collection of drawings, lithographs, cubist collages, and notebooks is estimated to be worth more than $60 million.

Key Takeaways

  • Some people make it look easy to get rich by making millions virtually overnight.
  • An electrician named Pierre Le Guennec became wealthy thanks to his association with Pablo Picasso.
  • Others became millionaires through a variety of different ways: launching new products, finding oil, or by starting innovative companies like Groupon.
  • There are nearly 12 million millionaires in the United States.

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, California found some photographic prints at a garage sale for roughly $50. The flea market proved to be 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 still prefers his old truck and farm cap—a millionaire. Stohler and other farmers in North Dakota have earned millions by owning land rich with oil.

Jonathan Duhamel, Poker Player

Though his longtime dream was to be a professional hockey player, Montreal resident Jonathan Duhamel made his destiny 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 is the first Canadian to grab the title. As of April 2020, the 32-year-old poker expert is rumored to have a net worth of $32 million.

Andrew Mason, Entrepreneur

When he was a 29-year-old music major of Northwestern University, Andrew Mason became the brains behind Groupon (GRPN). 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. Still, 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 catapult from college dropout or electrician to mega-millionaire, the good news is that the number of Americans with millions under their belt is climbing. Even with economic uncertainty mounting in 2019, wealth has been rising towards pre-recession levels in the United States. According to Spectrem Group's Market Insights Report for 2019, by the end of 2018, the U.S. was home to 11.8 million millionaires.