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. (Making this dream come true takes work, but it's well worth the effort. Check out 10 Steps To Retire A Millionaire.)
IN PICTURES: How To Make Your First $1 Million

  1. Andrew Mason, Entrepreneur
    As a 29-year-old music major of Northwestern University, Andrew Mason is the brains behind the newest social media sensation, Playing off the words "coupon" and "group," the site offers daily discounts on services and products. In 2010, revenue is expected to hit an estimated $350 million. The site has been the subject of acquisition talks, as Google has reportedly offered $5.3 billion to acquire the company. Although Groupon declined the offer in favor of remaining independent, it is now reportedly considering an initial public offering (IPO), which could happen as soon as late 2011.
  2. 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 recent 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. Although there is some controversy over these works, a collection of drawings, lithographs, cubist collages and notebooks is valued at an estimated 50 million pounds.

  3. 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 Key Finders 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. For 2010, the parent company, Alexx, Inc. forecasts earnings of $6.5 million. (Many people want to start a business, but not everyone has what it takes to succeed. See Are You An Entrepreneur?)

  4. Rick Norsigian, Collector
    About 10 years ago, Rick Norsigian, a local painter in Fresno, Calif., found some photographic prints at a garage sale for roughly $50. Last summer, the flea market find became the bargain of a lifetime. Historians confirmed that the collection of glass negatives belonged to the legendary nature photographer Ansel Adams, and are worth around $200 million.

  5. Oscar Stohler, Farmer
    Rancher Oscar Stohler was skeptical about striking a fortune when drilling started on his western North Dakota farm. But a couple of years ago, the discovery of crude oil on his land made the modest farmer - who prefers his old pickup truck and farm cap - a millionaire. Before the Great Recession, Stohler and hundreds of other farmers in North Dakota earned millions by owning oil rich land.

  6. 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, the 23-year-old 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. (Observing a company's behavior can prove beneficial for the mindful investor. Know the signs before you make a reactionary move. Read Poker Face: Corporate Tells And How To Spot Them.)

IN PICTURES: 6 Millionaire Traits That You Can Adopt

The Millionaire Bounce-Back
If you are envious of these average Joes 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. As the economy recovers, wealth has been rising towards pre-recession levels in the United States. The number of millionaire households climbed 15.1% from 2008-2009, a total of 4.7 million households, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group.

Find out what happened in financial news this week. Read Water Cooler Finance: Insiders, Door Busters And Debt Contagion.

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.