Money & Power

5 Money Management Lessons From Billionaires We Can All Profit From

There is hope for us yet to someday breathe their rarefied air.
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From Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index to Forbes’ The World’s Billionaires, it’s clear more and more men and women around the world are joining the Three Comma Club. This year, Forbes reported that a new record was set with 2,208 billionaires from 72 countries and territories, including 12 from the Philippines and the first-ever billionaires from Hungary and Zimbabwe.

Interestingly, Forbes’ list features 259 newcomers who made their fortune in everything from wedding dresses to children’s toys to electric cars.

So when you gain commas and zeroes in your personal net worth, does that automatically mean you are smart with money? Not really, as the 121 who dropped off this year’s Forbes list due to falling fortunes can attest. 

But there are those on the list whose fortunes have continued to grow over the years. They've generously doled out business and money advice so simple that maybe, just maybe, there is hope for us to someday breathe their rarefied air.

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1. Invest in Education.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates revolutionized the world by putting a computer on every desk, changing the lives of office workers and students across the globe, even if he himself was not a good student, and never finished college.

So it comes as a surprise that when the Harvard University dropout was asked during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session in 2014, “What is your best personal financial advice for people who make under $100,000 a year?”, Gates said: “Invest in your education.” 

While he did not get to graduate with his class, Gates has fond memories of his alma mater. In 2007, he was invited to deliver a speech to the Harvard graduating class. In his  commencement address, Gates shared:  “What I remember above all about Harvard was being in the midst of so much energy and intelligence. It could be exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes even discouraging, but always challenging. It was an amazing privilege — and though I left early, I was transformed by my years at Harvard, the friendships I made, and the ideas I worked on.”

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2. Live below your means.

Jim Koch left a high-paying job in 1984 to start brewing beer in his kitchen. He invested $2 million of his own money and lost it all. But he did not give up on his passion and, 30 years later, has built a billion-dollar craft beer empire. Not bad for a guy who started with just one employee.

Admittedly, beer-making is in his blood.  Koch comes from a long line of brewers, and the original Sam Adams beer formula was from his great-grandfather’s old recipes.

Pushing 70, Koch told Reuters.com he’s not necessarily a good investor but he is a good brewer so he just keeps his wealth in the company he co-founded, the Boston Beer Company.  As for his lifestyle, not much has changed since he switched from millionaire to billionaire in 2014.

“I have everything I need: I have a house, I drive a four-year-old Ford, my wife has a 10-year-old Honda pickup. My kids went to public schools. I don’t have a private jet or anything like that. A good definition of wealth comes from Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog: He says being wealthy means living below your means. I have always liked that,” Koch said back in 2016. 

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3. Invest and Reinvest in Your Business

When Koch talks about keeping his money with Boston Beer Company, we can imagine Mexican businessman and philanthropist Carlos Slim Helu nodding in agreement.

Slim was the richest person in the world from 2010 to 2013 and now ranks 6th with a net worth of $60.8 billion. In an interview with Forbes, Slim credited his father, Julián Slim Haddad, for his fiscal discipline.

He recalled that every Sunday, his father would give him an allowance of five pesos and he has to write down all of his expenses in a savings book. They would sit down and together review all the entries, analyzing the younger Slim’s expenses, purchases and activities.

This made such an impression on the younger Slim that he opened a checking account when he was only 10, and started investing in government bonds two years later. According to Fortune, Slim still keeps some of his childhood savings books on a shelf in his office.

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The younger Slim has received a wealth of money advice from his father and he shared one tip in particular: "I learned from my father that you continue to invest and reinvest in your businesses, including during crises.”

4. With great wealth comes great responsibility.

Probably one of the best things that ever happened to Michael Bloomberg was being fired from investment firm Salomon Brothers. Out of work at age 39, he began a start-up company and called it Innovative Market Systems. 

Bloomberg told The New York Times that if he hadn't been fired, "I wouldn't have… used my electrical engineering degree to begin my own information technology company and program a computer terminal for bond traders."

That company is now called Bloomberg L.P. and is valued at about $54 billion. It has since expanded into the media business, and from one office in New York, it now has a footprint of more than 100 offices worldwide. 

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Bloomberg continues to reinvent himself – he served as mayor of New York City for three terms and has also turned his attention to philanthropy. He's part of The Giving Pledge founded by Bill Gates and wife Melinda, along with another billionaire Warren Buffett, where all members pledge to give away at least half of their wealth. 

Bloomberg's daughter Georgina shared money lessons she learned on her father’s knee.  “My parents always instilled in us that we had to appreciate what we had, yet understand that with that comes a duty to give back to others. You are given things in life for a reason.” 

5. Find your calling to hit the jackpot.

Jeff Bezos left his career as a hedge fund manager to launch the online shopping site Amazon.com from his home garage. 

In an interview with Business Insider’s Mathias Döpfner, Bezos shared the genius behind his start-up decision. “I picked books because there were more items in the book category than in any other category. There were three million in 1994 when I was pulling this idea together — three million different books active in print at any given time. The largest physical bookstores only had about 150,000 different titles. And so I could see how you could make a bookstore online with a universal selection. Every book ever printed, even the out-of-print ones, was the original vision for the company.”

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That simple idea landed Bezos on the billionaires’ list as early as 1999 but this year he made it all the way to the top and is the only one with a 12-figure net worth. The world’s richest man made an average of $107 million a day in 2017.

The career advice Bezos gives his interns, young employees, and his four children can clue you in: "You can have a job, or you can have a career, or you can have a calling," reported CNBC.com. "And if you can somehow figure out how to have a calling, you have hit the jackpot, cause that's the big deal."

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Aneth Ng-Lim
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