More than 70 % of billionaires are self-made billionaires across the world and this has been proven time and again by various financial surveys like Forbes’ Billionaire List-2021 or Rich List 2020 (IIFL Wealth Hurun India). Many of the world’s richest people came from humble backgrounds to become billionaires, with childhood poverty, war, and other issues driving them on to succeed.
Here are some of the wealthiest people on the planet who survived a challenging upbringing and went on to build huge billion-dollar empires. ($ 1 billion is a huge amount to earn in a lifetime, it is > ₹ 7300 Crore as of May 2021)
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Now worth $1.5 billion
Telecommunications genius and self-made billionaire Kenny Troutt has now retired but not before making a cool $1.5 billion fortune. An avid horse racing fan, Troutt owns WinStar Farm in Kentucky and is a breeder of Thoroughbreds. Troutt’s fortune also allowed him to sponsor his son’s nationally competitive basketball team for years and even provide them rides to tournaments on his private jet.
The son of a single mother who worked as a bartender, Troutt grew up in public housing in Mount Vernon, Illinois. What he lacked in funds he made up for in determination, paying his way through Southern Illinois University by selling insurance alongside studying.
In 1988 Kenny Troutt founded long-distance phone company Excel Communications and in 1996 Troutt took the company public. In 1998, Troutt sold Excel Communications to Teleglobe in a $3.5 billion deal and reinvested the profits in stocks, bonds, and horses.
Now worth $2.1 billion
David Murdock, worth $2.1 billion, is the chairman of privately-held Dole Food Products and Castle & Cooke. He owns residential and commercial properties in Arizona, California, and Hawaii and a collection of Arabian horses. The 95-year-old has also donated heavily to longevity research and vows to live until he is 125.
Murdock, who is dyslexic, dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and worked at a gas station before being drafted into the Army in 1943. After serving in World War II, Murdock found himself homeless with little more than a dollar to his name.
After borrowing $900 from a good Samaritan he bought a diner in Detroit and flipped it for a tidy profit. He used the proceeds to buy a car, drive to Arizona, and started Castle & Cooke, a real estate company that grew to include Dole Foods Co, a fresh fruit and vegetable producer.
Now worth $3.5 billion
EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 and Montpellier rugby club president Mohed Altrad is worth $3.5 billion. He heads up the Altrad Group, which provides construction and maintenance services, but his start in life was worlds apart from this. Of his past he said: “I had no special dream – only the ambition not to accept my initial destiny.”
Mohed Altrad came from humble beginnings, born an orphaned Bedouin in the Syrian desert. Raised by his grandmother, Altrad was banned from going to school, but an innate drive to learn saw him attending school anyway. He eventually won a scholarship to study in France despite speaking no French and having very little money.
In France, Altrad was poor and lived off one meal a day, yet managed to earn himself an undergraduate degree in physics and math, and a Ph.D. in computer science. In 1985, after a short spell working for a tech firm and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Altrad bought a bankrupt scaffolding manufacturer in France. With his partner, he created the world’s leading scaffolding company.
To find more about his journey, you can read the blog ‘No Well Off, Still a Self-Made Billionaire’
Now worth $2.6 billion
Media Mogul Oprah Winfrey, worth $2.6 billion, is an American media executive, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. She has a large number of A-lister friends and an impressive number of mansions. Her 65-acre Californian estate is large enough for Winfrey to run a two-mile route without leaving the property.
Winfrey overcame a tough childhood, born to a teen mother in rural Mississippi and raised without indoor plumbing. She was determined to break away, earning herself a scholarship to Tennessee State University and becoming the first African American TV correspondent in the state at just 19. Winfrey then parlayed her role as a news anchor into a 25-year talk show gig.
Winfrey’s hit talk show has transitioned into a media and business empire, including a magazine and cable channel, OWN. Her 25.5% of the network is worth about $75 million and Winfrey also owns an 8% stake in Weight Watchers, acting as their brand ambassador. Reinvested, the profits from her show add up to nearly $2 billion.
Now worth $3.1 billion
Chinese billionaire businesswoman Zhang Xin has an estimated worth of $3.1 billion and has been called the ‘woman who built Beijing’ due to her groundbreaking career in property. But nothing was handed to Xin on a plate.
Born in Beijing in 1965, during the Cultural Revolution, Xin grew up with her mother after her parents divorced when she was five. Mother and daughter moved to Hong Kong when Xin was 14 and, to make ends meet, they both got jobs as factory workers. Xin was determined to learn however and would attend evening school after work. Aged 19, Xin flew to England to learn English at a language school in Oxford. She got a job at a fish and chip shop to stay afloat.
Xin went on to study at both Sussex and Cambridge universities before landing a job at Goldman Sachs, where she worked in floating Chinese factories on the public stock exchange. In 1995, Xin and her husband founded property development company SOHO China. To date, the company has developed over 60 million square feet of land.
Now worth $10.3 billion
Instant messaging whizz Jan Koum is worth $10.3 billion. In April 2018, Koum announced his impending departure from Facebook HQ in California. However he continues to work one day a month and banks close to half a billion dollars every financial quarter, stalling until his remaining stock options vest.
When Jan Koum moved to California from Ukraine as a teen his family struggled to stay above the poverty line. Koum relied on food stamps and swept floors to make ends meet. Despite his tough upbringing, Koum worked hard at school. By the age of 18 Koum became interested in programming and enrolled at San Jose State University.
In 1997, Koum was hired by Yahoo! as an infrastructure engineer where he worked for nearly nine years before leaving aged 30 with enough cash to launch his own business. In 2009 Koum co-founded the real-time messaging app WhatsApp. The app was so successful Facebook bought it for a massive $19 billion and Koum was invited to sit on the Facebook board.
Now worth $82.1 billion
Amancio Ortega has a mammoth net worth of $82.1 billion and is one of the wealthiest person in the world. How did he do it? He co-founded Inditex, best known for its Zara fashion chain. Ortega started Zara in 1975 and saw it grow to 2,208 stores in 96 countries by 2020. But Ortega came from very humble beginnings.
Ortega was born in 1936, just before the outbreak of Spain’s Civil War, and grew up in Leon where his father was a railway worker. Artega left school at 14, moved to A Coruña, and started working as a shop hand at a local shirt maker. This is where he learnt to make clothes by hand.
Once Ortega had gained enough experience, he and his wife launched a textile manufacturing company then, later on, the Zara brand. Zara soon became very successful due to its quick turnaround of stock and stores opened all around the globe. As for Ortega, he is notoriously private, rarely gives interviews and, unlike fellow billionaires, is known for maintaining a simple lifestyle.
These self-made billionaires, show us the ways that if our desire for success is more than our fear of failure, anything is possible financially in single span of life. What about your financial condition? If it is a struggle, then better for you to take firm actions to improve it because nothing moves in life without action. Now a day unlimited growth is feasible, be it at business or at personal level.
“The real power of money is the power to give it away.” – N. R. Narayana Murthy