Success Factors Of The Really Rich?

Is there a national (or broader) obsession with becoming wealthy? That’s what went through my mind when I saw two special-edition magazines by major publishers on the news stand within a few weeks of each other—with both devoting an entire issue to the world’s wealthiest people. And they both implicitly or expressly promise to reveal how to repeat those people’s success.

Of course, I’m the dummy who went and bought them both.

The U.S. News special edition is titled, “Secrets of the Super Rich,” is labeled a “Collector’s Edition,” and describes one of its articles inside as, “7 Keys to Making a Fortune.” The Forbes special edition is titled, “Lives Of The Very Rich.” And interestingly enough, despite the titles and marketing, one of the tips or “secrets” revealed is: it shouldn’t all be about the money.

Anyway, I’m not harboring any delusions of grandeur or turning a $10 magazine investment into billions. But I did think it’d be interesting to see if there were personal-finance lessons that could be learned that could be applied more broadly.

The U.S. News magazine enumerates seven “secrets of the super rich,” promising to answer “How did so many millionaires accumulate so much money?” Here they are in list form (and the article includes about ½ a page to a page on each of them):

1. Perseverance Beats Education
2. Make Your Own Luck
3. Gamble, But Wisely
4. Know Your Market… Intimately
5. Focus Obsessively, And Work, Work, Work
6. Timing Is Everything
7. It’s Not Just (Or Even Mostly) About The Money

The Forbes magazine does not break it out as “secrets” or “keys” to becoming rich; but it does examine five areas—education, risk, luck, winning, and blue-collar—in successive articles. The article titles give a sense of what they discuss:

Does Education Matter?
That Gambling Instinct
Lucky To Be Me
Winning Is Everything
The Blue-Collar Billionaire

Pretty similar, huh? From my read, the two magazines both agree on the following:

  • No one’s saying education doesn’t matter, but there are probably more important factors in achieving wealth (or your own personal-finance goals). Examples given were drive, ambition, and passion.
  • The world’s wealthiest seem to have inclinations toward risk-taking—but it might not be as high as you’d imagine. The ability to calculate risk (including in relation to their ability to weather the negative outcome) and the ability to limit downside were cited as quite important. The difference in mindset seemed to be identifying opportunities in risk—rather than unduly focusing on or worrying about the risk.

Though both magazines discussed luck, they took different angles. One talked about billionaires shrugging their shoulders and attributing some significant part of their success to luck. The other talked about people making their own luck and certain of the “super rich” stating they didn’t consider themselves lucky.

As I get deeper into the two magazines, I may come back and expand on some of the other points. In the meantime, I am already pretty interested in the two commonalities between the magazines: education and risk. In particular, I know that I’ve often generalized many of the world’s wealthiest as folks who took fairly extreme risks that paid off. The descriptions of how careful some of them are in evaluating risk and limiting downside is changing my knee-jerk viewpoint—of the “super rich” and of risk.

But I think I’d better still go to work today.


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