10 Billionaires Before They Were Rich

These days, the world’s richest drive around in their fast cars, take endless vacations on their private islands and live in crazy expensive mansions. But the road to riches isn’t always straightforward. Our most wealthy celebrities have been college dropouts. McDonald’s fry cooks, newspaper delivery boys and, oh yeah, even drug dealers. For some, success was destined at a young age, while others took a heck of a lot of work.

Elon Musk

Let’s kick things off with Tesla CEO and a certified genius, Elon Musk. The guy sports a net worth approaching 24 billion dollars. It was clear from an early age that Musk was destined for great things. At just 9 years old when most of us were climbing trees, Elon was teaching himself the basics of computer programing.

Oh, and he also reportedly read the entire Encyclopedia for tech at the age of nine. As you do, amazingly, when he was just 12, he built his very own space thing, computer game. It’s called Blaster and you can actually still play it today. But it wasn’t always easy for young Elon. First, he moved to Canada to attend Queen’s University.

Then he went to the University of Pennsylvania and then to Stanford. Well, technically, he was only there for two days, but it still counts. He’d dealt with years and years of bullying. Elon may have been insanely smart, but he was also very small and skinny, making him a perfect target. And sadly, it wasn’t just name calling and spitballs.

Elon ended up needing cosmetic surgery to repair a broken nose after bullies threw him down the stairs and ran away. We bet he is laughing in the faces of those bullies now, though.

Jeff Bezos.

Next up, the richest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos. These days, Jeff is worth close to 110 billion dollars. And that’s after a $36 billion dollar divorce settlement, by the way. Yeah, he owns 75 percent of Amazon, a company that accounts for more than 40 percent of products sold online in America every single year.

But he is also the father of 41 other moneymakers, including Whole Foods, Good Reads and IMDb, all subsidiaries of Amazon. So it’s pretty easy to see where the money is coming from. But before Jeff took the online world by storm, he led a very different life. His first job, like many of us, was actually at McDonald’s.

He was a fry cook. While most shudder at the thought of slaving away at a fast food chain, Bezos absolutely loved it. In fact, he became obsessed with the automation systems, even spending part of his summer vacation studying them. From there, after graduating first in his class, he headed up to Princeton to study a bachelor of science, specializing in electrical engineering and computer science.

And unlike a few others, Mark Zuckerberg, excuse me, Bill Gates. Jeff actually completed college. Huge tech companies like Intel tried headhunting, Jeff, but he went down a different path, joining a startup called Fitel where he built an online network to trade goods internationally. Alright, so we’re starting to see the Amazon connection, right?

Then following a number of jobs, including roles in a Wall Street hedge fund, Jeff jetted across the country to Seattle to live in his parents garage and save up all the money that he could. He invested it all back in Amazon and, well, the rest is history.

Bill Gates

When Bezos gave $36 billion to his now ex wife, Mackenzie, there was one guy, one computer genius who overtook his position as the world’s richest man. Any guesses who? Yeah, obviously, it’s Bill Gates. Despite stepping down from his tech baby in 2008 and giving away huge sums of money to charity, the Microsoft founders still has a bank balance larger than we could ever imagine.

Sure, he might be worth close to one hundred and ten billion dollars with luxury cars and houses out the wazoo. But Gates also comes from humble beginnings. During high school, Gates love for tech was already clear. His first job was as a computer programmer for TRW during a senior year. But he also used his skills to get up to just a bit of mischief.

With the help of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, teenage Bill hacked into the school’s computer system and placed himself in classes where he would be the only guy in an effort to meet some ladies. It might be hard to fathom, but our beloved, nerdy high school dropout philanthropist was arrested twice in the 70s and all with a creepy smiley mug shot to prove it.

Mark Zuckerberg

Speaking of dropping out of Harvard, say hello to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Ironically, Zuckerberg almost ended up working for Bill Gates. You see, when he was a senior in high school, Marco created an app called Synapse Media Player, essentially was an early version of Spotify. Microsoft wanted to buy the company but Zuckerberg and his partner decided to go get a patent and go to college instead.

Can you imagine a world where Gates and Zuckerberg joined forces? Good lord. Growing up, Zuckerberg was always a bit of an oddball. He had a Star Wars themed bar mitzvah and always had a love for ancient Latin. He wasn’t always a master coder, though. He actually first learned to code by reading a C++ for Dummies book.

Back then, Mark was pretty frugal and not much has really changed now that he’s worth 74 billion dollars. Sure, he has a few fancy gizmos here and there, like an A.I. butler programed with Morgan Freeman’s voice, but he’s still found all of his apartments on, get this, Craigslist.

Oprah Winfrey.

Let’s move away from the tax base for a minutes and none other than a media powerhouse, Oprah Winfrey. Nowadays we look at Oprah and see a symbol of female empowerment. With a net worth of $2.6 billion, she can afford to fly in private jets, give away cars for free, and change the lives of countless guests on her show.

It’s all the more impressive when you consider that she had to overcome a number of hurdles when coming up. Poverty, abuse, an unstable family and obviously race and gender issues. Despite the challenges, Oprah’s gift for gab was on display from day one. She was even nicknamed the preacher at church for her ability to captivate audiences when she recited Bible verses.

While she progressed up through the media ranks like lightning, becoming the youngest and first female African-American talk show host at Nashville’s WLAC TV. Her first job was nothing more than a stock standard grocery store gig. Who would have thought that a chatty Southern girl would wind up as the most famous TV show host of all time? Sorry Ellen.

George Lucas

From TV over to film. It’s time for Mr. Star Wars himself, George Lucas. Before the Hollywood icon revolutionized the sci fi genre on his way to collecting 6.4 billion dollars, he had another passion, any guesses? No, it’s not astrology. It’s car racing. The Indiana Jones mastermind actually spent most of his high school years drifting around the underground circuits near his hometown of Modesto, California.

And when he wasn’t racing, he was hanging out in garages, comparing other souped up rides to his Custom Autobianchi Bianchina. Not too long before George Lucas was supposed to graduate high school in 1962, he was in a near-fatal car accident. His beloved Bianchina flipped and flipped and flipped again, coming to an end by crashing into a tree.

In hindsight, the fact that Lucas’s seat belt snapped and ejected him from the car actually saved his life. Had he not gone through that terrifying scare, he wouldn’t have pursued other interests. He wouldn’t have gone to film school at USC, taken an apprenticeship with Francis Ford Coppola. And we may never have met Luke Skywalker.

Kylie Jenner

You’ll undoubtedly have heard of the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, Kylie Jenner. At the heart of one of pop culture’s most famous families, the 22 year old has always been the center of attention, and she’s used that constant spotlight to her advantage, promoting her very own makeup brand, Kylie Cosmetics, to her millions of online followers.

Long before she was filthy rich, though, she was still famous. Appearing as a 10 year old on the hit reality TV show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. With her sister Kendall dominating catwalks, Kylie tried to go down the modeling path, too. It wasn’t her true calling, though. Neither was writing, even though she actually published a book called Rebels, City of Indra.

In the end, her beckoning talent was indeed makeup and a little bit of marketing.


Following suit is Shawn Corey Carter, or as we all know and love him, Jay-Z. The music and rap legend has a wallet stuffed with a billion smackaroonies, making him hip hop’s first ever billionaire. With his partner in crime, Beyonce raking in the millions as well, they’re easily one of entertainment’s most powerful couples.

Jay-Z’s cash hasn’t only come from music, though. He’s invested in his own clothing line, his own sports bar chain, and Tidal, the third most popular streaming service that nobody’s ever heard of. Long before that, however, he struggled through a tough childhood. After his father fled, Shawn and his siblings were raised by a single mother.

And it wasn’t the happiest of households by any means, either. At 12 years old Jay-Z did actually shoot his older brother for stealing his ring. Despite selling illegal substances for 14 years, getting involved with a gang and dropping out of Trend Central High School, Jay was able to eventually turn it all around and build the incredibly successful music empire that we relish in today.

Warren Buffett

Our next big shot had his first job as a meager newspaper delivery boy. Fast forward to today and he boasts a startling bank balance of close to eighty nine billion dollars. Who are we rambling on about? He’s one of the most successful investors in the world, Warren Buffett. Long before Buffett was killing it on Wall Street, he’d already established himself as a business savvy young man.

At just 6 years old he had already begun his first schoolyard business scheme, selling sticks of gum around the neighborhood, selling packets of five for a nickel. When he turned 13, he was delivering papers on his bike. He was waking up at 4:30 every day so that he could save up some cash. What was remarkable was he was even claiming his pushbike as a tax expense.

Seriously, what kind of kid thinks of tax returns? By 15, he had scrounged together over to grand, 1200 of which he invested in a Nebraskan farm. In exchange for his investment, Warren would get a cut of the farm’s profits. From thereonhe’d sell stamps to collectors, search for discarded winning tickets at the horse racing track, buy and sell tennis balls for a profit, and start his very own pinball machine business.

With a business mind unlike anyone else in his generation, it’s no surprise that Warren took the investing world by storm.

Bernard Arnolt.

But there is a man far richer than Warren Buffett. He’s currently sitting third on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people and yet most of you didn’t even recognize that name. It’s Bernard Arnolts, and for a fleeting moment in December of 2019, he overtook Gates and Bezos to top Forbes list of real time billionaires. So who is this guy anyway?

Well, Bernard is the brains behind luxury goods maker LVMH. You might not know the acronym, but the subsidiary brands will definitely ring a bell. We’re talking Louis Vuitton, Belvedere vodka, Bulgari, Marc Jacobs, Sephora and even Fenty Beauty by Rihanna. With names like those under his belt, the 109.8 billion dollar value starts to make a little more sense.

Before the French billionaire became the richest person in fashion. He was actually twisting his way through the world of construction, following in his father’s footsteps by joining dad’s construction company. At least he was putting his engineering degree to good use. Back then, before the LVMH days, he spent a lot of his time playing the piano and obsessing over tennis.

Would you believe that Bernard was gifted the chance to play a set against his idol, Roger Federer? As you can imagine, he was obliterated, 6-0. Hell, that’s still really cool. What’s it like growing up when you have one of these billionaires as your mom or your dad?

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