I Wanna Be A Billionaire

One of the advantages of children is that they keep you plugged into pop music.  Hence, I’ve had the lyrics of Travie McCoy’s song Billionaire drilled into my head over the past several weeks.

I wanna be a billionaire, so freaking bad
Buy all of the things I never had
I wanna be on the cover of Forbes Magazine
Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen

As it turns out, Forbes thinks there 937 billionaires in the world, so if Travie’s wish ends up granted, he’ll be in the top 0.000014% of the population.  With this as context, it did come as a surprise the other day when I stumbled into an advertising supplement in the August 30, 2010 issue of Forbes Magazine entitled So You Want To Be A Billionaire, sponsored by a wealth advisor named Hannah Grove.  Part of the supplement’s pitch is to buy a book written by Grove’s partner Russ Alan Price, entitled The Family Office:  Advising the Financial Elite, which fetches $150/copy.

While I doubt that any of the information presented is scientific — and I’ve not spent the $150 to find out — most of the time books like these seek to identify supposed patterns that separate the ultra-rich from the regular riff-raff one encounters day-to-day.  Since they’re not scientific, the patterns are typically someone’s perception as to how the ultra-rich are different, other than the obvious “they seem to have a lot more money.”

Here are seven rules presented in the Forbes supplement.  I don’t believe for a second that anyone is likely to place themselves in the top 0.000014% by following them, but I think seeing the perception an advisor to the ultra-rich (who, mind you, probably isn’t in that club himself) is interesting if not useful.  The table aims to differentiate working professionals and the ultra-rich along several dimensions.

Commitment

  • Professional:  Seek work/life balance, where money is only one piece of the equation
  • Super-Rich:  Creating wealth is regularly the top priority and overarching motivation

Self-Interest

  • Professional:  Looking to make everyone “happy” or get a fair deal
  • Super-Rich:  Making sure they are winners, strategically or financially, in every meaningful situation

Line of Money

  • Professional:  Believe if they do what they love, the money will follow
  • Super-Rich:  Pursue only those activities that have significant probability of generating above-average financial returns

Connections

  • Professional:  Network with a lot of people for social, cultural, and business purposes
  • Super-Rich:  Build strong relationships with a handful of strategically valuable people

Payouts

  • Professional:  Create rapport and look to help others
  • Super-Rich:  Ensure each party is duly compensated for his or her contribution

Failure

  • Professional:  Failure is a major obstacle that can cause setbacks, reassessments, and new directions
  • Super-Rich:  Failure is a learning experience and motivator.  (As in, the people you fire for failing will most surely learn from it :-))

Centered

  • Professional:  Concentrate on overcoming weaknesses and becoming a well-rounded person
  • Super-Rich:  Concentrate on their strengths and delegate everything else

In some ways the list is interesting — e.g., the attitude towards failure is in my opinion healthy, though I believe that most entrepreneurial people have it.  Sometimes it’s almost tautological:  saying the ultra-rich focus self-interest on making money is like saying champion athletes are focused on winning.  Yes, that’s true:  if you meet 10 professional athletes you will find they are very competitive people; so, however, were the 10,000 they beat out over the years on their fight to the top.  That is, competitiveness was an enabling, not a differentiating trait.

Anyway, if you like this kind of information, a free teaser download is here and the full $150 book is here.

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