COMMENTARY: Who wants to be a billionaire? Count me in
I finally read some good news. It turns out there are 155 more billionaires in the world. That’s cause for celebration. Why?
Because ever since I got my first paycheck from Iannucci & Son Mason Contractors, back when the minimum wage was $1.60, I’ve been told that a rising tide lifts all boats.
For those of you who don’t have a degree in nautical safety, finance or political chicanery, that means if Sheik Abdul Vespucci makes more money from his oil wells, so will Oscar Lopez, who works at the McDonald’s drive-through because, so the theory goes, billionaires share.
Or maybe it’s that billionaires care. And when you consider that 85 of the world’s richest people have as much as the poorest 50% of humanity, they’d better start sharing faster because there are many boats to lift.
New York City and Moscow
A list compiled by the Billionaire Census of Wealth-X and UBS shows the population of billionaires rose 7%, to 2,325. The average tycoon is a self-made man (there are only 286 women on the list), 63 years old, and married with two kids. The largest concentration of billionaires —103 — lives in New York City, second only to Moscow.
This makes me wonder: Why am I not on this list? I work in New York City. I’m over 40. I’m married with four kids, which means to say I should be a billionaire twice over.
There are virtual youngsters on this list: Elizabeth Holmes, 30, net worth $4.5 billion, started a blood-testing company. Sean Parker, 34, net worth $3 billion, began Napster. Scott Duncan, 31, net worth $7 billion, inherited a fortune from his dad, who owned an energy pipeline company.
Why didn’t my father, who was a carpenter, leave me a few billion? Why didn’t he follow the example of Beverly Hillbilly Jed Clampett and build our house on a deposit of bubbling crude, black gold, Texas tea?
Why didn’t he invent the microchip? For that matter, why didn’t I invent the microchip?
Billionaire training program
Just as I was getting depressed because my name isn’t Michael Bloomberg, I found a story about how to become “uber-rich,” which means there’s still hope. I could become a billionaire in five easy lessons, but I’d have to enroll in the billionaire training program.
The story cited Warren Buffett’s advice on how to “turn $40 into $10 million.” It was Buffett, the No. 2 billionaire in America, who famously noted that if you invested $40 in Coca-Cola in 1919, when it was first publicly traded, you’d have mucho dinero today — almost $10 million.
Unfortunately, I don’t have 95 years to sit on a $40 investment, so that idea is out the window.
Then I read a column from Inc.com about the habits of billionaires. It said they’re ordinary people like you and me and the Kardashians.
Mark Zuckerberg, for example, drives a Volkswagen. Do billionaires wash their own underwear? Do they shine their own shoes? Do they step into their pants one leg at a time, or two? I need answers.
Learn from their mistakes
When billionaires fail, the article said, they learn from their mistakes, sort of like Alex Rodriguez. They’re health-conscious, they’re frugal, and they “swim against the tide,” which presents a problem because I have trouble even swimming with the tide.
Plus I hate being frugal, so there’s no way I can save my way into billionairehood.
I’ve had my share of failures, but they haven’t made me rich. However, I eat Greek yogurt, drink green tea and recently bought a Vitamix, which probably costs as much as Zuckerberg’s Volkswagen.
Praying for good luck
After a lot of research and soul-searching, I concluded it’s my destiny to become a billionaire, so I’ve developed a plan. I’m going to take Warren Buffett’s advice and invest $40 a week in … Powerball tickets.
I’ll also pray a lot and promise to give a hefty portion of my winnings to the appropriate charities, because when I become a billionaire, I want to do good, so I’m sure God will look favorably on my petition and then rig the lottery for me to win, not once, but several times.
Watch your back, Bill Gates. I’m coming.
Joe Pisani, who grew up in Shelton’s Pine Rock neighorhood, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.