Seven Characteristics of Incredibly Rich People

According to Forbes magazine’s latest tally of the world’s richest people, there are 465 billionaires in the world. That’s 18 more billionaires than Forbes found two years ago. The world’s top seven “working rich” billionaires (i.e., people who either earned or contributed to their wealth) all live in the United States. This suggests that if, like Chatterbox, you are lucky enough to live in the United States, sooner or later, you too may become a billionaire! Here are a few ways to prepare:

Become an info-age tycoon. OK, this one’s a little obvious. For what it’s worth, though, five of the Magnificent Seven made their money from information technology, including Microsoft chairman Bill Gates (still capo di tutti capi at $90 billion) and Michael Dell ($16.5 billion). Three of the five info-tech fortunes were made at Microsoft, publisher of Slate.

Be in your forties. Chatterbox’s mental picture of a billionaire is someone who’s at least 70, maybe 80 years old. Must be all those pictures of John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan that cropped up in magazines a few months ago when major biographies of them were published. In fact, though, Warren Buffett ($36 billion) is the Methuselah of Forbes’ Magnificent Seven at 68. The baby of the Seven, Dell, is 34. The mean age of the Seven is 49, so if you’re older than that you should probably forget about ever becoming a billionaire.

Be a man. Sorry, still no girls allowed. Maybe next year.

Don’t go to business school. Among the Magnificent Seven, only Microsoft president Steve Ballmer ($19.5 billion) has an M.B.A. (from Stanford). The only other person who went to grad school at all is S. Robson Walton ($15.8 billion), a graduate of Columbia Law School, but his being a billionaire probably has more to do with being related to Sam Walton. Three of the Magnificent Seven–Gates, Paul Allen ($30 billion), and Dell–didn’t even graduate from college.

[Correction, 6/21: Whoops, Warren Buffett has a master’s degree from Columbia. If you must go to graduate school, make it Columbia.]

[Correction, 6/22: Double whooops. Ballmer attended Stanford business school, but he didn’t graduate. This further underscores Chatterbox’s point that having an M.B.A. gets in the way of becoming a billionaire.]

Don’t have lots of children. Chatterbox used to think people who had more than two children were showing off how loaded they were. Now he’ll have to rethink that. The average number of children sired by the Magnificent Seven is a comparatively modest 2.6. Allen, who is single, has no kids. S. Robson Walton, the most fruitful of the Seven, has five.

Live west of the Mississippi. They all do.

Have a surname the comes near the beginning of the alphabet. All but Walton have last names that begin with the first seven letters of the alphabet.