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talljasperman's avatar

How many people have gone from rags-to riches in the U.S.A and Canada?

Asked by talljasperman (21820points) April 29th, 2010

Is it possible today for someone with only a middle class High-school background to become a billionaire legally? Has anyone done it… if so then who and how?

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27 Answers

frdelrosario's avatar

Americans will embrace a fad with shocking quickness and disregard for money — inventing Pet Rocks or imagining ‘birth certificates’ for toys (Cabbage Patch Kids, Build-A-Bears) didn’t take great education.

talljasperman's avatar

@frdelrosario is their anything that contributes to society?

frdelrosario's avatar

Contributing to society is something for poor people to do, like teaching elementary school.

talljasperman's avatar

I just googled how to become a billionaire without education and Oprah’s name came up…she contributes and she’s worth $2.5 billion

frdelrosario's avatar

Two other ways to make a fortune without much education are professional athletics and writing mass market fiction.

talljasperman's avatar

@frdelrosario fiction sounds good…the athletics might be too late for me some people…

LuckyGuy's avatar

One of my college roommates came from a destitute background. A house in the country with no indoor plumbing, wood heat, broken windows. A teacher in high school saw something in him and helped. He got good grades, got into college on a scholarship and did well. He is a very successful architect now. Not a billionaire but a millionaire a few times over.

anartist's avatar

@talljasperman writing fiction is not as easy as it sounds. How is your command of the English language, as a narrator and/or as a unique character with idiomatic speech?

mattbrowne's avatar

Far less than 1% – it’s no excuse for not wanting to go to college.

laureth's avatar

People will tell you that in America, anyone can get to be fabulously wealthy just by hard work and determination. It’s the American myth, that the streets are lined with gold. And while I will catch flack for saying it isn’t true, I submit: why is everyone here not Bill Gates? Because we just don’t want to work? No, you also have to be fabulously lucky at just the right time to get to that top echelon. The odds are against any of us doing it, but it’s happened for just enough of a handful of people that it keeps people believing that anyone, just anyone, can be Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates.

wilma's avatar

I suppose the billionaires are few and far between, but like @worriedguy , I know several people who have gone from nothing, like he said, no plumbing, fishing in the creek, and digging up cattails for food. to being very comfortable financially. All of the folks that I know who are like this, use their wealth to help other young people pull themselves out of poverty.

janbb's avatar

Someone I know came as an immigrant in 1980 in his 20s, built up a business here and retired before he ws 50! It can still happen.

YARNLADY's avatar

Of course, it can happen, and there are literally millions of people who have done it. Just research any famous person you want, and find out for yourself. However, there are millions more who completed college and went on to become top earners in their field.

@mattbrowne Is that 1% of everybody, or 1% of the rich people?

mattbrowne's avatar

@YARNLADY – There are not millions who have done it. It is a myth. At most 100,000 over the past 150 years really getting very rich starting out as poor folks. Probably the number is much lower.

I meant less than 1% of everybody who has gone from rags to riches, i.e. kids without wealthy backgrounds or kids without college degrees getting very rich.

Bill Gates family was upper middle class for example. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT. He did not finish Harvard College. So he might somewhat qualify as having gone from rags to riches. But then take Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Solid academic education. Without it Google would not have been possible.

talljasperman's avatar

@anartist good enough to get me in trouble, and out of it if need be….to tell more in public would be tasteless

YARNLADY's avatar

@mattbrowne It sounds like you are limiting yourself to today’s list. I am referring to all rich people across the past 200 years

mattbrowne's avatar

@YARNLADY – The message we should send to our young people is get a good education, study hard and work hard. It’s the best way to be financially secure. Washing dishes is not the best first job on this mythical road to becoming a millionaire. Except as a part time job for a student who knows that studying always has priority.

YARNLADY's avatar

@mattbrowne I thought Fluther was about answering the OP, not sending messages ~

mattbrowne's avatar

What’s wrong with mentoring? I mean Fluther is also about advice, isn’t it?

talljasperman's avatar

@mattbrowne Can I borrow have $25,000 for existing student loans and borrow have another $50,000 to finish a general degree program…I don’t know in what. but that’s no excuse for not going to university… right?

mattbrowne's avatar

@talljasperman – Change the political system. Except for ivy league programs university education should be inexpensive. In most of the German states for example tuition is 500 euros per semester. Depending on the income of parents students are can get attractive student loans, called Bafög. These loans are usually given out half as zero interest loan (to be repaid only after the receiver exceeds a certain income level after graduation) and half as grant money to university students. It’s a European solidarity principle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student_loans_in_Germany

If you are smart and ambitious America should not deny you a college education in my opinion.

laureth's avatar

@mattbrowne – But then you get the people that ask, “Whyyyy should I have to paaaaaay for someone else’s college education when I can’t even pay for my oooooown?” Especially when so much here is geared toward keeping the masses uneducated. Smart people question things too much. Education is “elite.” Real honest people just need to work hard and work their way on up, right?~~

People don’t see that having educated people improves everyone’s lot. They just see the added tax burden. If you want to go from rags to riches, do it on your own dime – not on everyone else’s. (At least if you’re an individual. Companies can stay on the public dole because they improve the economy for everyone… but that’s another rant for another day.)

How do we sell Americans on the idea of accessible, affordable education for all, when they don’t (want to) see how it benefits everyone?

YARNLADY's avatar

Or you could write a best seller like J K Rowling. She went from welfare single mom to billionaire entirely on her own imagination.

talljasperman's avatar

@YARNLADY I heard that J.K. Rowling was sued $400 million for stealing the Harry Potter figure from a Canadian author… I remember the character in 1994 in high school.

YARNLADY's avatar

@talljasperman Again? It seems every writer who ever wrote about a boy wizard is trying to claim plagiarism. I feel sorry for her having to pay to defend these nuisance suits.

mattbrowne's avatar

@laureth – Students would only pay 500 euros per semester for their own education. Normally students don’t pay taxes in Germany because of their low yearly income. Because 500 euros doesn’t cover all the expenses of the university the rest is covered by taxpayers who typically earn more than $40,000 a year. As long as taxes have a negative connotation in the US the problem won’t go away. How to sell this to people? We should not waste talents who can’t afford tuition.

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