America’s Self-Made Billionaires

by James Hires

I see headlines every day proclaiming the death of the American Dream. Despair, it would seem, is the spirit of the times.

But that despair is simply unfounded.

The United States is home to more billionaires - many of them self-made - than any other country. They exemplify America’s optimism and entrepreneurial spirit, whether they were born in this country or a world away. Two of the best examples have found their names in the headlines lately...

Howard Schultz, former chairman of Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX), is running for president in 2020 as an Independent.

He was born to Fred and Elaine Schultz in Brooklyn, New York, in 1953. And to say the family had little would be an understatement. Fred was a high school dropout and an ex-Army truck driver. The family of five lived in Canarsie, part of the Bayview projects.

Despite his impoverished upbringing, Schultz was determined to be the first in his family go to college.

He did, paying for it with a combination of student loans and part-time jobs.

Schultz bought Starbucks in 1988, and due to his grit and business acumen, he became the king of the coffee industry. He’s now worth $3.7 billion.

But there’s an even more newsworthy self-made billionaire...

Elon Musk, perhaps the most famous name in tech since Steve Jobs, was born in Pretoria, South Africa.

He had a very lonely childhood, during which he says he was raised by books, particularly the works of Isaac Asimov.

His parents divorced when he was 9. He lived with his father, whom he describes as “pure evil.” He also faced constant, severe bullying at school. In one instance, he was left so badly injured his father couldn’t recognize him.

In spite of all that, he proved adept at engineering and electronics. He taught himself computer programming at age 10 and designed the game Blastar at age 12.

Growing up, Musk wanted to move to America. In his words, “I remember thinking and seeing that America is where great things are possible, more than any other country in the world."

At 17 he left South Africa for Canada, his mother’s home country . Before he left, his father told him he would never amount to anything.

Once in Canada, Musk attended Queen’s University at Kingston in Ontario but left in 1992 to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Musk earned a bachelor’s in both fields. He then attended Stanford for a Ph.D. in energy physics. He dropped out after just two days to start his first company, Zip2, with his brother, Kimbal.

With the money he made selling that company, he started X.com. That merged with Confinity to become PayPal (Nasdaq: PYPL). The runaway success of PayPal allowed him to build his current empire, which includes SpaceX, Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) and SolarCity.

Altogether, Musk is worth $17.8 billion, and he’s a driving force behind private space travel, electric cars and renewable energy.

What Howard Schultz and Elon Musk prove is that no matter where you’re from or who your parents are, America is a land where you can succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

Good investing,

James

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