Robin Bowerman, Head of Retail at Vanguard Investments Australia.
Robin Bowerman, Head of Retail at Vanguard Investments Australia.

Who wants to be a billionaire?

THE annual rich lists of business magazines in the US, Asia and Australia would be among their best-sellers of the year.

Readers tend to pour over the pages, perhaps looking for clues on how to become wealthy themselves. And a chance to read about the lives of the rich and famous is typically a powerful draw-card for readers.

Independent business researcher China Research Group undertook a fascinating exercise over the past five years in an attempt to determine what characteristics might be required to become truly wealthy.

Shaun Rein, managing director of the research firm and writer of the leadership column in Forbes magazine, recently reported in the magazine on the findings of this research.

“We interviewed secretive real estate tycoons in China who own companies through proxies for fear of being too high-profile,” he writes, “internet pioneers in the US, multi-generational conglomerate tycoons in India and retail heirs in Europe.”

Rein’s firm found common characteristics that often stood out among the super wealthy interviewed included:

  • Not letting business failures stop them from trying again. “They had avoided the real failure of letting a bad experience destroy their optimism and their passion,” he adds.
  • Looking at problems creatively and from different angles.
  • Taking a degree of risk that most of us would find unacceptable. Some of the self-made billionaires interviewed had, for instance, taken triple mortgages on their first homes and had been willing to put up with periods of poverty after business setbacks.

His comments are obviously extremely broad.

It is clear from reading this piece that some of the very characteristics which often might contribute to someone becoming a billionaire are the same characteristics most of us would avoid on our way to financial security.

The way for most for most people to try to accumulate enough money for retirement is to save regularly, to take advantage of long-term compounding, to invest within their personal tolerance to risk, and to adequately diversify portfolios for risk and return.

The failure rate of would-be billionaires who take excessive risks must be horrific.

Certainly, we may have much to learn from billionaires interviewed about trying to solve problems creatively and about having the determination to try again after setbacks.

It’s a matter of balance.

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Robin Bowerman, Vanguard Investments Australia's Head of Retail, has more than two decades of experience in the finance industry as a writer, commentator and editor.



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