Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: When Should You Make Your First Million?

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

A million dollars doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to, but it still represents a major milestone. When should you reach it?

A million dollars doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to, but this milestone still has a lot of meaning to most people.

This milestone is achieved by many households in the U.S., around 10 million at last count. Technology, media, entertainment, sports and high finance seem to be the best way to get rich—if you are not in any of these fields expect a longer journey to the prize. 

So, what age should you expect to sock away your first million? Is there a cut-off? Does it get harder? Do we just throw in the towel? 

Here are a few high profile individuals who made the cut at many different stages of their lives and a look into the philosophy that got them there. Embrace these characteristics and you might follow in their footsteps.

Related Article: 9 Daily Habits of Exceptional Entrepreneurs

The Young and Restless

Entrepreneurs that reached this milestone early in life seem to cluster in the technology and entertainment arena.

Mark Zuckerberg: Made his money in social media and became wealthy while still a college student. The launch of Facebook and the years to follow left him with a dynasty worth tens of billions of dollars—an extreme case of pubescent millionaire to still very young billionaire.

Take Risks:“The biggest risk is not taking any risk... In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Justin Bieber:  Bieber is interesting because of his lowly beginning on YouTube. Yep, a lot of his teenage wealth was sprung from the YouTube age, but it didn’t stop there.  Justin has proved himself to be a relatively savvy entrepreneur, taking advantage of apparel and fragrance lines that capitalize on his A-list status.

Live with confidence:“There’s gonna be times in your life when people say you can’t do something. And there’s gonna be times in your life when people say that you can’t live your dreams. This is what I tell them: Never say never!”

Aaron Levie: Aaron is the CEO of Box.com. In 2005 at the age of 18, he created the website for a college business project. With angel investments from Mark Cuban and funding from other third parties the company flourished, hallmarked by their IPO in October of last year. Box provides secure cloud-based data storage and retrieval services for individuals and businesses.

Pride of ownership:“There's a lot of pride that business owners have. It's actually really critical that pride and ownership extends to everyone in the organization. I think of everyone is in the same boat in driving the company forward.”

David Karp: Creator and CEO of Tumblr, a microblog site. In 2013, it was announced that Yahoo! would acquire Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Tumblr was founded on Karp’s own savings and he made millions as soon as Tumblr took off. In 2009, at age 23, he was named as Best Young Tech Entrepreneur by Business Week Magazine and has a current net worth of around $200 million.

Create: “Today there are millions of people making stuff and putting it into the world: that's become part of our identity and it shouldn't be limited to people who fancy themselves writers, or who are particularly witty or talented.”

Related Article: Top CEOs Share Their Favorite Inspirational Reads

Thirty-Something

Markus Persson: Markus created the terribly addictive game Minecraft. The game was wildly popular even before its launch in 2011 and when it did launch Markus became an instant millionaire—a pretty decent haul for a one man home business.

Be self-critical:“Just make games for yourself and try to have a critical eye to what you do. If you genuinely like the game, there will be other people who like it as well.”

Ryan Block: In 2004, Ryan started working for Engadget as a part-time reporter eventually becoming editor in chief. In July 2009, with a half-million dollar investment, Ryan launched gdgt.com with Peter Rojas. A big break came for Ryan when AOL acquired gdgt.com in February 2013. He has just recently left AOL for new opportunities.

Embrace the irony:“There's definitely this market that's coming up where people are paying a lot of money for these really ostentatious gadgets, which we think is really funny because of the completely ephemeral nature of consumer electronics. This is all stuff you'll be throwing away in two years.”

Middle Ages

Barack Obama: Our President was a millionaire well before he was President, but it was a slow path to glory. He could barely pay his student loans for a decade after he graduated, and it was his writing career that got him millionaire status. At 43, Barack re-published Dreams From my Father (1995) capitalizing on his entry into the political arena. Prior to the presidency, he had earned nearly $5 million. Barack Obama currently earns $400,000 a year and the benefits of the Presidency valued at $500 gazillion, gives President Obama the income continuity that clearly places him in the millionaires’ bracket.

Seek meaning, not money:“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”

Martha Stewart: You would think Martha Stewart was a millionaire since she was a baby and certainly has been famous or infamous for many years. In the 1970s she entered the catering business focusing on high net worth clients and celebrities—she sold this venture for $1 million. Martha was 40 years old when she got a big break, her first book “Entertaining”, published in 1982. Contrary to popular belief she didn’t make all of her money from Martha Stewart Living and insider trading. Even though Martha has done a little stint in the big house, this successful business woman is now worth more than $300 million.

Innovate:“Whether you're a programmer or a seamstress, it's all about new techniques, simplifying old techniques, and consolidating steps. Making things go faster - but not worse.”

Where are the Millionares

 Industry Men Women
Financial Services 16% 12%
 Technology 12% 8%
 Other (Entertainment, Sports) 11% 15%
 Media and Publishing7% 15%
 Healthcare6% 6%
 Real Estate 5% 5%

Data via WealthInsight

These successful people are risk takers, take great pride in their business, are self-critical, live with confidence, and seek passion and meaning in their work. None seem to be on a quest to make millions. The millions come as a side-effect to their unbridled passion for their field of interest.

Making millions is open to almost any age, but the list gets shorter as the autumn years arrive. If you take on the philosophies of these successful entrepreneurs and focus on the technology, media or financial services industries you could make the "big time" There is always the tried and proven saving method, but that is relegated to the 50+ crowd (the average age of savers becoming millionaires is 61).

So, whether you’re twenty, thirty, forty or fifty a million in the bank is always a possibility.

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