What It Really Feels Like to Be a Billionaire

Who doesn’t dream about being rich?

I’m certainly not afraid to admit I occasionally wonder how it would feel to be independently wealthy.

The other day I was reading an article on the world’s 200 richest people and stumbled upon a couple of surprising factoids.

The first surprise, was that the richest guy in the world is neither Bill Gates (#2) nor Warren Buffett (#4); it’s America Movil SAB Chairman Emeritus Carlos Slim, with a net worth of $77.5 billion.

Sandwiched between Gates and Buffett on the rich-guy list is somebody named Amancio Ortega. I know. I had never heard of him myself, but it turns out that Mr. Ortega is the founder of the world’s largest clothing retailer, Inditex SA. Ring a bell?

It didn’t for me.

By the way, did I mention that Inditex SA runs a very popular clothing chain known as Zara? They do. In fact, there are 1600 of them worldwide. Even so, I’d never heard of that store either.

I guess I really should get out more.

Anyway, that brings me to the second surprise. Apparently, Mr. Ortega earned a whopping $18 billion through the first nine months of 2012. For those of you counting at home, that comes out to approximately $66 million per day.

I’ll repeat that: That comes out to approximately $66 million per day.

Assuming Mr. Ortega earned income at the same rate for the remainder of the year, that means he will have earned $24 billion in 2012.

Ever wonder what it would feel like to be a billionaire? Well, I’m going to show you!

The US median income last year was $51,413. That’s just 1/466,808 of Amancio Ortega’s income in 2012. With those figures in mind, and ignoring the effects of inflation, here’s a very close approximation of what most people would experience — give or take a few cents — if their modest wages had the same purchasing-power:

  • The average home in the United States could be purchased for 42 cents, based upon the current median price of approximately $200,000.
  • Of course, folks who feel like moving on up could “bite the bullet” and buy a spacious $2 million home in Vail, Colorado instead for $4.28 …
  • … or, for just $49.27, close a deal on the Malibu beachfront mansion that Leonardo DiCaprio recently placed on the market, based upon his asking price of $23 million. (Hopefully, it’s not on a corner lot.)
  • A four-year stint at a private college would set you back 37 cents, assuming annual tuition and other expenses of $40,000. Just remember, if when tuitions increased, you’d have to shell out a few cents more — but I’m sure you could handle that.
  • If you wanted to avoid the hassle of flying with the general public, you could buy a Boeing 787 Dreamliner for $428.44, based upon an approximate list price of $200 million.
  • Although, unless you already knew how to fly a commercial jet airliner, you’d also need an additional 53 cents per year to pay for a pilot, assuming an annual salary of approximately $250,000.
  • As for that pair of hockey tickets I purchased to attend the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, they would have only cost me a half-cent, based upon the $2462.35 I actually paid for them. So I could have taken my whole family for a penny!
  • On the other hand, I could have also spent that same penny on two top-of-the line iMac computers …
  • … or 20 iPod Classics.
  • And really frugal folk could make that penny stretch even further by getting 100 iPod Shuffles instead.
  • Hungry? If you plan on buying anything from your typical fast-food dollar menu, you better be — a single penny would buy 4762 items.
  • Meanwhile, those of you in the market for a fancy pancy luxury car could buy a 2013 BMW 750i — with a 445-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 under the hood — for just 19 cents, based upon the manufacturer’s list price of $87,195.
  • Then again, for the more practical types, a 2013 Honda Civic coupe would only set you back 3.8 cents, based upon an MSRP of just over $17,965. Heck, that deal is so good I’d give the salesman four cents and tell him to keep the change.

Photo Credit: Andrea Gonzalez


  1. 5


    Billionaires are not that different except for what they earn. They have multiple homes and probably paid cash for them. They have multiple vehicles and paid cash for them. They have much more discretionary income to keep invested to build their businesses to increase their income. On a much smaller scale we can learn a lot from them.

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      “They have much more discretionary income …”

      I’ll say, Larry. Approximately 99.999% of their income is discretionary!

  2. 11

    KIM says

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Thanks for this Len, I think I love you–in the best blog in the world sense. Make sure you tell your wife that she is one lucky and wonderful lady! Happy New Year to you and yours!

  3. 13

    Daisy @ Everything Finance says

    I have mixed feelings about being that rich. Obviously it would be nice to live in the lap of luxury all the time but I almost think it would spoil most people. But it’s nice to dream!

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      I agree, Daisy. I mean, how could it not?

      I can’t imagine buying, say, a $23 million beachfront mansion in Malibu and having it feel like nothing more than the financial equivalent of buying a light lunch at Burger King!

      I just can’t get my head around that, no matter how hard I try.

    • 16

      Len Penzo says

      Proving yet again, Lisa, that there is always a silver lining to be found for those who are willing to look hard enough for it!

  4. 17


    I’m with Daisy. On the rare event that I watch a reality television show, it always seems like the people who create the riches never really enjoy the trappings…it’s always the people around them soaking it up.

  5. 18

    Sam says

    Interesting that most people assume rich people have lots of discretionary income and live a life in the lap of the Gods. I know a multimillionaire who has built his wealth from the ground up through sheer hard work and frugal living, and even now, lives on food scraps recovered from rubbish bins, resides in a run-down old rental he shares with numerous others, hasn’t owned a vehicle in 20 years, and acquires all his clothes from thrift shops. A modern-day scrooge if ever there was one.

  6. 20


    I love this article, Len and…I know Zara. This is the shop that provides a 50 years old woman with reason to slim down (their sizes are notoriously small). Yep, that shallow!

    Oh, and happy New Year!

  7. 21

    Stacy Cooper says

    I’d just be happy to not live in an home that still looks like the 70’s and didn’t have mold every where. And I don’t need a 19 bedroom home. Just a three bedroom home less than 2000 sq. ft. LOL

  8. 22

    V Patel says

    Thanks Len, great to look at the ultra luxury items in relative terms. With this kind of spending ease, it’s hard to blame a guy who wants to spend $5.00 instead of $4.50 on a yacht for that extra 10′ of length to show off in Monte Carlo.

  9. 23

    Spunky says

    Just absolutely love your analyis!!! The way I see it, the only difference between the rich and the poor is just money and their way of thinking.

  10. 25

    Prash says

    If you were a billionaire, you would not be reading articles like these and living your life by actual spending money and time on women.

  11. 26


    I like this post – it does help to see how really wealthy people look at the world. That said, its limited in that it doesn’t discuss how people’s individual perspective has been shaped by their unique life experiences. For example, even if they are able to buy housing very cheaply it doesn’t necessarily mean that will impact their decisions.


  1. […] Len Penzo (time.com) – Even if you’re rich, wasting money is criminally stupid. Sit down for a minute and think of all the things you could do […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>