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#33 - Pulling Themselves Up By the Boostraps

#33 - Pulling Themselves Up By the Boostraps

New York Military Academy
Price: $221,250

Rich people love to tell anyone that will listen that they are self-made men and women. To the average Joe this means starting with nothing, sometimes less than nothing, before emerging as successful members of society with a life much better than before. To a rich person, self-made typically means starting with little more than boarding school education, a family fortune of $1 million to $10 million and little or no reliance on maids, butlers and nannies.

The annals of the rich are filled with hard luck stories of having to summer in Cape Cod while their wealthy friends were in The Hamptons and parents sending the children to boarding school where lump crab salad was only served on the second Friday of every month. Despite these horrific upbringings that remind us of Oliver Twist, L’il Orphan Annie and 101 Dalmatians, these deprived men and women still managed to pull themselves up and succeed in spite of their dark pasts. In 2007 Forbes took the opportunity to showcase twenty of America’s richest men in a segment called the “Secrets Of The Self-Made”, Donald Trump is the poster child for the article. His rise to the top was accelerated at age 13 by attending the New York Military Academy where they “make good kids better”. The cost of becoming better; tuition, as of July 2009, was $33,425 and $36,875 per year for domestic and international students respectively. He later attended Wharton, one of America’s premiere schools for finance and economics. Also on Forbes’ list is Ken Fisher; his story starts after working in the investment business under his father Philip A. Fisher, a noted money manager, author and bearer of a middle initial. Ken then clawed his way up from the tough streets of San Francisco’s financial district to start his own investment firm before making his first billion.

In no way should any of this be taken as a slight against the hard work, creativity, instinct, intelligence, determination and self-professed luck that it takes to become wealthy. Each of the men on the list, and there are plenty that did come from humble beginnings, moved the bar significantly from where they started. The fact remains that some rich people love to create myths around their success when the fact is they began their careers with a bit of a boost but I suppose that doesn’t make for as compelling a story. After all, Horatio Alger, Jr would not have been as popular if his protagonists started in the suburbs with Mom driving them to soccer practice.

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