Are You the Next Billionaire

The 1999 edition of Forbes ', richest 400 people states on the cover, "The Billionaire Next Door." That issue has an article titled "A Century of Wealth" and a subtitle that reads, "Where does great wealth come from?" Years ago, oil and steel were the foundations of many American fortunes. Today, it's more a matter of how many eyeballs you command.

According to the article: "If you want to talk about super-rich, you have to set your sights higher: to billionaires, who are being minted faster than ever, using ever more ephemeral products to make their money. It took Rockefeller 25 years of finding, drilling and distributing oil to make his first billion. Last year, Garry Winnick joined the billionaires' club just 18 months after putting his money into Global Crossing, a company that intends to, but has yet to, develop a global fiber optic telecommunications network."

So how long does it take to become super-rich these days? The answer is "not long." That reality becomes even more apparent for someone like me, a member of the Baby Boomer generation, when I look at the ages of the new billionaires. For example, billionaire Jerry Yang was born in 1968—a year before I finished college—and David Filo, his partner, was born in 1966—a year after I entered college. Together, they founded Yahoo! and are now worth over $3 billion each and climbing. At the same time these young people are super-rich, I meet individuals who are wondering if they will have enough money in their retirement plans when they retire in ten years. Talk about a gap between the haves and future have-nots.

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