VR Logo

How to be a billionaire

A thousand here and a thousand there and pretty soon you're talking about real money

How to be a billionaire

"I want to be a billionaire. Just like my uncle."
"Your uncle is a billionaire?"
"No, my uncle also wants to be a billionaire."

It's just a social media PJ and surely there's no harm in having two billionaires in a single family. The more the better. However, when you want to be a billionaire, it's hard to know where to start. Even though we seem to have been culturally conditioned to think that billionaires are routine phenomena, as a matter of fact, they are not. A billion is a lot of money, even when compared to a million. That's not a joke, at least not entirely. Most people don't have a feel for how much more than a million it is. I mean they know numerically but don't have a FEEL for it.

Let me try and help there. If you were to put away Rs 20,000 a month right now, you could accumulate a million rupees by March 2025. Pretty doable for most people reading this, I would say. However, to make it to a billion at that rate would take more than four thousand years. Big difference. Of course, you can nitpick about earning interest, etc., but it's still a big difference, there's no way to ignore that.

As equity investors know, most people who are called billionaires nowadays are not actually billionaires, in the sense that they have not earned a billion and may not even be able to produce a usable amount of a billion in any real sense. Some can, but most can't. Generally, they own a part of some business whose market capitalisation is more than a billion and that's a notional amount of money. It can evaporate rather quickly as you may know if you've been following the tale of a big billionaire's ex-billionaire brother or that king-size guy or many other Indian ex-billionaires who were not ex about a decade ago.

So, this column is actually not about making a billion. The title of this article is a lie. I have no experience or expertise to offer there and if you were waiting for some tips and pointers, then you can stop reading now and google 'billionaire jokes' to entertain yourself. However, I think I do have something else that is actually more useful because it is achievable.

What I can do is to tell you - from personal experience of a lot of people I have interacted with - is that those who don't get started have no chance of becoming any kind of 'naire'. What's worse is that setting your target too high can actually prevent you from getting started. Once you hear this, it seems like a strange thing to be happening but it's very much true. If you are planning to be a billionaire and all you can do is save Rs 20,000 a month, then it seems hopeless. You don't have 4,000 years to hang around waiting for the target to come near. However, setting a goal, one which is reachable and will therefore meaningfully change one's life, is the best first step to take.

The billionaire may be a joke but unrealistic goals are a serious problem. There are many goals that feel kind of reachable but if you do the numbers realistically, then the chances are quite slim. For example, let's say you want to accumulate Rs 50 lakh in five years and want to do it by saving Rs 25,000-30,000 a month. You may think it's doable but it's really not. No realistic advisor or even online calculator will tell you that this is doable. However, is that a discouragement? For many people it is and becomes a reason to not get started.

At the end of the day, there can be a thousand reasons to not get started and not having a realistic chance of becoming a billionaire is only one of them. On the other hand, there are also a thousand reasons to get started. The choice is yours.